Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview: Yas Marina
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the only race of the year that starts in the late afternoon and ends in the twilight of the evening, providing the drivers and teams with a unique challenge and the audience with a breath-taking spectacle.
The tyres for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft: the same nomination that was made for India last weekend. The temperature range that the tyres will experience this weekend though is very different, as unlike most other races track temperature falls as the grand prix goes on in Abu Dhabi, rather than rises.
Paul Hembery: “The way that the track temperature falls in Abu Dhabi obviously has an effect on both wear and degradation, meaning that teams are able to do longer runs even on the softer compound later in the race. There are some important implications for strategy here, which means that it’s often possible to try something different in Abu Dhabi than you would in other places, which might well pay off at the end of the race. As a company, Abu Dhabi is a circuit that we know very well because it’s where we did some testing before we started in Formula One. It’s also where the Formula One teams got to sample our tyres for the first time, back at the end of 2010. When it comes to the actual venue, Yas Marina is one of the most modern and spectacular circuits of the year with a number of different technical challenges that test most aspects of a tyre’s overall performance. Tyre wear and degradation isn’t especially high here: last year, when we also nominated the medium and soft, most drivers just stopped once. As the compounds are generally softer this year we’d expect two stops this time, although it’s quite possible that some teams might try just one. We will have to wait for the Friday running until we have a clearer picture of the time difference between the two compounds but overall we’d anticipate race pace among the frontrunners to be reasonably closely balanced, and it’s always under these circumstances that having the right strategy can really make a significant difference. Although there’s quite a high degree of track evolution, and conditions in free practice aren’t always representative of the race, the work done during the Friday and Saturday sessions will be instrumental in shaping each team’s understanding of which strategies are both possible and advantageous on Sunday.”
The circuit from a tyre point of view: On average the track temperature drops by 15 degrees during the race, falling from around 45 degrees at the start to 30 degrees at the end: which is normally about the same as ambient temperature. This is the opposite to what is seen at most hot races taking place in the early afternoon, where track temperature tends to remain higher than ambient temperature.
A bit like Suzuka, the first part of the circuit essentially consists of a continuous series of bends, which subject the car to lateral acceleration forces of 4g. The tyres then have to deliver optimal performance down a long straight, with the cars on full throttle for around 15 seconds, which equates to a downforce loading of approximately 800 kilograms pushing down on all four wheels.
Traction is the key aspect to a strong performance at Yas Marina, as there are not so many high-speed corners. To help the drivers gain maximum traction, the engineers tend to set up the cars with quite a soft rear end, but this can lead to increased rear tyre wear. If the set-up is too stiff at the back the opposite problem can occur: excessive wheelspin, which also takes life out of the tyres.
Technical tyre notes: The Yas Marina circuit is located at sea level, with the higher air density boosting engine performance. This extra power also has an effect on tyre wear, with more demands being placed on the rear tyres in particular. The cars tend to run a medium downforce set-up, as Abu Dhabi is all about technical compromises.
The track surface in Abu Dhabi consists of stone quarried in England and is generally quite smooth. As more rubber is laid down there is a high degree of track evolution over the course of the weekend and it’s also common to find dust on the circuit during the early sessions, which is quickly swept away.