The season finale is always a special occasion. It doesn’t need to be a high-stakes race: a championship decider, a make-it-or-break-it moment when answers are given, verdicts handed out (even though this one is, as far as our team is concerned), for it to have a special significance. A season finale is special just because it is what it is, the final page in the book that was 2023.
The season finale is a moment of elation, the end of a long journey spent side by side, shoulder to shoulder with teammates, rivals, colleagues. It’s also a moment of reflection, to look back at what one has done over the last twelve months, to review, to revisit, to learn: and this, this one has been a long season, born long ago in chilly February with team launches, then onwards in warmer climates with testing and the first race in Bahrain. It’s been a season of highs and lows, a season of steps forward and lessons learned, a season of hard work, fun moments, long hours and sweat, smiles and tears.
The season finale is always a poignant moment: it’s the last day of school, it’s when you look forward to the holidays but with a tinge of melancholy for what has been, and what has gone. It’s a moment to take stock, and a moment to say goodbye to partners and workmates whose path takes a different direction from yours: it is a moment to reflect on the people who shared this journey with you, and went from colleagues, to friends, to family.
About Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi joined Formula 1’s calendar in 2009 at the Yas Marina Circuit, crafted on the no-expenses-spared Yas Island, around 30 minutes’ drive from downtown.
Next To the Circuit is a huge Theme Park Which Hosts Five Rollercoasters. The Nearby Masdar City, located around 10km from The Circuit, aims to be a Zero-Carbon City.
Abu Dhabi is the largest of The United Arab Emirates and covers 87 Percent of the total area of the country.
Yas Marina has been the traditional location for Formula 1’s curtain closer, holding finales in 2009/10, and then every season since 2014. It has been the venue for several championship deciders, most famously in 2021, when Max Verstappen was crowned World Champion following a last-lap pass on Lewis Hamilton.
There has been some resurfacing at several corners, but otherwise the track remains unchanged following some major reprofiling a couple of years ago.
The 16-turn 5.2km circuit features two lengthy straights and several medium-speed turns, with the track’s showpiece now the long-radius turn 9, which was introduced in 2021 following a renovation to the layout. The final sector, which includes the track passing beneath the latticed W Hotel, was also opened up, leading to lap
times approximately 13 seconds faster than the pre-2021 layout, and it should be easier to overtake.
What to watch for
Overtaking: The re-profiled corners have changed the dynamic of how a race can play out here in terms of overtaking, and these ground-effect cars are set to take that a step further again this year. Eighty percent of all passes take place at the end of the two long DRS zones – the runs down to Turns Six and Nine.
Strategy: Pirelli brings the softest three compounds to the finale. Despite the softness of the tires and the characteristics of the circuit, tire wear has traditionally not been particularly high here. However, wear has increased in 2022, and easier overtaking may promote additional pit-stops in the race. One- and two-stop strategies and common at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The pit loss, at 22 seconds, is slightly higher than the season average.
Safety Cars: There have been three Safety Cars in the last five races at Yas Marina Circuit, and three Virtual Safety Car deployments in the last five races – despite ample run-off throughout much of the circuit.
2nd Place in Constructors Points: after the Las Vegas GP Ferrari is now only 4 points behind Mercedes going into the final race. While Mercedes have improved in the second half of the year, Ferrari have left a significant amount of points on the table through a mixture of poor reliability, strategic errors and occasional driver mistakes. Further down the constructors’ championship standings, there is also unfinished business.
Verstappen looks for 19th win of 2023: Just when we thought they could not top 2022 with 15 wins, Red Bull ace Max Verstappen goes into the season finale with 18 wins out of 21 races and he’s the favorite to win. If he does, it will be 19 wins in 22 races, or a 86.7% winning percent – a record likely to never be broken. If Verstappen wins, it will be his 54th F1 victory, breaking a tie with Sebastian Vettel for third on the all-time win list.
Fact File: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- Abu Dhabi made its F1 debut in 2009 as the sport’s first ever twilight race, with the start taking place at sunset. Around 4,700 light fixtures are used to illuminate the track.
- Several modifications were made to the track layout ahead of the 2021 race, changing the lap length from 5.554 km to 5.281 km.
- These changes including removing the chicane at the start of the second sector and widening the following hairpin. The twisty chicanes at the start of the final sector were also replaced by one long, banked corner.
- Similar to other twilight and night races on the calendar, FP1 and FP3 take place in the daytime. FP2, Qualifying and the Grand Prix itself take place at night or as the sun sets.
- That poses a challenge to the engineers and drivers, who must accommodate for the changes in tire and car behavior owing to the differing ambient and track temperatures.
- The pitlane at the Yas Marina Circuit is unique in F1, in that it features a tunnel.
- Drivers pass under the track at the pit lane exit, re-joining on the left-hand side of Turn 2.
- Last year’s race saw more overtakes than in any other Grand Prix that season with 80.
- 16 of those were ‘normal’ overtakes and 64 of those with the use of DRS.
- The Yas Marina Circuit will this weekend overtake Adelaide as the track at which the most season-ending F1 races have been held (12th finale).
- Oracle Red Bull Racing is about to complete the most successful season in Formula 1 history. Max Verstappen’s win in Las Vegas was the 20th victory for the Team, the most by any constructor in a single year. The Team has also already broken the record for most laps led in a season and are currently three laps short of 1,100 this year.
- Max Verstappen’s Las Vegas triumph was his 18th win of the season, three more than his total last year, and five more than any other driver has ever managed in previous years.
- Sergio Perez clinched second place in the championship with his podium finish in Las Vegas, ensuring that Oracle Red Bull Racing will finish 1-2 in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time in their history.
- Yas Marina Circuit is the only track on which Max Verstappen has won for the past three years in succession. The Team is also seeking a seventh pole and win at Yas Marina this weekend.
- Max Verstappen’s 53rd career victory brought him level with former Red Bull Racing driver Seb Vettel for third on the all-time win list, behind only Michael Schumacher (91), and Lewis Hamilton (103).
Unlocking the Lap
The 5.281 km track in the United Arab Emirates has hosted the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as a regular fixture since 2009. The record winner at this event is Lewis Hamilton, who has triumphed on no fewer than five occasions in the UAE.
Mercedes-AMG leads the way with seven wins, followed by Renault on four and Honda on three.
The track record at the Yas Marina Circuit, which was overhauled and reconfigured in 2021, is 1:22.109 minutes (held by Max Verstappen), the fastest race lap is 1:26.103 minutes (also held by Verstappen).
The short run to Turn One leads drivers through a medium-speed corner where any understeer will see them missing the apex, compromising the run through the following left-hander and the long right-hander. This is a fast first sector that culminates in a rapid run to the Turn Five hairpin.
The exit from Turn Five is crucial as it sends drivers down the first long straight, which also features a DRS zone. It’s easy for drivers to out brake themselves into the chicane at the end of this straight. Drivers need another strong exit from the chicane as another long straight and DRS zone follows.
The straight and the second sector ends with the wide Turn Nine left-hander. Drivers then accelerate into a tricky complex of right-hand bends that are followed by a hard-braking 90-degree corner in Turn 12, which takes drivers under the hotel in the middle of the circuit. Turns 13 and 14 are simple bends that almost make up one long left-hand hairpin.
The final corners of the circuit, Turns 15 and 16, are perhaps its most challenging: drivers blaze through the first right-hander then brake hard and aim to hit the apex of the final corner to set up for a strong exit down the start-finish straight.
Unsurprisingly Abu Dhabi basks in 12 months of glorious sunshine, but it’s when the sun starts to set beyond the horizon that we’re interested in.
Conditions are set to be warm and clear, with only a minor drop in temperature when night falls. Race day will be slightly overcast but still 0% chance of rain
The forecast for the entire weekend in 0% chance of rain with daytime highs of 87 degrees F and night lows of 75 degrees F.
In other words, perfect race weather.
Nine of the 10 F1 teams have waited until the final round of the 2023 season at the Abu Dhabi GP to fulfil the mandatory rookie running in first practice.
Every team has to run a rookie in both of its cars in an FP1 session at some point during the year. Abu Dhabi is a good race to do it because 1) it hardly rains, and 2) the regular drivers are still suffering from jet lag after the Las Vegas GP.
Driver(s) Sitting Out FP1
|Verstappen and Perez
|Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar
Mario Isola – Motorsport Director
“We go from the lights of Las Vegas to the Abu Dhabi sunset in the space of just a few days, after a journey of just over 13,000 kilometres, for a race that is now well-established as the season-closer. Yas Marina will host the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the 15th time this weekend, and 11 of those have marked the final race of the season.
The track was modified in 2021 to make it faster and more flowing, which also created extra overtaking opportunities, as we saw over the last two races there. Yas Marina is on the lower end of the scale when it comes to tire demands, despite the vertical loads on the front axle in particular. As a result, we’ve selecting the softest three compounds, with C3 as the hard, C4 as the medium, and C5 as the soft. This is the same choice as last year, and also an identical selection to that seen at Las Vegas last weekend: confirmation of the versatility of the current compounds.
As has become customary now, there will be a test day on the Tuesday after the grand prix with each team fielding two cars: one for young drivers and the other in theory for testing tires. However, there will be no new compounds to try out: the FIA recently communicated that the 2024 compounds will be the same as this year, with the only change being that there are now five rather than six available of them, due to the elimination of the C0 (which was never used during a race weekend this year). So the test could be helpful for the teams to work on tire management by gathering data for next season. The teams will have a predetermined tire allocation for the test. The car doing the tire work will have 10 sets available at the test, consisting of one C1, one C2, two C5, and three sets each of C4 and C3. Meanwhile, the car for young drivers will have two sets each of C3 and C5 available as well as four sets of C4.”
THE TIRES ON TRACK
- For the last race of the season, the nominated compounds are C3 as P Zero White hard, C4 as P Zero Yellow medium and C5 as P Zero Red soft.
- Nearly all the drivers started last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on the medium tires. The top three finishers – in order, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez – all stopped just once to put on the hard tire, between laps 16 and 21.
- The Yas Marina lap consists of 16 corners as well as some faster sections, including a 1.2-kilometer straight between turns 5 and 6. The track modifications that took place in 2021 shortened the lap to 5.28 kilometers.