There’s more to the big weekend of motorsports at Yas Marina Circuit than the superstars of F1.
As well as the established household names such as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, the Circuit will also welcome a host of young guns all eager to prove themselves on one of the world’s best race tracks.
Dozens of talented drivers will be gearing up for the F2 and GP3 Series, both of which offer well worn routes to the big time for young racers.
The most recent driver to make the jump from F2 to F1 is young French racer Pierre Gasly, who made his debut at this year’s Malaysian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso.
A highlight of the F2 season this year has been the emergence of Charles Leclerc, who secured the series championship in the penultimate round.
Leclerc is no stranger to die-hard motorsports fans, having won the GP3 title at Yas Marina Circuit last season, securing his step up to F2. While he already has this year’s drivers’ championship crown in the bag, you can expect Leclerc to put on a show to wrap up his victory in style with yet another win in Abu Dhabi.
In GP3 this year, the highlight has been the battle between Jack Aitken and George Russell, who have swapped pole positions several times over the course of the season.
Like Leclerc, Russell was able to clinch the championship before arriving in Abu Dhabi, however, fans can still look forward to two thrilling finale races with the battle for second still very much on in both categories.
In F2, Oliver Rowland and Artem Markelov will face each other, while Aitken will slug it out with Nirei Fukuzumi in the GP3 contest.
While F2 and GP3 might be lower down motorsport’s pecking order compared to F1Ò, they certainly aren’t poor relations.
With the rules governing both F2 and GP3 stating that all of the cars must have the same chassis, engine, gearbox and tyres, the on-track duels have to be decided by the skills, quick thinking and talents of the young men behind the wheel.
Over the years, drivers in both categories have acquitted themselves well at Yas Marina Circuit, which is one of the more technical tracks on the F1® racing calendar.
The Circuit’s ‘street section’ in the last sector (turns 17-18-19) and its slower corners, sequences and off-camber corners measn it is easy for drivers of all abilities to slip up and make a crucial mistake.
While the F2 and GP3 championships will help get spectators in the mood for a weekend of four-wheeled action, they also give young drivers in the region a valuable look at the skills needed to reach their dreams of F1 stardom.
With the launch of the FIA-accredited Formula 4 UAE Championship at Yas Marina Circuit last year, up-and-coming drivers from across the Middle East now have a stepping stone into GP3 and F2.
Al Tareq Al Ameri, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit, said: “The F2 and GP3 championships help nurture talented young drivers and give them every chance of making the jump to F1.
“Now, with the second season of the Formula 4 UAE Championship in action at its official home of Yas Marina Circuit, more young drivers from the region have a chance of joining them at the very top of the sport.
“With so many extremely talented drivers on the Circuit over the big race weekend, fans of motorsports are guaranteed to see some incredible action on the track.”
For the full race calendar, download the YasHUB smartphone app from Apple and Android stores.
The engines have fallen silent, pit doors are closed, and the grandstands are empty, but Yas Marina Circuit is anything but quiet.
While motorsports fans eagerly await the start of the season-ending 2017 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the task of making sure the circuit is ready to host the biggest race of the year is well under way.
To make sure everything is perfect before the arrival of the drivers, 60,000 fans, scores of team officials plus dignitaries, celebrities and media from across the world, an army of cleaners, painters, gardeners and technical experts have descended on Yas Marina Circuit.
4,500 litres of ‘Yas blue’ paint, 720 litres of ivory, 1,440 litres of red and 1,440 litres of white paint will also be applied by teams of painters to the famous track.
Indeed, the surface’s Yas Blue’ is unique to the venue. Called pantone 321, the colour was chosen as it closely resembles the blue seas of the Arabian Gulf. The team tasked with painting the track’s distinctive white edging will have to cover a total of 26 kilometers. These are painted four times, requiring 450 litres of white paint and the record number of steps taken by a single track painter is 42,000.
Thanks to the wider cars competing, the grid markings at both the start and finish line have been removed and replaced with markings that are 200mm wider than previous slots to accommodate them.
Clearing away months of sand and dust from the Circuit’s grandstands is another important task for the cleaners, who are all equipped with high-pressure hoses, while the 75 acres of landscaped areas are given some TLC by gardeners who will plant 715 palm trees and 150,000 flowers before the race.
It’s not just the Circuit that is cleaned and polished before the F1 weekend beings. Every inch of the hotels on Yas Island, including the famous ‘glowing facade’ of the Yas Viceroy, are left sparkling in time for guest to check in while teams of street cleaners make sure the island’s roads are looking their best.
While the huge cleaning operation is going on, behind the scenes the business of Formula 1 is getting into full swing ahead of race weekend on November 23-26.
Teams of motor racing experts and logistics managers direct fleets of transporters carrying everything required for the F2 Series and GP3 Series teams. These competitions, which will provide the F1 champion drivers of tomorrow, will battle it out for podium honours over the weekend.
As the safety of the drivers, teams and spectators is paramount in F1, experts will go over every inch of the Circuit to make sure vital crash barriers are placed correctly and intact, the track is clean and clear and the Circuit’s medical teams and first responders are positioned to deal with any emergency.
The logistics of organising the race weekend also extends to catering for tens of thousands of spectators in the grandstands, making sure the small army of customer service staff are on hand and prepared to help visitors enjoy the F1 experience to the fullest and ensuring sure the world’s media are positioned to get the best view of the action on the track for the hundreds of millions watching around the world.
With the huge to-do list slowly being ticked off, the 11 teams that make up the F1 juggernaut can finally arrive. A fleet of articulated lorries loaded with the essentials that keep an F1 team racing – including the spare parts, support vehicles and fuel – will arrive in Abu Dhabi fresh from the season’s penultimate race in Brazil.
Six charter flights will land at Abu Dhabi Airport, each loaded with more than 90 tonnes of gear, while the city’s Khalifa Port will handle 140 containers, each carrying the kit needed to make sure the F1, F2 and GP3 teams are able to put on yet another thrilling display of motorsport action.
Aside from the hardware, the teams also require hundreds of hotel rooms and hire cars, while the motorhomes for driver must be positioned correctly and online and data links connected so engineers can access essential data for each race.
After 20 rounds of the 2017 F1 season it’s hard to predict what will happen in the big finale, but Yas Marina Circuit is guaranteed to be looking its very best.
Yas Marina Circuit (YMC) CEO Al Tariq Al Ameri has no concerns over the future of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, saying it’s a “win-win situation” for the race to remain on the Formula One calendar in the long-term.
Since making its debut in 2009, the event has gone from strength to strength and is now established as one of the key races on the F1 schedule.
Next month, YMC will again host the season-finale as the elite motorsport drivers do battle for the last time in 2017 from November 24-26.
Abu Dhabi has already been confirmed for the final race of the 2018 season but there will be no stop in Malaysia in the immediate future after it was withdrawn due to funding. The future of the British Grand Prix is also in doubt after Silverstone, the venue, confirmed it has activated a break clause to cease hosting the race after 2019.
But Al Ameri insists the future is bright for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and will continue to exceed expectations year on year.
“I think it is win-win for everyone and I think it will remain the same until something changes.”
On the track, with Lewis Hamilton needing 16 points to outscore Sebastian Vettel, it looks certain the Brit will win his fourth world crown before he even travels to Abu Dhabi at the end of the next month.
But the YMC chief says whether the title race is decided or not, it doesn’t hamper their plans on putting on a spectacle for the fans.
“We have seen it before and I don’t think it took anything away from the event,” he said. “People still came, enjoyed themselves, and watched their favourite drivers compete without any restraints. It has the same feel to it and people enjoyed the finale.
“So we have seen it both, when the championship title was decided here and otherwise and I think both are really good.”
The Formula One is by far the glamorous highlight on the YMC calendar but their new season for 2017-18, will be their biggest year.
More than 400 events will be hosted. As well as a series of motorsport activities, the Abu Dhabi Tour, ITU World Triathlon and the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Abu Dhabi 2018 MENA Regional Games will also be staged in March.
Peter Wheeler, CEO of Special Olympics Abu Dhabi 2019, is delighted the track will open the proceedings.
“Yas Marina Circuit offers a superb facility for our athletes to prepare and compete across multiple disciplines for the 2018 Regional Games,” he said.
“We are thrilled to partner with Yas Marina Circuit and fully integrate our regional event into Abu Dhabi’s thriving health and fitness community.”