Race Facts – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Formula 1’s first twilight race joined the calendar in 2009 at the newly-built Yas Marina Circuit outside Abu Dhabi, and has become firmly established as the final race of the season.

  • The 2024 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is scheduled for December 6-8. It will be the 24th and final race of the 2024 F1 season.
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The Hermann Tilke-designed circuit is part of the multi-billion dollar Yas Island development, which also includes a marina, Ferrari World theme park, Yas Water World and the Du Arena concert venue. Shopping centers, golf courses and hotels have also been developed on the man-made island. The circuit itself was modified ahead of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in an attempt to boost overtaking opportunities. 

In late 2014, the organizers agreed a new multi-year agreement to keep Abu Dhabi on the Formula 1 calendar for the foreseeable future, though the exact length of the contract was not disclosed. In 2021, the contract was extended through to 2030

The Yas Marina Circuit has capacity for approximately 60,000 spectators and tickets do sell out, despite the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix being one of the most expensive to attend on the current F1 calendar. In 2022, extra grandstand capacity was added. The weekend attendance figure hit 160,000 in 2022 – 7,000 more than in the previous year. Race organisers reported a sell-out attendance again in 2023.

As a result of calendar changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix took place on December 13, making it the third latest date on which a season-closing Grand Prix has been held. Due to the pandemic, the race was held behind closed doors without spectators in the grandstands. 

Mercedes dominated the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix between 2014 and 2019, but Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won from pole position in the 2020 race. His pole position was the only non-Mercedes-powered pole of the year, and his win one of only two for Red Bull in the 2020 season. 

One year later, Verstappen returned to Yas Marina Circuit as the championship leader ahead of the final race of the year. The Dutchman went on to win the race – and the title – in controversial circumstances, overtaking title rival Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Grand Prix. 

Verstappen dominated the race in both 2022 and 2023, capping off his second and third title-winning years with victories. The 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was Verstappen’s 19th win of the season: a record for most wins in a single year. 

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Did You Know?

  • Yas Marina has an advanced track design with six different configurations to suit different racing series.
  • The track has a number of unique features: a tunnel is part of the pit-lane exit and the Yas Viceroy Hotel straddles the circuit between turns 18-19.
  • Abu Dhabi was the only current F1 race which is named after its host city rather than its host country – though it was joined by both the Mexico City Grand Prix and the Sao Paulo Grand Prix in 2021, by the Miami Grand Prix in 2022 and by the Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2023. 
  • The drivers are on full power for 69% of a lap at Yas Marina, including over 14 seconds on the back straight (one of the longest straights in Formula 1). Drivers make an average of 68 gear changes per lap or 3740 gear changes over the full 55-lap race distance.
  • Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with five wins. Red Bull became the first team to record seven wins at the event in 2023.

READ MORE: F1’s Season Ending Destinations

  • Kimi Raikkonen once said of Yas Marina: “The first few turns are quite good, but the rest of it is shit.”
  • Raikkonen’s 2012 victory here is the only time the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been won away from the front row of the grid. The Finn started fourth in a race which provided some memorable radio transmissions.
  • Etihad, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is the main title sponsor of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and you can also see their planes taking off from the nearby airport when at Yas Marina.
  • Red Bull have never failed to get both of their cars through to the final part of qualifying on all of their appearances at the Yas Marina Circuit.
  • In three of the first four Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, the polesitter failed to finish the race. In the last nine years, the polesitter has never failed to win.

Memorable Moments in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Down to the wire

A record four drivers – Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton – were in contention for the driver’s World Championshp coming into the decider at Yas Marina in 2010. Despite being 15 points adrift of championship leader Fernando Alonso before the race, Sebastian Vettel kept his cool to take the win and become the youngest ever F1 World Champion aged 23 years, 134 days. Watch the highlights.

2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: He knows what to do

Kimi Raikkonen returned to F1 in 2012 after a two-year hiatus and took a popular win for Lotus at Yas Marina. It was his first win since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix and came after a chaotic race, which saw a sizeable accident between Nico Rosberg and Narain Karthikeyan, plus Sebastian Vettel pulling off a great comeback drive from a pit-lane start to third. Over team radio on his way to victory, Raikkonen uttered the immortal line, “Just leave me alone, I know what to do.” Watch the highlights.

2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: The desert duel

Lewis Hamilton won his second Formula 1 World Championship at Yas Marina in 2014 from team mate Nico Rosberg. For the one and only time, double points were awarded for the season-decider in 2014. The two Mercedes team mates also settled the drivers championship at Abu Dhabi two years later, but this time Rosberg emerged the victor (…and promptly announced his retirement!) Watch the highlights.

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Verstappen vs Hamilton

The 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was surely one of the most anticipated races in Formula 1 history, with title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton starting the final race of the year race level on points.

After near contact between the pair on the opening lap, Hamilton led for the majority of the Grand Prix until a late race Safety Car period. Verstappen pitted for fresh tyres, while Hamilton stayed out on his older rubber. Controversially, as the caution period neared its conclusion, race director Michael Masi allowed only some cars – the ones between Hamilton and Verstappen on track – to unlap themselves.

A final lap shoot-out followed, with Verstappen able to overtake Hamilton with relative ease. Despite Mercedes’ post-race protests, the result stood and Verstappen was crowned World Champion for the first time. Masi was later removed from his role as race director. Watch the highlights.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Facts

Circuit NameYas Marina Circuit
Race first held 2009
Track Length5.281km (16 turns)
Race Distance306.183km (58 laps)
Lap Record1:26.103, Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 2021
2023 Result1st Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:27:02.624
2nd Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +17.993s
3rd George Russell (Mercedes) +20.328s

What’s your favorite Abu Dhabi Grand Prix memory? Leave a comment!

2 thoughts on “Race Facts – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix”

  1. Kimi R’s comment summed it up.

    Kimi Raikkonen once said of Yas Marina: “The first few turns are quite good, but the rest of it is shit.”

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