When it comes to sport in the United Arab Emirates, one is entrenched in its very fabric like none other: Formula One racing. Of all of the incredible sights, Ferrari World on Yas Island has to be one of the most spectacular for racing and car fans. It required a whopping 12,370 tonnes of steel to build, and the roof alone is made up of enough aluminium to cover 16,750 Ferrari vehicles. As Ferrari is still the most synonymous name with Formula One racing, there’s no wonder why fans flock to Yas Island. For one week a year, the area welcomes the whole world to indulge in Formula One racing as part of the world championship season. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a staple on the F1 calendar, and the Yas Marina Circuit is arguably one of the must-see attractions for all visitors regardless of their racing fandom. So, if you’re planning a visit or are simply intrigued by the grand Formula One event, here is everything that you need to know about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The birth of an F1 event
You don’t have to go too far back to find the origins of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In 2007, at the Abu Dhabi Formula One Festival, a stark announcement was made: a race in the United Arab Emirates would join the F1 calendar. In 2008, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix first appeared on 2009’s provisional Formula One calendar as the season’s final race. Then came the first ever Formula One race event at the Yas Marina Circuit on 1 November 2009. The 2009 F1 season finale was the very first event to take place at the Yas Marina Circuit, allowing it to go unspoiled before its grand entrance onto the Formula One stage. Since 2009, the UAE has hosted a Formula One race every season. The floodlit racecourse brings a very special atmosphere and was F1’s first ever day-night race. Championships can - and have been - won and lost across the 55 laps and 305.355 km of the Yas Marina Circuit, which is why it has become so popular among bettors and fans alike.
For six of its ten seasons on the F1 calendar, Abu Dhabi has been the final race – excluding 2011, 2012, and 2013 when it was the penultimate or third from last race – building extra suspense. It’s no surprise therefore that it is a favourite with bookies and bettors; the unpredictability is sky high. The most popular odds are on areas like the fastest practice three, as well as qualifying positions, race winner, first to retire and much more. It all adds to the excitement of this at times decisive race. Its place on the F1 calendar makes the race an incredible spectacle regardless of whether the championship is still on offer. As overall standing plays a large role in team sponsorship, finishing big is often crucial to many teams in Formula One. This makes for a competitive end to the season that, for the majority of years since 2009, has taken place at the Yas Marina Circuit. In 2010, it was Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull – the first of four consecutive championships. The German finished first to come out on top of a record four contenders in Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, and Lewis Hamilton and win his first world championship. 2014 ushered in the new era of Mercedes dominance with Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel. This race marked a somewhat controversial one for F1 as the teams finally yielded to the series’ promoter, Bernie Ecclestone, and his desire to make the last race a double points affair. This meant two points for tenth, four for ninth, eight for eighth, all the way up to 36 points for second and 50 points for the winner. So instead of Hamilton merely needing to finish sixth to claim the title, he now needed second or above to do so. Despite Rosberg eventually finishing 14th, Hamilton put in a fine performance to mark his championship win.
Most recently, the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix presented Nico Rosberg with his only championship win to date. Coming into the race, a mere 12 points split Rosberg and rival Hamilton after a hattrick of wins from the Englishman. Given his form, Hamilton was expected to win the race and claim 25 points, meaning that Rosberg needed to come second or third to win the championship – and he did just that. Before the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Vettel and Hamilton were tied for wins at the track at three apiece. At four races in, the two were neck and neck in the standings, which could very well result in another championship-deciding race at the Yas Marina Circuit. As for constructors, Red Bull’s three victories are edged by Mercedes’ four consecutive victories from 2014 to 2017. The F1 race in Abu Dhabi has seen one English winner, a German winner, and two Finnish winners in Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas. Quite remarkably, the fastest lap on the track stands as one raced in its inaugural event. In 2009, Vettel clocked a 1:40.279 lap en route to the top of the podium.
The 21-corner Yas Marina Circuit has presented Formula One fans with many memorable moments since its inception in 2009. Taking place in such an iconic location of the world and boasting a truly stunning backdrop, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a marvel of the F1 season. Thanks to its regular spot as the season finale, it should continue to produce historic moments in the sport and a must-visit spectacle for many visitors to the area.