UPDATED ABU DHABI CIRCUIT (Emma's version)
The new changes to the Yas Marina Circuit will likely make the track much more fun for the drivers, but the new high speed corners will make increased chances of overtaking debatable. With the recent announcement making headlines, I couldn't resist trying to make the circuit even better...
Search for "wallpapers of F1 cars" on any photography site and you'll likely see a number of glistening snaps of the cars reflecting the bright lights of a surrounding night race. Of course you may be thinking about the Singapore Grand Prix, but the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would likely be there too. The backdrop of the whale-shaped hotel and the dazzling yacht-packed marina as the cars speed past certainly make for a fantastic screensaver, but if the Yas Marina Circuit is a photographer's dream, it's certainly a race that sends fans into a deep sleep.
Long has the circuit been criticised for being all glam and no glory. The blazing spotlights could not in fact, shine over a dull race with practically zero overtaking. And whilst it has taken 11 years, we now know that the Yas Marina Circuit has some major changes coming to its layout in an attempt to improve the race, and I whilst I agree that the changes are an improvement, I couldn't help but wish they had gone even further. But before I break down what I think they should have done, here's what the track confirmed would be changed:
Turn 7 (right side): Tight left turn and hairpin replaced with a wider, faster single hairpin
Turns 11, 12, 13 and 14 (bottom left side): L-R-L-R corners replaced by a single, faster and banking left-hand turn
Turns 17, 18, 19 and 20: Sharper turning opened up to increase speed through this section of the track
The statement from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix stated that this would allow for closer following of cars and the potential for more overtaking. This is where I slightly disagree (sorry Yas Marina).
Let's start with Turn 7 on the right side. Firstly, it needed to change and I agree with the approach to choose this corner for adjustment. However, what follows this turn is a long straight leading to a tight left-hander. The hope would be to follow a car down this straight and brake late in order to make the move. The issue with the changes here is that they have increased the speed of the turn which will make it much harder for cars to follow down the main straight. Turn 8, which was one of the few places to overtake on this track will likely no longer be the case.
Skipping to Turns 17, 18, 19 and 20, I'm perfectly fine with this. Those corners were way too tight and just backed cars up with no chance to quickly exit and follow into the Pit Straight. I don't think it will make a huge difference, especially since they kept the sharp right-hander just before these series of corners which will slow down the cars anyway.
My main problem is with Turns 11, 12, 13 and 14. Here they had an amazing opportunity to increase overtaking, and instead I feel as though they've taken a leaf from Zandvoort by introducing an unneccesary high speed banking left turn. For the drivers, it'll be wonderful. The speed into the corner will feel more like a rollercoaster than a car but this will likely reduce any chances of overtaking due to the increased speed. It'll take a seriously brave driver to take the inside line, especially heading towards the tight right turn just further ahead.
I really think that the designers could have been so much more imaginative, particularly on the southern hairpin on the left side.
So I mentioned that I had made suggestions of my own, and here they are:
Turn 7 (right side): A tighter hairpin (similar to the one already there), but removing Turns 5 and 6 for a tighter breaking zone and allowing for cars to closely follow down the next straight
Turns 11, 12, 13 and 14 (bottom left side): Here I would keep the tight Turn 11 at the end of the straight but instead of making the corner high speed, I'd turn it into a hairpin. Any car following closely down the straight could make an overtake into the hairpin, yet the battle could continue by allowing a flow of short corners that won't completely kill the speed either
My ideas are to try and increase overtaking opportunities which is something I don't think has been fully taken advantage of with the new corner changes. By tightening the southern side (11-14) there's a chance to overtake into the hairpin but an opportunity to fight back too whilst not losing all the momentum into the newly-changed 17-20. Whilst the original track was very start-stop the new changes appear to go too far in the opposite direction. The current cars struggle to follow one another through high speed corners and the increased number here is unlikely to help. I do think the changes to the first hairpin are decent, but ultimately it now completely eliminates any chances of overtaking into Turn 8.
Have a look below at the side-by-side comparisons. I'm hoping the new changes will make for a more exciting race, and I would thoroughly love to know what drivers themselves think of the new changes.