Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview
The 2015 championship concludes at a venue that is very familiar to Pirelli: the spectacular Yas Marina circuit at Abu Dhabi, which has been used for testing and a pre-season launch by the Italian firm, including the world’s first wet-weather test run at night.
Due to the smooth asphalt, the two softest tires in the range will be brought: soft and supersoft, as used at the slowest track on the calendar in Monaco (and at four more grands prix). The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held from late afternoon into the evening. As a result, track temperatures tend to drop over the course of the race, meaning that the pattern of tire behaviour is slightly different to normal: another complex variable for teams to factor into their strategy calculations.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It’s incredible to think that the 2015 season is over already: it seems a lot less than a year since we were at Abu Dhabi for the final race of 2014. With the championships decided the teams can obviously push to the maximum and our tire choice in Abu Dhabi provides them with an interesting challenge: while the surface is very smooth, the tires are still pushed quite hard due to the track layout, so tire management becomes an important part of the strategy, particularly under acceleration in the traction areas, where it is very easy to spin the wheels. This is the same nomination as last year, so we’d probably expect another two-stop race, but track temperatures can be quite variable as the sun goes down and this can clearly have an effect on the tires and therefore strategy. Just two days after the checkered flag on the 2015 season, we already begin testing for 2016: there will be a dedicated Pirelli tire test from 9am to 9pm on Tuesday 1 December, with all the teams running one car to test some 2016 constructions and the new ‘ultrasoft’ tire, which will carry purple markings at next year’s races.”
The biggest challenges for the tires: The falling track and air temperatures over the course of the race (which does not start until 5pm) means that the track tends to get faster as the grand prix goes on, a phenomenon that is accentuated by falling fuel loads.
Just like the previous round at Interlagos, the track runs in an anti-clockwise direction at Abu Dhabi: a relatively unusual feature, which can sometimes cause physical problems for the drivers.
The first part of the circuit effectively consists of a series of non-stop bends, which heats up the tire compound. The compound then gets a chance to cool down on the long straight, with the cars on full throttle for around 15 seconds, with the equivalent of around 800 kilograms of downforce.
Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.0-1.2 seconds per lap.
Last year’s strategy and how the race was won: A two-stopper was the winning strategy for Lewis Hamilton last year. He started the 55-lap race on the supersoft, before changing to the soft on laps 10 and 31. Then 24 laps later, he became 2014 world champion!