The 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship reaches its final furlong this weekend with the penultimate race on the calendar, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Held at the Yas Marina circuit built on an island in the Persian Gulf just outside the centre of Abu Dhabi, it’s a state of the art complex that dwarves anything else in the series.
The circuit, designed by Hermann Tilke, skirts round the huge new Marina and ultra-modern hotels and leisure complexes in a 5.5km loop. A long straight runs parallel with the harbour before switching back in a series of right angled corners along its front before passing spectacularly underneath the Yas Marina hotel reception. These slow to medium turns make it a relatively undemanding circuit for the RS27 engine, but the proximity to the ocean and the desert can throw up some unusual challenges for Renaultsport F1 engineers.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix facts and figures
Abu Dhabi is a typical modern track with very few fast corners. The quickest complex is between turns two and five where speeds will be between 240 and 290kph. The car and driver will be subject to high lateral forces through this flowing section, pulling between +/-5g whilst changing direction.
During the Friday practice sessions, it’s possible to run two different engine maps to deal with the very different temperatures between FP1 and FP2. FP1 takes place during the afternoon when temperatures can be very hot while FP2 takes place after sunset. Since the grip levels, tyre warm up and air pressure will change, the engine also needs to respond to this new set of parameters.
Sand and grit blown in from the desert can be ingested into the engine via the air intakes, causing damage to the internals but also creating potential blockage points that can affect the cooling of the engine. Special filters may be run to minimise the risks of taking in too much sand.
The long straight between turns seven and eight is nearly 1.2km and the RS27 will be at full throttle for 14secs, reaching speeds of over 310kph. Calibration of gear ratios is crucial for this straight; seventh gear must be right to get the best power under acceleration whilst allowing a competitive end of straight speed with DRS active. But also the braking zone at the end of the straight will see the driver brake down to second gear, meaning the engine must be set up to give good rear stability under braking.
The third part of the track from turn 11 through to the final turn 21 features mainly right hand corners that are taken in second or third gear. The average speed through this section is just 160kph so the RS27 will be set up to give good driveability through this slower section whilst being responsive for the short bursts of power between turns.