From the cockpit, it’s incredible to race at twilight and watch the light fade as you complete lap after lap.
The faster first sector and the two long straights in the middle sector at Yas Marina mean that it isn’t a track that will naturally suit our package, but over the course of Friday we’ll work hard to dial in the car to make the most of what we have and extract as much performance as possible.
It’s an interesting track to set the car up for, as although it’s in the desert, the track temperature cools a lot during the course of the race as we reach twilight, so the tyre conditions and grip levels are constantly evolving as we reach the chequered flag.
It’s a really unique place and a great circuit to end the season at, and I hope we can push for a positive end to the year.
Yas Marina is a pretty technical race track, with a relatively low average speed thanks to the tight corners in the final sector, which gives it many of the characteristics of a street circuit. Typically, overtaking is quite tricky there, so it’s important we do as much as we can in qualifying and hope for a strong, clean start.
The track design in Abu Dhabi is quite different, there are a lot of low-speed corners and combinations. The unique layout means it is challenging, a small mistake during one of the many corner sequences can ruin a lap. It is also important to have a strong car in the last sector to keep the tyres alive.
It’s a very fast track, with big braking zones and quick changes of direction. You need a car that is very stable at the rear to make the most of the braking zones. Also, having good traction out of the corners can gain you a lot of time. There are some overtaking opportunities and the possibility to go for different strategies usually produces interesting races.
The pit lane exit is very tricky and one of the most memorable parts of the circuit: you release the pit limiter, accelerate for a second and then you have to brake for the very sharp left hander underneath the track. The wall feels very close and you always hold your breath every time you drive through that narrow exit! It’s a little uncomfortable because as soon as you push harder, you start to slide and it’s very easy to get it wrong.
Generally, it’s a low-speed corner circuit. The only high-speed corners are Turns 2 and 3. Normally they’re taken flat – easy flat in qualifying. The track has some long straight lines, but you mainly want to focus on getting the low-speed corners correct, especially through the last sector. That’s what you have to focus on in Abu Dhabi.
Every time you get there it’s like a whole different world, like a Disneyland more or less. It’s nice to get there and have the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
You have to compromise in the first sector, which is mainly about high-speed corners. Then you have sectors two and three, which are about straight line speed and braking into chicanes and slow-speed corners. You have to manage the tyres, and that’s the most challenging part.
You just have to consider how the balance of the car is going to evolve. Basically, what’s the plan going to be in terms of changing the car balance a little bit through the race with the front wing and with all the tools we have in the car.
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