Tweaking the Yas Marina Circuit


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Tweaking the Yas Marina Circuit
A well overdue makeover for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Jonathan Simon | December 17, 2017

The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator

Hermann Tilke was the mastermind behind what is a dull Yas Marina Circuit layout. Whilst the circuit facilities are world class, it’s the racing spectacle that us Formula 1 fans care about. What springs to mind first when I think of the circuit’s history? The underground pit-exit, the championship battles that have gone down to the wire, Kimi Raikkonen’s famous description of the circuit and of course, Fernando Alonso’s infamous inability to pass Vitaly Petrov. DRS has been a blessing for the circuit, but what if we could improve the layout to further compliment the on track action?

With recent talks of tweaking the circuit, I thought I’d attempt the same. As a young kid, I would always draw different race tracks on a blank sheet of paper and attempt to redesign lacklustre layouts. Today, I ‘almost’ get to attempt the real thing.

Turns 5/6/7

I’ve never understood the point of the left-handed turn 5 and then the following turn 6. Maybe Tilke needed to slow the cars down a little in order to create a grandstand section and therefore not have to provide an extra 100m of tarmac run-off. Regardless of this, I’ve come up with a solution! Stuff turn 5 and 6, have the cars scream down into a slightly remodelled hairpin using a piece of tarmac that for some reason has never been used in Formula 1. You'll be able to visualise the modifications using the red lines. There’s plenty of run-off accompanied for behind as the section now becomes a high-speed braking zone and most of all, the corner complex now becomes a legitimate overtaking spot.
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The previous hairpin was very poorly used as it came off what Martin Brundle would call, a slow ‘mickey mouse’ left-right section. This new section promotes overtaking and liberates the drivers through the very frustrating and boring turn 5 and 6 complex.

Turns 8/9

If you're here for a solution to the empty grandstand, you'll be disappointed. The linkage between these two straights is conservative and blank. We always see drivers struggle to get a run out of turn 9 as there is a slight rise/bump embedded on the apex of the corner. This compromises the exit of a driver following closely behind, who is already lacking grip due to the dirty air effect. Imagine the battles with this modified turn, I would add some camber to the corner where possible to further spice things up.
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Have a look at Felipe Massa’s telemetry on the throttle pedal. The two-time retired Brazilian is unable to get on the throttle early, despite a decent line through the corner and can only start planting his right foot down to the floor frustratingly later than he should. It's a very poor example of a video to use, as it shows some form of overtaking and makes me look like a moron. Being a DRS pass it's still classified as overtaking of course, no arguing with that, but that's not an overtake in 2010. This new section makes the area a little more exciting and quicker, removing the tight right hander along with its maddening bump on the apex.

Turns 11/12/13/14

Oh my, this might possibly be the ugliest aspect of the layout. We also have to take into consideration that whatever we remodel here will also be the first corner of the alternative 'second' layout.
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I’ve gone for a little Suzuka International Circuit flavour, with a sweeping left hander into a difficult tight braking zone. This won’t ruin the excitement of the multi-apex turn 15/16/17 complex and will completely get rid of turn 14. Why the fuck did we ever have turn 14 anyway? The Kazuki Nakajima of motorsport corners, disappointing. It did nothing to improve the spectacle – if anything, made things worse. Comically, Hermann Tilke with calculation and poise places a run-off there as if drivers were going to use that at 50km/h. Let’s start petitioning for tarmac run-off areas at slot car events, Mario Kart, supermarket shopping isles – we won’t have any more dramatic trolley incidents in the dairy section at brisk walking pace.

Turns 20/21

Opening up the final couple of corners will help the spectacle through here. I would love to see a double apex final corner, much akin to the Red Bull Ring’s final corner. Modelling some elevation change so the final corner dips and then rises back onto the main straight would be electrifying and also help aid overtaking heading into turn 1.
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What also helps is the remodelling of turns 8 and 9. That allows us to open up the final corner a slight touch more than we could and should. I’m not an F1 circuit designer for a reason, this is actually hard.


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Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.

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