For as long as anyone can remember, fans have questioned the sport’s decision to host the season finale in Abu Dhabi – a prestigious slot on the calendar for which the capital of the United Arab Emirates pay handsomely.
While we are constantly, helpfully reminded by broadcasters that the venue is spectacular, dynamic and exciting, the layout does not make for great racing.
As it happens, in the hybrid era the championship battle has rarely gone down to the wire, but even so, one only has to recall the 2010 Grand Prix, when Fernando Alonso went for the undercut on Mark Webber and emerged behind Vitaly Petrov. Unable to pass the Russian, the Spaniard eventually finished the race in seventh, missing out on the title by 4 points.
Ahead of this year’s race, scheduled for 5 December, Saif Al Noaimi, CEO of promoters Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, has revealed a number of changes that are being made to the layout.
“We’ve been looking at improving the racing on the track,” he said, “we’ve been listening to our spectators, the fans, the drivers, F1 and the FIA, and we’ve been working on making some changes, exciting changes, this year to the layout.
“We will be undergoing some modifications to the track over the summer in time for this year’s edition of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix,” he added.
“The objective ultimately is to create more opportunities for close wheel-to-wheel racing. We want to create more overtaking opportunities and to create an overall faster, flowing race track, given the current rules of the vehicles.
“So we’re really looking forward to seeing some overtaking and action, and hopefully the championship will come down to the wire and be determined here.”
While full details have yet to be released, it is understood that the section that features Turns 5, 6 and 7 (the hairpin) will be replaced by a short radius corner leading on to the back straight.
At the same time, the section at the other end of the track, comprising Turns 11,12,13 and 14, will similarly be replaced by a single radius corner that will be slightly banked.