TABLE OF CONTENTS
A FORMULA 1 OASIS
The United Arab Emirates is the home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, hosting Formula 1 since 2009. The UAE is an oil rich country and Abu Dhabi is one of the country’s main contributors to the economy. The name Abu Dhabi when translated means Father of Gazelle, which is fitting for Formula 1 which is the father of speed.
The UAE is a union of several Monarchs and in Abu Dhabi, the Nahyan family is the ruling class. Abu Dhabi exploited its great wealth-creating one of the most architecturally stunning cities in the world. Extreme heat is to be expected for this city located on the Persian Coast in the middle east.
YAS MARINA CIRCUIT
The Yas Marina Circuit was constructed in 2009 and organizers spared no expenses which eventually cost them 1.32 billion dollars USD. The circuit is built on Yas Island featuring its marina that includes multiple theme parks such as Ferrari World, which includes the world’s fastest roller coaster, and several Ferraris for tourists to see. Within the track, there is a docking area for the finest yachts where F1 fans can watch the race without ever leaving their boat.
The Yas Marina Circuit was designed by German engineer and former formula 1 driver Hermann Tilke. Tilke has worked on and designed numerous tracks in F1 such as the A1-Ring in Austria, Hockenheimring and Nurburgring in Germany, Marina bay Circuit in Singapore to name a few. Despite Tilkes’s impressive resume, he has received plenty of criticism which claim his designs and redesigns create boring races that discourage passing. The YAs Marina Circuit was not immune to this criticism and the debate still rages on about the entertainment value of the race.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The maximum capacity is sixty thousand spectators that are spread out over five grandstands. The original circuit consists of twenty-one turns over a 5.554km length of the track that requires fifty-five laps to complete the Grand Prix, the longest straight away is 1.14km long. The fastest lap is currently held by Britain’s Lewis Hamilton driving with Mercedes with a time of 1:39.283 he achieved in 2019.
CHANGE IS GOOD?
Due to the numerous complaints from fans and drivers like Kimi Raikkonen who said “The first few turns are quite good, but the rest of it is shit.” Has led to the track being renovated for the 2021 race. The newest edition of the track will now consist of sixteen turns over 5.281km to complete a lap.
RACING THE SUNSET
A unique feature of the track is its starting time, which takes place at 5 pm local time. This means the race runs from day to night by the time the chequered flag comes out. Floodlights are used from the start of the race to ensure the drivers can see clearly throughout the transition from daytime to night.
The Yas Marina Circuit is not solely used by F1, it also hosts Formula 2, the Asian LeMans Series, F3 Asian Championship, Formula 4 UAE Championship. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been scheduled last on the F1 Calendar since 2013 adding more excitement and value to the race especially if the F1 championships have not been resolved. Let us take a look at all the memorable moments since its inception into Formula 1.
HISTORY OF THE ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX
Formula 1 officially began in Abu Dhabi in 2009 and for its first race, it would have to wait for the last race of the season for the track to be seen by the rest of the world. Heading into the final race of the season Jenson Button was driving with Brawn and was already crowned World Champion by his performance in Brazil. Buttons team Brawn GP also secured its first and only Constructors title in Brazil.
FIGHTING FOR CRUMBS
However, there were still multiple battles to be had to help determine the final rankings of the season, most notably for second place in the driver’s championship between Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel and Brawns Rubens Barrichello and the battle for third place in the Constructors ranks between Ferrari and McLaren.
Lewis Hamilton entered the race sitting in pole position only to bow out of the race on lap 19 due to a brake issue. The race was eventually won by Sebastien Vettel, allowing him to hold his second place overall in the season. Both the Ferrari and McLaren failed to score any points in the race which meant Mclaren continue to hold on to its third place in the contructors race by one point.
FOUR DRIVERS ONLY ONE CHAMPIONSHIP
2010 was a much different race than its inaugural one at Abu Dhabi the year before. Heading into the race which was still last on the schedule nothing was entirely certain of who would be crowned World Champion. The battle took place between four drivers; RedBulls Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, and Ferraris Fernando Alonso.
Alonso was currently in the lead of the championship with an eight-point lead over Weber, HAD a fifteen-point lead over Vettel, and led long shot Hamilton by twenty-four points. Red Bull was already crowned with the Constructors title and Vettel would ultimately give the team a driver’s championship as well.
THE YOUNGEST IN HISTORY
Vettel won his second race in Abu Dhabi. Alonso, who had a miserable race, finished in seventh place and subsequently lost the title by four points to the young german. Vettel was now the youngest driver at the age of 23 years 134 days, beating Lewis HAmilton’s mark of 23 years 300 days when he won the title in 2008.
In 2011 Yas Marina could not live up to the previous year’s intense rivalry in the championship due to Red Bull’s dominance. Red Bull and Seabstien Vettel completely dominated the entire season had Vettel winning eleven races and Red Bull winning twelve.
Entering the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Vettel and Redbull were already champions but that did not mean nothing mattered during the race. Vettel was not able to surpass Michale Schumacher with the most wins in a season by exiting the race in the first lap with tire damage. Lewis Hamilton went on to score the first win of his career in Abu Dhabi.
THE ICEMAN CAN STAND THE HEAT
Abu Dhabi was no longer scheduled as the last race of the season in 2012 but did not diminish its value in the championship battle between Ferraris’ Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
It was a crucial race for Alonso to have his best finish possible to cut the growing lead of Sebastien Vettel. Unfortunately for Alonso, despite finishing in second place still had his rival Vettel finished in third place. Heading to Brazil the next race ten points separated the two.
The biggest story of the race was the surprise win by Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen, his first win since his return to Formula 1. Kimi drove an excellent race driving for Lotus, giving them their first win since Ayrton Senna in 1987 at the Detroit Grand Prix.
VETTEL AND RED BULL LEAVE THEIR MARK
The Yas Marina Circuit has to be one of Sebastien Vettel’s favorite tracks because not only did he win the 2013 race he set a record and a bench benchmark for himself and Rebull. Winning the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Vettel tied Michael Schumacher and Alberto Ascari for most consecutive wins in a row with a tally of seven wins, he went on to break the record the following race in the United States and added to the record making it ten in Brazil.
Red Bull also got to claim a new personal benchmark of one hundred podiums for the team. The race that witnessed Vettel winning by thirty seconds also offered a partial solar eclipse during the race.
DOUBLE POINTS? LET’S NOT DO THAT AGAIN
In 2014 Abu Dhabi returned to the final race slot on the calendar and remains there until today. The 2014 race featured a battle between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg driving for Mercedes.
An odd feature of the race was the number of points awarded to drivers, which would be double for this final race. It was the last time this system was used in Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton secured his second world title by winning the race without facing any true difficulties.
MERCEDES RUNS SMOOTH IN THE DESERT
Nico Rosberg in 2015 at Abu Dhabi won his first race on the circuit beating out teammate Lewis Hamilton in second place and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in third. Mercedes continued to dominate Formula that season, which saw Hamilton claim his third driving title and Mercedes claim yet another constructors title.
Mercedes beat out Ferrari by 275 points, making it clear to everyone that Mercedes was the team to beat for years to come. The race for the team and its world champion drivers served more as a victory lap than a race.
ROSBERG LEAVES ON TOP
Luckily in 2016, Abu Dhabi would be the race to determine the Championship standings between Rosberg and Hamilton. Rosberg this time had the advantage over the Brit by ten points and needed a podium finish to clinch the title.
Lewis Hamilton took pole position and won the race but Rosberg won the war by finishing second to claim his first and only F1 Championship. Nico Rosberg decided to end his career in F1 on top retiring after the Grand Prix making Abu Dhabi the last race of his career
FINLAND STRIKES AGAIN, HAMILTON SITS ON FOUR
Lewis Hamilton in 2017 had another stellar year and entered the Abu Dhabi Gp already assured of his fourth F1 driver’s title and yet another constructors title for Mercedes. This race would be the last race for Felipe Massa who retired from F1 the following year.
With nothing on the line, Valterri Botta won his first race in the middle east driving with Mercedes. The Finnish driver took pole, the win, and the fastest lap on the weekend.
ALONSO SAYS GOODBYE
In 2018, Lewis Hamilton continued to cement his place among the greatest drivers of all time, not only winning the race in Abu Dhabi but also claiming his fifth driver’s title surpassing Sebastien Vettel who had four titles to his name.
The race in 2018, unfortunately, lived up to its reputation of being a dull race that had Lewis lead the way all the way to the chequered flag giving him his fourth win on the track.
Fernando Alonso said goodbye to his fans and rivals by performing donuts on the track alongside Vettel and Hamilton. The Spaniard retired as a two-time drivers champion only to return to F1 in 2021 with Alpine.
HAMILTON KNOCKS ON SCHUMACHER’S DOOR
For the first time since 1963 in South Africa was a Grand Prix held in December in Abu Dhabi in 2019. Lewis once again had already secured his driver’s Championship making it six surpassing the Argentina native Juan Manuel Fangio who won five driving mostly for Ferrari in the fifties.
The real battle took place for third place in the driver’s standings between Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, and Sebastien Vettel. The young Dutchman would rue the day in finishing in second place allowing him to secure third place in the season. Toro Rosso had their last race on the circuit and would be renamed in 2020 to Alpha Tauri.
LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN
Max Verstappen and Red Bull continued to grow as a rising threat if any to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. In 2020 the Grand Prix featured many young drivers who love to knock off Hamilton from his world Championship throne. Hamilton tied Michael Schumacher’s mark of 7 world titles before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
As mentioned early they provided an opportunity for young drivers like Mick Schumacher who got to drive for HAAS in the practice sessions and Pietro Fittipaldi completed the entire weekend finishing the race on Sunday in last place. Max Verstappen won the race followed by Valteri Bottas in second and Lewis Hamilton in third.
WHO WILL BE CROWNED CHAMPION IN 2021?
The stage has been set for the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to be a special one if things go Lewis Hamilton’s way in Saudi Arabia. IF Lewis has a strong performance and the current Championship lead Max Verstappen struggles Abu Dhabi will determine the championship.
The Yas Marina Circuit will show off its new facelift with fewer turns and adjusted curves with the hopes of creating a more entertaining race. It will be an ideal situation for fans if both rivals head into the final race neck and neck in the championship. Perhaps this can turnaround Abu Dhabi’s bad reputation from being a boring race to a must-watch race.
F1 TEAMS AND DRIVERS
In the history of Formula 1, there has never been a team based out of the United Arab Emirates or Abu Dhabi. There have also never been any racing drivers from the country either. Perhaps in time, with the sport growing in popularity, these two facts will change.
UP AND COMERS
There is some hope in the upcoming youth and one would never expect the prospects would be two sisters. These young up and comers are aiming for Formula 1 and although they would not be the first woman to race in F1 they would certainly show the world the progress the middle east has made if they were to make the jump to F1.
AMNA AL QUBAISI
Amna is the older sister is twenty-one years old and is currently competing in the F3 Asian Championship. Hamda and her sister are the daughters of sports car driver Khaled Al Quabasi who has encouraged them to pursue the sport since his daughter’s youthful days.
THE FIRST IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Amna was the first Arab female to take part in the RMC world finals of karting at the age of fourteen. At the age of seventeen, she was the first Arab woman to win the UAE RMc Championship. Amna continued to prove she was a great driver by participating in the GCC Young Drivers Academy where she won once again.
Amna joined the Italian Formula 4 series in 2018 driving for Prema Powerteam. Amna continued to make waves testing in Formula E in Saudi Arabia where women were now legally able to drive in 2018. She showed the world and the middle east that women can not only drive, but they can also race and compete with men.
HAMDA AL QUBAISI
Hamda the younger sister of Amna is nineteen years old and has followed in her sister’s footsteps showing even more promise than her older sibling. Hamda started karting in 2015 and she earned her spt at the CIK-FIA Karting academy in 2016 becoming the first woman from the Emirati to do so. She continued to hone her skills the following year competing and finishing in third the IAME X30 Championship in 2017.
Hamda joined her sister in the Italian Formula 4 series driving with Prema Powerteam in 2019 participating in six races. Hamda in 2020 in the Formula 4 UAE Championship where she had a stellar season that landed her in fourth place for the driver’s title.
The young Emirati won three races, claimed seven pole positions, six fastest laps during races, and a total of twelve podiums. She repeated her quality performance the following year with nearly identical stats in The UAE F4 Championship.
TURNING HEADS IN EUROPE
Hamda also drove in the Italian F4 Championship in 2021 where she became the first woman to ever podium finishing third at the Misano Grand Prix, it was also her first podium in Europe. Respect is never given and Hamda has already earned respect in the Italian series.
Both sisters are hoping to make the jump to Formula 2 or the W-Series to bring them one step closer to Formula 1. Will Formula 1 have the sisters race in the Championship at some point, only time will tell. The sisters will need to continue to grow and produce results that will turn heads like any other driver, so far they are on the right path, and I for one cannot help rooting for them.