Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: PreviewDecember 7, 2021
Uralkali Haas F1 Team is ready to go racing one more time in 2021 with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix set to bring down the curtain on the 22-round Formula 1 season.
Abu Dhabi joined Formula 1’s calendar in 2009 at the purpose-built Yas Marina Circuit, becoming the championship’s first day-night event, courtesy of the facility being equipped with 5,000 lights. Yas Marina will play host to Formula 1’s season finale for the eighth successive season, and 10th time overall, with only Australia’s Adelaide having held the championship’s curtain-closer on more occasions.
It will be the final race for the current specification cars, ahead of an overhaul of the regulations, while Formula 1 also waves goodbye to 13-inch tires, with 18-inch versions set to come in for 2022.
But for 2021’s swansong there are still some new factors to explore. For the first time since its debut in 2009 Yas Marina’s layout has been amended in a bid to facilitate better racing while providing more of a challenge for teams and drivers. The previous Turn 5/6/7 complex has been replaced by a hairpin while the old Turn 11-14 sequence has been replaced by a sweeping corner.
Some other corners, most notably in the final sector of the lap around the iconic honeycombed W Hotel, have been reprofiled and resurfaced in order to create a faster and more flowing track. That is set to lower lap times by around 10 seconds, with the circuit now consisting of 16 turns, while a new race distance has been set at 58 laps.
The event also brings down the curtain on year one for Uralkali Haas F1 Team racers Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher. It is a venue that acted as milestones in the careers of both drivers. Mazepin secured the GP3 Series Vice Champion trophy in 2018 while in 2020 Schumacher’s first on-track outing with Uralkali Haas F1 Team came at Yas Marina Circuit. Schumacher lapped in Friday’s first practice session, prior to partaking in the post-event young driver test.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal of Uralkali Haas F1 Team
We’re at Round 22 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and the final race of the season. How are you feeling physically and mentally and what are your thoughts going into the closing race of the year?
“Physically and mentally, I’m feeling good. Everyone’s a little bit tired, it’s been a long season, a tough season and I’m very happy that it’s over. The good thing is that we’re looking forward to 2022 – there’s some excitement there – it’s a completely new car and we should be back where we want to be fighting for points, that’s our aim. Everybody is going to do that but we’re over the year that we just get by, now we’ll try to get in it again like before the pandemic. I hope the team can recover after a hard season and thanks to all of them for doing everything they had to in order to get through the year. It was tough, tough physically because of so many races, and it was tough mentally as we weren’t running where we wanted to. Also, thanks to FOM for putting the calendar together because it was another tough year due to the pandemic. Getting all these races in and keeping us in business – growing the sport in difficult circumstances, well it is a great result.”
The Yas Marina circuit has undergone comprehensive changes this season – designed to improve overtaking opportunities and overall racing. Do you think the changes will promote closer racing?
“That’s what the aim is – the proof is in the pudding. We will find out when we run but the people who have done this know what they’re doing and in my opinion it will help, but we’ll see when we get there how much it helps. If we achieve two out of the three, I think that’s a success.”
Once the checkered flag falls on Sunday, and after the end-of-season test, what are your immediate plans? Back to family for the festive period or already thinking about 2022 preparations?
“I am going back to Italy – I will be in Maranello with the team as I haven’t been there for a while and for the festive period I will stay at my home in Italy, and then back to the US at the beginning of January. In that period between Christmas and the new year I’ll recharge the batteries and then go flat-out again to get ready as good as we can for 2022.”