McLaren previews the Abu Dhabi GP at Yas Marina Circuit

30 October, 2013

The United Arab Emirates welcomes Formula 1 for the fifth consecutive year at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The 5.5 km track is situated on a man-made island on the eastern side of Abu Dhabi, and it’s one of only five anti-clockwise circuits on this year’s calendar.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is unique in that it’s the only twilight race of the year. It starts in daylight at 5:00 PM (17:00) [local], but darkness falls as the race approaches half-distance and the circuit is lit thereafter by the largest permanent lighting system in the world. Other stand-out features at Yas Marina Circuit include the pitlane, which exits through a tunnel under Turn One, and the paddock’s air-conditioned pit garages.

As is often the case with Hermann Tilke-designed racetracks, the circuit has three distinct sectors. Fast corners dominate sector one; two long straights, along which the track’s two DRS zones are located, populate sector two, and some tortuous Monaco-style twists end the lap. Average cornering speeds are on the low side, but the track is still an interesting technical challenge because the cars don’t run with maximum downforce.

The asphalt is very smooth, which makes it kind on tyres, and wear rates are further reduced by the cooler track temperatures experienced after sunset. There is usually a lot of track evolution during the race, which will help Jenson Button and Sergio (Checo) Perez preserve the Soft and Medium compounds – the same as in India last weekend – that Pirelli is taking to the race.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2011 (see below) and our current drivers have good records at Yas Marina Circuit. Jenson has finished on the podium three times and Checo won the GP2 feature race in 2010.

Jenson Button: “I think the whole team ought to feel encouraged by our pace in India last weekend. Although the race didn’t come together for me, our overall speed and consistency were the strongest they’ve been all season, and, as always, the race team delivered on all fronts to ensure that, strategically and logistically, we lost nothing to our rivals. We’ll certainly be taking that momentum into Abu Dhabi this weekend. While it’s a very different type of track – the final sector is much more stop-start and reliant on a strong mechanical balance – I’ve always enjoyed racing around the Yas Marina circuit and I think we can once again score points to consolidate our position in the constructors’ world championship. Now that the drivers’ world championship has been conclusively settled, I think the Formula 1 community will enjoy these last three races. While we’ll be competing with one another as fiercely as ever, we’ll also be treating our last three outings as opportunities to develop and understand the package we’ll take into the 2014 season. For me, that’s exciting: I’ll be looking forward to providing my input to ensure we end the year in as strong a position as possible, so as to be as well prepared for the new challenges of 2014 as we can be.”

Sergio Perez: “I think that the Indian Grand Prix was my strongest performance of the season so far, and a good example of what I feel I’m capable of when I have a solid car beneath me, and the opportunity to push and press my opponents. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend. You won’t be surprised to hear that I’ll be aiming to carry that momentum over into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Yas Marina circuit is one of the most impressive and sophisticated racetracks in the world – the first two sectors, which are a series of high-speed sweeps and hard stops, are great fun to drive, while the final sector is a little trickier, because although it’s much slower it requires great precision. Getting the set-up right around here is always a compromise, also. After several races of poor luck, it was great to reverse that trend in India. Now, of course, I’ll be looking for another strong finish to carry me into my ‘home’ race in Austin, Texas, next month. I would love to be able to give my ‘home’ fans something extra to cheer about!”

Martin Whitmarsh Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “With three races remaining, and with the Drivers’ World Championship now settled, it’s only natural that Formula 1’s collective focus should start turning towards 2014. However, there are three fantastic grands prix remaining this year, and, buoyed by a respectable result in India last weekend, we’ll be looking to ensure that we continue to maximise our performance at each of those last three rounds. In Jenson and Checo, we have two excellent team-spirited drivers who have motivated the entire workforce with their never-say-die attitude to this difficult season. Despite their contrasting fortunes in India last week, both guys showed the attitude and determination to fight hard from the race’s start to its finish. They have been an inspiration, often in adverse circumstances, and, in turn, the whole team is working hard to provide them with the machinery with which they can keep pushing until the very last lap of the very last race. I think everyone in Formula 1 enjoys the fantastic facilities on Yas Island, and the thrill and spectacle of a dusk race make this weekend a truly special event on the calendar. I hope we can once again deliver a good race – not only for the benefit of everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, but also for the benefit of Formula 1 as a whole, and most especially the fans.”

A #mclaren50 memory: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, November 13 2011

With both 2011 World Championships already wrapped up by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing, the penultimate race of the season comes down to a battle of pride. Both Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers want to beat the recently crowned World Champion, and they do exactly that.

However, first blood goes to Vettel in qualifying. He takes pole position in the dying moments of Q3 by 0.1s, but the order quickly changes at the start of the race. Vettel is forced to retire following a puncture at Turn 2, the German’s misfortune handing Lewis a lead that he never loses – despite the best efforts of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Only after the final round of pitstops is Lewis’s position at the front assured, and he crosses the line 8.4s ahead of Alonso. It’s his first victory since the German Grand Prix four months earlier and he emotionally dedicates it to his mother, Carmen, who’s watching from the pit garage.

Jenson Button has a very eventful race in the team’s second MP4-26. After starting third, he is passed by Alonso on the opening lap and then embarks on a race-long duel with Red Bull’s second driver, Mark Webber. Given that Jenson’s progress is hampered by a KERS problem, he drives a fantastic race to come home in third place, 10s ahead of Webber.

Subbed by AJN.


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