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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.
Turns 567.jpg
 
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.
Turns 8 9.jpg
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.
Turns 11121314.jpg
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.
Turns 2021.jpg
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.

F1 2007 or 2017?

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F1 2007 or 2017?
2017 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix Driver Recap
Jonathan Simon | March 29, 2017

The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator
 

With only five total overtakes at Australia, it was the first time since the 2010 Formula One season that I could remember a race that had a perfect mix of strategy, drama, track action and boring periods. You see, the boring periods of the race make the rare entertaining moments extra special because you don’t expect it, like your jump scare in any Scream movie.

The 2011 – 2016 Pirelli tyres were much like the beginning of Heikki Kovalainen’s career, exciting at first but you got over it after that introduction phase. Whereas the 2017 Pirelli rubber is your red wine to the elegant steak that is a 2017 Formula 1 car.

This season also greatly replicates the 2007 Formula One Season's pecking order. The two horse race between Mercedes and Ferrari clones the dramatic McLaren and Ferrari dual in '07, along with the Red Bull to BMW Sauber comparison which is right there ready to clean up more errors than your defensive anchor at mid-field. Your mid-pack teams follow, along with the McLaren/Sauber to Super Aguri/Spyker clean up at the back of the grid.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel

A brilliant weekend from the German who returned to the blisteringly quick form he has shown throughout his illustrious career. After Kimi Räikkönen signed his contract extension in 2017, Sebastian looked out of place in a Ferrari that struggled to compete for victories against the dominant Mercedes FW07. I’ve always said that racing drivers sometimes need a reset/refresh epiphany to get back into rhythm. Whether that’s a pit stop for a fresh set of rubber, a new race or a brand new season, the German received that extra motivation heading in 2017 with the quickest Ferrari during his tenure with the team. He made the most of it, taking advantage of Mercedes’ early pit stop to blister into 2017 with a round one victory. As long as the dreaded finger doesn’t return, there are no issues.

Kimi Räikkönen

After showing he could still compete with four time champion Vettel last season after his contract extension, Kimi could play a solid number two role for Seb this season if he maintains the same pace he showed in Australia. Whilst Sebastian powered his way to a front row start, Räikkönen qualified over half a second off his teammate and this was further replicated in the race when he finished 22 seconds off the pace. Nothing to panic about though, let’s see if Kimi can challenge his teammate in the next few rounds, but Vettel will be pushed enough by the Mercedes of Hamilton as it’s now a two team fight for the title.

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

After Lewis notified the team of his lack of rear grip, I was concerned that the team had gone into panic mode and pitted the three time world champion too early. Sergio Pérez in the Force India was on an identical strategy to Hamilton, however as a leader Hamilton is expected to preserve the tyres longer and better compared to a middle of the pack car. His pit stop at the end of lap 17 was only a couple laps earlier than his scheduled stop on lap 19 and with Vettel allowing Mercedes no breathing room for error, I would’ve expected Mercedes to stay out until there was a clear track advantage. Instead, the few seconds they had behind Verstappen were obviously less than adequate. Maybe the team didn’t expect Lewis to find it so difficult to overtake in 2017? Regardless of this, the Mercedes is still the faster car of the two championship challengers but the team now has no margin for error compared to their previous years of dominance.

Valtteri Bottas

The Finn stayed quiet all weekend (both metaphorically and vocally), nonetheless to only qualify just under three tenths from his teammate in his first race in a silver arrows was a solid performance from the 27 year old. He was close to catching Hamilton for P2 towards the end of the event, although Hamilton was much quicker throughout the overall race weekend. Valtteri still has some pace to find, Hamilton’s poor strategy and the fresher tyres for the former Williams driver helped make him look a little bit better. Hats off to the man for being classy and stopping for every fan as he left the track late in the night in front of us, brilliant man behind the scenes with a shy humble smile.

Red Bull Racing

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel is possibly the hardest driver to judge this weekend, as both he and Max were extremely close together based on lap times throughout all sessions. We didn’t get to see the full race potential from the Aussie after his sensor issues during the reconnaissance laps. His mistake in qualifying was also a rarity, signifying that the 2017 cars are indeed much tougher to drive. That isn’t the first and won’t be the last time we’ll see the rear of the car snap unexpectedly like that. It happened to Jolyon Palmer towards the end of practice two and will generally occur during mid-speed corners where you’re able to apply and increase throttle application mid corner (the weight will rapidly shift to the rear).

Max Verstappen

An extremely underrated race performance from the Red Bull young gun this weekend. The team may have set the car up for longevity during the race, but with a two tier fight quiet visible at the top of the pecking order between Mercedes and Ferrari, Verstappen was 6 seconds away from snatching P4 from Räikkönen. This reminded me a lot of the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix when Nick Heidfeld snuck himself past Alonso and up into P4 despite being in the third best car on the grid by a long mile. Max had brilliant long run pace and I’m looking forward to watching the RB13 tip toe around Monaco in a few rounds time.

Williams

Felipe Massa

He basically received a free Formula 1 car that he doesn’t have to give back, was beeping his way leaving the track as if Brazil had just won the world cup and also performed outstandingly well to give Williams some optimism this season. Not much to say about Massa, the start was crucial in terms of getting past Romain Grosjean in the Haas and the 2008 almost world champion runner-up achieved the best possible result he could’ve this weekend.

Lance Stroll

Whilst any smart team principal or sports coach understands that you need to be patient with young talent to develop, the opening signs with Lance Stroll are not optimistic. As stated earlier, the 2017 cars are a different beast to handle and jumping from Formula 3 to Formula 1 may not be as easy as it was in the past, but the sample size to prove this point is obviously small at the moment. Massa had a tendency to spin a lot and make an abundance of mistakes in his early years in Formula 1, however Lance has been completely demolished by his experienced teammate which doesn’t support his case as a future world champion. He also looks nervous in front of the press and whether that coincides with his driving or not is difficult to perceive. Let’s see if Massa’s leadership along with the ideal mentorship supports the Canadian through his rookie season. If Jolyon Palmer managed to get a second season in the Renault, we can’t give up on Lance after one grand prix weekend (And all the drama from testing, I know...).

Force India

Sergio Pérez

Pérez produced some thrilling overtakes this event, despite Force India going along with the same strategy as Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes (after the Mexican started from P11). His move around the outside of Carlos Sainz into Turn 3 reinforced the point that overtaking was difficult, but in a good way. By trail braking into the corner around the outside, he closed the door by only a whisker to get ahead of the Toro Rosso. It was a move that replicated Fernando Alonso’s around the outside of Lewis Hamilton during the beginning of the 2013 race. The aim is to now get ahead of Williams (and possibly Haas depending on whether or not Grosjean maintains his comfortability in the car this season) in terms of overall performance as it is extremely close in the mid pack.

Esteban Ocon

Points for the young Frenchman in his first race with Force India is a great way to leave Australia with some ever so slight confidence. Most other young drivers / second drivers struggled to match their teammates and this was the case with Ocon. However despite the gap in qualifying between himself and Perez, Ocon made minimal errors and the late race battle between himself, Alonso and Hülkenberg was the vital point of the race. If Hülkenberg had managed to come out top in the three wide battle, Ocon would not have a world championship point alongside his name. It’s most important that Ocon steps up his level of improvement before the midway point of the season. If Bottas fails to impress on his one year deal, Mercedes need to be comfortable in his replacement when its contract time come the end of the season.

Haas

Romain Grosjean

Grosjean may well have the Alonso factor to him in that he is one of the best on the grid in terms of extracting performance from a mid-pack car. P6 in qualifying and a potential P7 in the race before his retirement (due to a water leak) is mightily impressive for a team that enters their second season in the sport. A lot forget that the Frenchman was close to winning races and scoring consistent podiums in 2013 after rejuvenating his career from his miserable 2009 season, as well as his controversial 2012 campaign. If Haas can manage to avoid the brake issues they suffered in 2016, Grosjean in a comfortable car can score some good points in 2017.

Kevin Magnussen

A weekend to forget for Magnussen, even Mark Webber couldn’t put effort into caring about his clash at the start of the race with Marcus Ericsson. Not only did he qualify 11 spots down on his teammate, he’s also a driver who has critical experience in F1 which means there are no excuses for qualifying dramatically off the pace. Years ago I predicted a McLaren lineup in 2017 to consist of Magnussen and Vandoorne, fighting for the title. We obviously know that didn't pan out accurately. K-Mag has yet to get used to the Haas machinery, but so far he’s further cemented my analysis of the ‘first’ driver being far more superior to the ‘second’ in a team.

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz Jr

Quiet weekend for Carlos who mentioned he struggled with handling issues in the Toro Rosso this weekend. If that’s the case, it’s quite impressive he still managed to edge Daniil Kvyat who is yet to bounce back from his Red Bull to Toro Rosso demotion. These two drivers were the closest of any teammates this weekend from my analysis, swapping positions two times in the final stint as they battled for the bottom end of the points.

Daniil Kvyat

We will need to wait for the first few rounds of the championship to play out before we determine whether or not Daniil Kvyat has completely forgotten the depression filled Red Bull axing. So far he performed solidly at Australia but let’s assume Carlos wasn’t 100% this round and lacked pace, I doubt the Toro Rosso is finishing any higher than where they eventually ended up. Therefore Kvyat should be proud that he was driving around like a torpedo (probably to Vettel’s dismay) and scoring valuable points. He only scored 16 points last season when he switched into the Toro Rosso compared to the 42 points his teammate scored in their head to head battle. The Russian needs to ensure he isn’t on the back foot going into the European rounds of the season.

Renault

Nico Hülkenberg

Quite a disappointing round for Renault who just didn’t have the overall pace to compete for points at Australia. Hulk was at touching distance of the final point in the thrilling three wide battle with Ocon and Alonso. I was standing over at Turn 1 watching the big screen expecting a simple move from the Force India, when I turned my head to the track to see three wide action along with sparks lighting the track up. I was as excited for an overtake for the first time since the 2010 Bridgestone days.

Jolyon Palmer

Struggle city is the title of this chapter for Jolyon Palmer’s Formula 1 book. Shall we maintain patience with the 2014 GP2 Champion? We can be lenient with his mistake at the final corner of practice two, the car snapped away and looked a handful to drive. However Palmer wasn’t at ease with the Renault this weekend and his errors in Q1 means he goes back to the drawing board to figure things out for China. He was running well in P14 before his brake issues forced him into retirement as the team also apologised. That’s a frustrating weekend to forget for the Brit who is under pressure to perform this season.

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

Do we potentially give Fernando driver of the day had he scored points? Even Fernando himself said this was one of the best race performances of his career. He has a history of saying this though and uses the phrase to let people know that ‘I drove my butt off and this car can’t do any better, so I’m going to hype up my performance to make myself look good’. Realistically though, it was impressive in comparison to the testing grief McLaren faced.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Yet again another number two driver completely demolished by their teammate. In all fairness to Vandoorne, although he finished last and behind the Sauber of Giovinazzi he still managed to complete 55 consecutive race laps in a car that couldn’t get anywhere near that mark during pre-season testing.

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

What more to say for Marcus Ericsson? Impressed the paddock by making it through to Q2 in a Sauber that was predicted to be the slowest car on the grid for 2017. Bill Belichick would be proud, the Swede basically ‘did his job’ this weekend and his contentions for a strong result were effectively over after the clash with Magnussen on the first lap, with his retirement on lap 21 the icing on the cake.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Initially Giovinazzi thought his race call up on Saturday morning was a joke, however his performance was far from that. To jump into the difficult 2017 machinery, let alone a Sauber and qualify only a couple tenths off his teammate is a solid performance to say the least. Pascal Wehrlein will obviously step back into the car for the rest of the season, however teams will now keep an eye on the Italian in the circumstances where there is a potential mid-season driver switch. The first seats to look at here are the McLaren seat of Alonso (if he leaves the sport) as well as the Renault of Palmer (if his performances decline further, as well as Giovinazzi’s financial situation).

 
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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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