Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview
The final grand prix of the season will take place in Abu Dhabi, using the soft and supersoft tire: a step softer than last year’s nomination of medium and soft.
Yas Marina is a circuit that Pirelli knows well, having completed some of its private testing there before entering Formula One back in 2011, with Abu Dhabi being a well-known venue for official tests as well. This year is no exception, with the final two-day test of the season taking place straight after the grand prix, from Tuesday to Wednesday.
The track surface is quite smooth, featuring a variety of 90-degree corners. The other defining characteristic of the grand prix is that, like Bahrain, it starts in the late afternoon and ends in the evening – meaning that the track tends to cool down as the race goes on, which affects strategy.
This year double points are on offer, so the stakes are even higher and teams will be concentrating on strategy harder than ever, while prioritizing a safe finish. The weather tends to be warm and dry, with the track well-suited to the supersoft and soft compounds: the fastest tires in Pirelli’s range.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It’s always a pleasure to return to Abu Dhabi and this year’s event will be even more significant than usual, with the drivers’ championship being decided and double points available. The strategy is normally greatly affected by the unusual track evolution, due to the falling temperatures caused by the late afternoon start. This was the case in Bahrain as well, which turned out to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the season earlier this year. As a result, the free practice sessions will be particularly crucial, as the teams try to gather as much information as possible about how the car will perform on both compounds: not just with different fuel loads, but also with different track temperatures. As so many points are on offer, there is a big opportunity for teams that have less to lose to try an unexpected strategy, in order to make some potentially significant gains.”
The circuit from a tire point of view:
The supersoft tire is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at a wide range of low temperatures. The soft tire is a high working range compound. With the two softest compounds in the range and a smooth track surface, warm-up should not be an issue.
We can expect a certain degree of thermal degradation that could influence the strategies and the setup of the cars. The first and third free practice sessions are usually run in conditions that are not representative for qualifying and race due to much higher temperatures experienced during the day.
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.
To help gain maximum traction, the cars are often set up with quite a soft rear end at Abu Dhabi, but this can lead to increased rear tire 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 tires.