Reports

Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix

2016 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX - SET-UP

Circuit Stats
2015 winner Nico Rosberg, 55 laps, 1:38:30.175
2015 pole position Nico Rosberg, 1m40.237s
2015 fastest lap Lewis Hamilton, 1m44.517s (lap 44)
Name Yas Marina Circuit
First race 2009
Circuit length 5.554km/3.451 miles (7th longest of the season)
Distance to Turn One 300m/0.186 miles (longest of the season: Mexico, 800m/0.497 miles)
Longest straight 300m/0.186 miles (longest of the season: Mexico, 800m/0.497 miles)
Top speed 335km/h/208mph, on the approach to Turn Eight
Pitlane length 360m/0.224 miles, estimated time loss 22s
Full throttle 60 per cent
DRS zones Two, on the approach to Turns Eight and 11
Key corner Turn Seven, a non-descript left-hand hairpin. But for all its benign characteristics, the corner is crucial because the longest straight on the lap follows. You need a good exit to maximise what becomes the first DRS zone and one of the best overtaking opportunities on the lap
Fastest corner 260km/h (162mph), Turn Two
Slowest corner 72km/h (45mph), Turn Seven
Major changes for 2016 None, except for maintenance work
Fuel consumption 1.81kg per lap, which is relatively high
ERS demands Medium. There are several slow corners around the lap where ERS deployment is crucial at the exit. But there are lots of braking zones around the lap in which to regain energy under braking
Brake wear High. There are 13 braking zones around the lap, which means 18 per cent of the lap is spent braking. Braking forces peak at 5.09g on the approach to Turn Eight
Gear changes 68 per lap/3,740 per race
Circuit facts
History lesson At a cost of £800m, the Yas Marina Circuit is the most expensive racetrack ever constructed. It’s situated on the eastern side of the man-made Yas Island and it’s suitably sophisticated: the pitlane exit passes under the track; the pit garages are air-conditioned and the track has the largest permanent lighting system in the world.
What makes it unique It’s the only twilight race on the calendar. It starts in daylight and finishes at night, presenting the drivers with the unique challenge of having to contend with bright sunshine at the start of the race and darkness later on.
Grip levels Medium. The asphalt is quite smooth and it’s quite grippy. But the predominance of slow-speed corners means mechanical grip is at a premium and to help this, Pirelli bring its three softest tyre compounds to the race.
Run-off Medium. A lot of the run-off is asphalt, which raises the question of track limits at various points around the lap. But there are some gravel traps and there’s a quirky aspect to the gravel at Turn Seven, the hairpin: it extends under the grandstand.
Watch out for... The changes in track temperature. The asphalt can cool by as much as 15 degrees during the race, once the sun has gone down. That can alter the balance of the car and make life tricky for the drivers.

The drivers on: The Circuit

#14 Fernando Alonso
“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."
#22 Jenson Button

“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 like many that we’ve enjoyed so far this year, and make the most of our strategy in order to get the best possible result. If we use the track time productively on Friday it’ll give us the best opportunity to set the car up for the weekend and, hopefully, avoid a repeat of Brazil where I really struggled for pace in the race. Our package definitely has more potential than that, and I hope that I can push it to the limit and give the team and the fans a good end to the year.”

Event stats

Start time 17:00hrs local/13:00hrs GMT
Race distance 55 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/41 laps)
Safety Car likelihood Low. Statistically, there’s only a 40 per cent chance of a Safety Car, largely due to no Safety Car periods in either of the last two years
When to press record The eyes of the sporting world will be on the world championship showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. But there are other aspects of the weekend to look forward to, most notably qualifying. It’s difficult to overtake in Abu Dhabi, so a good grid position is vital
Don't put the kettle on... All of the cars in the top 10 made two pitstops last year, pitting on or around laps 10 and 30. Tyre degradation and wear are low at the Yas Marina Circuit, so expect more of the same this year
Weather conditions NOW 26 degrees and sunny
Race forecast 28 degrees, with more sun
Tyre choices Ultrasoft/Supersoft/Soft, a combination that was last used at the Singapore Grand Prix

Event facts

First Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2009.
Official slogan Welcome to Hyper Speed.
Abu Dhabi's F1 heritage The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the second F1 race in the Middle East, after Bahrain. But Abu Dhabi quickly established itself as a popular race with teams, drivers and spectators. The teams conduct a lot of testing at the track, with Pirelli staying on after the race to conduct some 2017 tyre testing at the end of November.
Smallest winning margin 0.852s, in 2012. This was the infamous race won by Kimi Räikkönen, who announced over the radio, “leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.” Kimi inherited the lead from Lewis Hamilton after the McLaren driver retired with a fuel pump failure. A Safety Car with 13 laps remaining closed up the field and led to a thrilling dice between Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso.
Sporting legacy Football and cricket are the most popular sports in Abu Dhabi. The UAE Football Association was established in 1971 and Pakistan now plays all of its home international matches at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. But the popularity of motorsport is growing in the region and the Yas Marina Circuit is used all year round for track days.
Did you know? Six of the 21 corners at the Yas Marina circuit are taken at less than 100km/h (62mph). Only Monaco and Singapore have more.
Don't forget McLaren has won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix once, in 2011, and taken two pole positions.
Fan zone James, aged 18, from Dubai, asks: “How do the drivers cope with the changing light, from day to night?” McLaren’s answer: “As the sun sets, it can be very blinding for the drivers – particularly on the straight towards Turn 15. To counter that glare, they place a dark tear-off on top a clear visor. Once the sun has dropped behind the grandstands, they can then dispose of the dark visor tear-off, giving them clear vision for the remainder of the race.”

The drivers on: The event

#14 Fernando Alonso

“I enjoy racing in Abu Dhabi every year. Not just because it’s become synonymous with the end of the season, but there’s a unique atmosphere there – a combination of the ‘end-of-term’ feeling, anticipation ahead of the winter development push and the buzz from the fans as we go racing for the final time in 2016. From the cockpit, it’s incredible to race at twilight and watch the light fade as you complete lap after lap. It brings a new dimension to the spectacle and makes the whole weekend really enjoyable. For McLaren-Honda, this race marks the end of a significant year for the team, and the last time I’ll race with my team-mate Jenson for the foreseeable future. It’s been a pleasure to work with him and I’ll miss him being in the garage next to me, but he’ll still very much be part of McLaren-Honda’s plans and I want to wish him all the best for the exciting things he has in store for the next step in his career.”

#22 Jenson Button

“I’m really looking forward to this weekend, and have been for a few races now. It marks a very special chapter in my life and I’ll have my friends and some of my family out in Abu Dhabi with me which I’m very excited about. It’s going to be a hugely emotional weekend and I hope with the support of the fans, the team and the people that are closest to me, we can go out there and give it our absolute maximum and enjoy the weekend. It’s not the end of my career with McLaren-Honda, but it’s the start of a new phase that I’m incredibly positive about. This race marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work, dedication and passion for the sport that I love and I’m immensely proud of everything I’ve achieved in the past 17 seasons, and the fantastic progress we’ve made over the past couple of years with McLaren-Honda. It’s been an amazing project to work on and my involvement certainly won’t end here. I’m looking forward to concluding this chapter in style and starting a new one with just as much enthusiasm, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Hear from the management

Eric Boullier

 

“The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, for McLaren-Honda, cements a very positive year, where we have overcome challenges, fought hard, pushed relentlessly and seen firm progression in every area. As I always say, we aren’t where we want to be, of course, but we’re fighting fit and looking ahead to a strong winter of further development. I’m incredibly proud of how far we’ve come in three short years – two on the track – and indebted to the incredible commitment, steadfast loyalty and unwavering support demonstrated by our team members in the UK and Japan, our Partners, and our amazing fans

“This weekend also marks a very significant moment for McLaren-Honda, as we bid farewell to Jenson, who will be stepping out of the cockpit after the race on Sunday to embark on a new chapter both with McLaren-Honda and in his personal life. As we know, it’s farewell for now and not goodbye, and we’ll be working side by side with him over the coming year, when he’ll be as close to the team and our developments as ever. Nevertheless, it’s a poignant step in our history together and an opportunity to celebrate his 17 seasons in the sport, seven with McLaren, and celebrate his many achievements on track. We’ll certainly miss him in the garage, but we look forward to continuing our relationship and the exciting projects we’ll be working on together in 2017.

“Last but not least, we approach this weekend with positivity, but the awareness that it will be a challenging grand prix on a track that is complex in character and offers a set of unique parameters within which to set up the car. With qualifying and the race taking place in very different conditions from the earlier part of the weekend, setting up the car for all eventualities is tricky but is also what makes this venue so unique, creating an awe-inspiring spectacle for fans at the end of a long season. The Yas Marina circuit and its ever-impressive facilities provide a stunning setting in which to go racing for the final time in 2016, and I hope we can finish the season on a high – for Jenson, the team and our fans across the world.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

“With the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 2016 Formula 1 season comes to an end. It’s been a long season for the team, but for an improving team like ours, every day spent together helps us grow stronger. We’ll also bid farewell to Jenson, who has been the glue to the McLaren-Honda team alongside Fernando since the beginning. We’ll miss his smile at the track, but we’re very happy that he’ll continue to support the team’s development next year.

“The circuit at Yas Marina has a unique layout with a traditional race and street-like circuit combined into one, unlike the several previous races. Each sector is very different, from slow 90-degree turns to full-throttle straights, so it will no doubt be another busy weekend to set up both the power unit and chassis to get the maximum out of the package.

“When we see the chequered flag on Sunday evening, it will mark the transition for us to fully focus on the 2017 package. This is an exciting, albeit challenging time as we have just about three months until our next chapter begins. We hope to end our year on a positive note, and enjoy the twilight race in Abu Dhabi.”

A good start

A busy day of first practice at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit. The afternoon’s opening session was spent gathering and correlating data for use over the winter, for next year’s car; the evening session, which more accurately models the conditions in qualifying and the race, were used to balance the car and assess tyrewear simulation models.

Fernando and Jenson finished 11th and 12th respectively at the end of FP2, and are in a good position to push for points on Sunday.

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04

FP1 1m46.379s (+3.510s) 21 laps 18th
FP2 1m42.366s (+1.505s) 33 laps 11th
It’s been a positive start to the weekend

“As a team, we need to take every opportunity we can to test things on the track for next year. We need to learn and understand as much as we can about configurations or philosophies that we can put into next year’s car. And today was a day when we could really improve our understanding – particularly in FP1, which isn’t really representative of the conditions we’ll find in either qualifying or the race, so it made sense to experiment a little.

In FP2, we had our only opportunity to learn about the tyres in similar conditions to those we’ll experience in the race – at night, and with cooler track temperatures. 

It’s been a positive start to the weekend – let’s hope we can maintain that momentum into the race.”

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03

FP1 1m47.127s (+4.258s) 10 laps 20th
FP2 1m42.823s (+1.962s) 24 laps 12th
We learned something useful by the end of the day’s running

“Wearing my old 2009 helmet design today was great – the colours are fantastic, but the memories are even better.

It wasn’t a great day for us – we had to stop running fairly early in FP1, then elected to change the power unit before FP2. Then I got out half an hour into the session. It might’ve been a bit of a troublesome day, but I still think we learned something useful by the end of the day’s running.

It’s fun to drive around here, and I think our race pace will be stronger than it has been for the past few races, we’ve just got to pull it all together by qualifying strongly.

Whatever weekend we have, I want to make it as good as I can – and not just because it’s my last race. Hopefully we’ll be stronger tomorrow.”

Eric Boullier
We’ll definitely be crunching the numbers deep into the night

“We noted an ERS data conflict on Jenson’s car during FP1, and chose to stop early to investigate the problem. As a precaution, we changed the power unit between sessions – but didn’t conclusively find a problem with any of the components. The mechanics nonetheless did a fantastic job to ready the car for FP2, and Jenson’s run-plan was barely affected.

In terms of pace, we’re comfortable, but we need to go away and dig a little deeper into the data in order to get a better feel for some of the underlying degradation issues with the tyres. Given the day-to-night nature of the practice sessions, this is always something of a difficult day from which to draw any firm conclusions. We’ll definitely be crunching the numbers deep into the night in a bid to begin tomorrow with a better understanding of how to best tackle the remainder of the weekend.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
P11 and P12 finish for both cars is a good start

“Friday's free practice sessions were busy for the team, with the afternoon high-sun FP1 focusing on aero testing and initial set-ups, and the cool early evening FP2 running geared towards balance confirmation and race simulation long-runs.

Fernando ran smoothly all day, whereas Jenson’s ERS detected an anomaly in water pressure and we were forced to cut short his run in FP1. Though we did not find any hardware issues on Jenson’s car, we elected to pull forward our plans to change the Friday PU within the session so he could run FP2 with his race engine. Thanks to the swift work of the mechanics, and Fernando’s consistent data gathering, it did not take long to improve both cars’ balance as the long-runs continued throughout FP2.

We still have more work to be done tonight but a P11 and P12 finish for both cars is a good start towards tomorrow’s qualifying.”

"It's good to be starting in the top 10"

Fernando Alonso posted a brilliant final lap in Q3 to line up ninth for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. His team-mate Jenson Button, who will start the final race of his Formula 1 career (version 1.0) tomorrow, qualified in 12th place.

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04
FP3 11th 1m42.585s (+1.810s) 14 laps
Q1 13th 1m41.616s On Options
Q2 10th 1m41.044s On Options
Q3 9th overall 1m41.106s On Options
It was definitely a good quali for us

“I think we have to be happy today: it was definitely a good quali for us.

The conditions are always difficult here, because you practice in hot conditions, then head into qualifying when the track conditions are much cooler. That means you need to anticipate what’s going to happen, and make set-up changes a little blindly as you don’t really know how the conditions are going to change.  

Happily, our car felt competitive, and making it into Q3 and finishing 9th in the final qualifying session of the season is extremely positive. We capitalised the performance of the car today and we got everything we possibly could out of it.

There are no big threats from behind us in terms of the championship, and it’ll be hard tomorrow to finish higher than the position we’re already in, so let’s just enjoy this final race and hopefully finish on a high by scoring some good points.”

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
FP3 13th 1m42.664s (+1.889s) 15 laps
Q1 10th 1m41.158s On Options
Q2 12th overall 1m41.272s On Options
12th position isn't a bad place to be for tomorrow

“It was good fun out there this evening – I enjoyed it.

As the track cooled down, we needed to balance the car up with more front-end grip, but didn’t have anything left in the car, so the resulting understeer cost me a little bit of time.

To be fair, however, 12th position isn’t a bad place to be for tomorrow: we get to run new tyres. With these tyre regulations, it’s often better to start outside the top 10 in order to best free up the strategy for the race. And I’d definitely rather have a good race tomorrow than a good qualifying today.

None of the compounds last for long around here, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow – points are definitely possible.”

Eric Boullier
A very good job in qualifying this evening

“Both drivers did a very good job in qualifying this evening, optimising all the available performance their cars had to offer.

The result – P9 for Fernando and P12 for Jenson – provides a good platform from which both of them will be able to aim for points-scoring finishes tomorrow.

In particular, it would be very nice if Jenson scores in what may or may not end up being his last Grand Prix – and the fact that he’ll have a free hand as regards tyre choice will assist him we hope.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
We are hoping for a successful end of year race tomorrow

“McLaren-Honda was able to make the most of the last qualifying session of the 2016 season today, with Fernando reaching Q3 and finishing P9, and Jenson in P12, a good position to start with fresh tyres in tomorrow’s race.

Both drivers were happy with the car’s balance and performance as well as their laps in each of the sessions, and are looking forward to tomorrow’s race, which is very encouraging for the team.

This afternoon’s FP3 was also a busy session, and the team did a superb and professional job of setting up the car for qualifying. We think that our race pace is again good here so we are hoping for a successful end-of-year race tomorrow.”

"Now it's done!"

Fernando Alonso finished the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 10th position, earning McLaren-Honda one final point in the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and consolidating the team’s sixth position in the constructors’ standings.

With a fresh set of Primes fitted for the final stint, Fernando quickly began to carve into the gap ahead of him, taking between one and two seconds per lap from the cars immediately in front.

However, despite shaving 15 seconds off Felipe Massa’s advantage over him, Fernando couldn’t manage to get past the Brazilian, finishing 10th at the chequer.

Jenson Button’s final grand prix ended after just 12 laps when the right-front suspension failed. It may have brought the curtain down a little early on an illustrious 17-season 305-race Formula 1 career, but it did little to dampen his spirits after an emotional weekend filled with friends, family and great memories. 

For JB, a new chapter in his life begins on Monday morning (probably after a well-earned lie-in); for McLaren-Honda, the 2017 season kicks off in earnest tomorrow…

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04
Started 9th Finished 10th
Fastest lap 1m44.495s Lap 50 +0.766s, 2nd
Pit-stops Two laps 7 (3.19s) and 38 (3.32s) Option/Back-Up/Prime
I fought until the last lap

“The race was good; fun, but difficult as well. 

There wasn’t really much I could do against the Force Indias and the Williams, but I fought until the last lap and got quite close, so I’m happy with the point we scored today, and pleased that we secured our positions in the constructors’ and drivers’ championships. 

Overall, this season has been positive: we’ve shown big progress compared to 2015, but we want to win the world championship – and there’s still a long way to go before we can achieve that. Still, we have a long winter ahead of us, and we’ll make a huge effort in order to arrive in Australia with a more competitive package.

It’s a shame that Jenson’s final race came to an early end, but he’ll still be around next year, and he’ll be a huge asset for us in his new role.

Finally, I’m very happy for Nico [Rosberg]. He’s had a fantastic season and he deserved to be champion. He always believed in his possibilities and he managed his advantage perfectly. Both he and Lewis did a great job but it was time for Nico to win this year, as Lewis has three titles already!”  

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
Started 12th Finished: DNF Suspension failure (12 laps)
Fastest lap 1m48.753s Lap 4 +5.024s, 22nd
I enjoyed today massively

“A suspension component failed on the car – which very rarely happens to us. I had a failure on the right-front – and I’m just glad I was able to figure it out before I hit the brakes [for Turn 11]. It’s always been a massive strength of our team that components so rarely fail, but today – of all days – something did, which is just unlucky.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed today massively.

My race was short, but I loved everything else. I was really emotional before I got in the car – it was such a special atmosphere to have the whole team and all my friends and family cheer me on my way into the garage. I’m just glad I was wearing my sunglasses at that moment...

I’m very content with all I’ve achieved in my career. Now, it’s done. I live in the moment, though, and tonight’s going to be a helluva lot of fun!”

Eric Boullier
I want to pay tribute to our fans, the best in the world

“Fernando drove faultlessly to 10th place today, earning us a single world championship point; but, without wishing to detract from yet another strong drive from him, today was all about Jenson as far as we were concerned.

I’m sad and sorry that his race ended in suspension failure – but, having said that, the minor placing he thereby lost will mean little to him in what I gather from my British colleagues is called the grand scheme of things.

His McLaren record speaks for itself: eight Grand Prix wins, some of them utterly superb, and seven great years in which he won the hearts of McLaren’s staff and fans alike. On behalf of us all, JB, I salute you.

Next year, of course, he’ll still be around, assisting us in many ways, but racing our cars will be Fernando, arguably the greatest racing driver in the world today, and Stoffel [Vandoorne], whose potential is almost limitless. If you regard a balance of proven experience and youthful promise as the optimal blend in a Formula 1 driver line-up, and many people do, then I challenge you to name a better pairing than our 2017 duo.

As the curtain goes down on 2016, I want to praise Honda for the impressive progress they’ve made during the course of the past season, and I’d like to thank our sponsor-partners also for their crucial ongoing support. Our staff deserve a big collective pat on the back too: in difficult circumstances they’ve played a blinder – as our mechanics tell me a job well done is best described.

And, last but very far from least, I want to pay tribute to our fans, the best in the world. Your faith and loyalty are a constant inspiration to us, and I thank you for your unstinting devotion to the cause encompassed pithily in the well-worn hashtag #BelieveInMcLarenHonda.

And finally, may I offer the congratulations of all of us to Nico [Rosberg], who crowned a fine season with world championship glory here in Abu Dhabi this evening. Nico has never driven for McLaren but of course we know him well, having first welcomed him to our paddock motorhome when he was a kid, introduced to us by his famous father Keke, who drove for McLaren 30 years ago. Congrats to them both.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
Thank you Jenson for being our friend, colleague and hero driver

“First of all, I would like to thank each and every one of the McLaren-Honda team members for a job well done throughout the long 2016 F1 season. I am very proud of the achievements we have made together, in what has been another challenging year.

The Abu Dhabi GP was bittersweet in that Jenson had to retire early on, but he drove a good race and fought well for the short time he had on track, which was what he was hoping to do. Fernando drove superbly, showing his fighting spirit to push hard until the chequered flag. It was a difficult race, so I am glad we were able to finish with a championship point, so in that aspect I am happy for the team.

From tomorrow onwards, we push our development for 2017 to full power, and hope to step up our game over the winter months.

Last but not least, thank you Jenson for being our friend, colleague and hero driver. It will be very sad not to see you at every race next year, but my bet is that you will miss us too much, and we will see you again very soon!”