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 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. 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. The Yas Marina Circuit has capacity for approximately 60 000 spectators and tickets do sell out, despite being the most expensive on the current F1 calendar.
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.
- 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 will be joined by the Mexico City Grand Prix in 2021.
- 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. The most successful constructor is Mercedes, with six wins.
- 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 six years, the polesitter has never failed to win.
Memorable Moments in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
2010: 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.
2012: 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.”
2014: 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!)
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Facts
|Circuit Name||Yas Marina Circuit|
|Race first held||2009|
|Track Length||5.554km (21 turns)|
|Race Distance||305.355 km (55 laps)|
|Lap Record||1:39.283, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2019|
|2020 Result||1st Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:36:28.645|
|2nd Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +15.976s|
|3rd Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +18.415s|