Photo: Vitorino Araújo
F1weekly and Renault Sport F1 preview to the Abu Dhabi GP
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 5.554km 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 Renault Sport 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 2 and 5 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 minimize 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.
The drivers’ view
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing
I have great memories from Abu Dhabi, for obvious reasons. It will be good to go back and really enjoy it. The Yas Marina circuit is a modern track with very few fast corners, but a combination of tight right-angle corners through the final sector and very long straights followed by hairpins in sector two. The engine needs to be good through all the rev ranges for this reason; we’ve got to have good top end power for the 1.2km back straight but driveability through the final corners. Renault Sport F1 has done a great job on this type of circuit configuration this year so I’m confident we’ll have the power and response when we need it.
The engineers’ view
Head of Renault Sport F1 track operations Rémi Taffin gives his thoughts on Abu Dhabi
The Yas Marina circuit is a very modern style track; mainly slow to medium corners, long straights and tight hairpin bends. Only 55% of the track is spent at full throttle, with average speeds of 190kph, so it’s not massively demanding on the RS27 engines. Nevertheless it’s still a difficult track to get right from an engine engineer’s perspective due to the numerous external factors that need careful management.
Fuel consumption for instance is one of the highest of the year. The point-squirt nature of the track, particularly in the final sector, means the rate of consumption is particularly high, but the high atmospheric pressure due to being at sea level further increases the rate, putting Yas Marina alongside Melbourne in terms of the fuel levels needed at the start of the race.
Cooling is another major concern here. Ambient temperatures are high during the day (around 28°C) but cooler during the night (around 19°C), which potentially requires two different settings. However since the race starts in daylight but finishes after sunset, a compromised setting must be found.
There are now only two Grands Prix left this season and we’re pretty happy with our engine management across clients this year. We go to the final races able to introduce new units with all our drivers, which gives our partners a bit more flexibility. There are still a few more points to be won yet!
Did you know…
Renault Sport F1 has used some engines up to 2,800km in Friday practice sessions, allowing newer units to be introduced in qualifying and the race where the additional power is of real benefit. Steps taken to improve reliability over the winter and during the season have allowed this unprecedented amount of running.
Renault in the Gulf
Red Bull Racing-Renault has a 100% victory record at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel has won both races held at the Yas Marina track, with his 2010 victory securing the 2010 world championship title.