The Yas Marina Circuit that has played host to Formula 1's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the last 11 years will look a little different this go around, as the race organizers will reprofile sections of the track to encourage overtaking and hopefully end the season on a more thrilling note.
A plan has been approved and will be put into place before the December 12 race weekend, the final one of the 2021 calendar. Saif Al Noaimi, acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, said that the changes were decided upon after “listening to our spectators, the fans, the drivers, F1 and the FIA.” That covers just about everyone! From Autosport:
Al Noaimi said details of the exact changes will be revealed to the public shortly, but the hope was that the new layout would boost overtaking opportunities.
“The objective ultimately is to create more opportunities for close wheel-to-wheel racing,” he added.
“We want to create more overtaking opportunities and to overall create a faster flowing race track, given the current rules of the vehicles.
“So we’re really looking forward to seeing some overtaking and action, and hopefully the championship will come down to the wire and be determined here.”
Of course it’s a long way to go until December — we’re not even halfway through this 23-round season yet. But the way Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have been trading blows as of late, there’s a very good chance the championship could be decided in Abu Dhabi, like it was in 2010 and 2016.
The prospective changes haven’t been officially shared yet. However, RaceFans reports they’ll consist of a removal of Turns 5-7, which form a chicane before the circuit’s first hairpin, inside the stadium section. The next adjustment will do away with Turns 11-14, a part that winds the cars up before a series of 45- and 90-degree corners. Supposedly, that complex will become a long, almost constant-radius left-hander, the only curve of its kind on the track.
Ideally these tweaks will allow the cars to retain speed heading into overtaking zones. Back in 2019 F1's Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds said the sport was using computer simulation to research ways to modify courses for more passing. Yas Marina, alongside the abandoned Hanoi Street Circuit, was one of the locales that received attention.
Last year’s Abu Dhabi race ended the pandemic-shortened season with not a bang but a whimper, as Verstappen executed a pretty much uncontested drive to the checkered flag. Hamilton had already clinched his seventh world title three races earlier in Turkey, but a spread-out field and lack of overtaking down the running order presented little reason to watch anyway. Here’s hoping 2021 bucks that trend.