PRIXVIEW – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Round twenty-two and the final race of the season brings F1 to the United Arab Emirates for the twilight Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Since joining the calendar in 2009 it has become the traditional season closer hosting it all but twice, the 3.281-mile circuit was introduced in 2021.

Abu Dhabi was the sports first day-night race, following on from Singapore, it has since been joined by its neighbours in Sakhir, Jeddah and Lusail. This makes FP1 and FP3 aren’t the most reprehensive sessions taking place under the sun while conditions will cool in the late afternoon/evening sessions.

The current 3.281-mile was introduced in 2021 with the hairpin at Turn Five being revised and dramatic changes at the end of the second sector, the series of right-angled corners were removed and replaced by a banked sweeping corner which played its role in the controversial title decider, Lewis Hamilton was unable to re-pass Max Verstappen on the restart and that allowed the dutchman to take the lead and title.

This should be another circuit which suit Red Bull, since joining the calendar in 2009 it has tended to suit cars that perform well with long straights, but yet on the old configuration, the stop-start nature of the final sector has been changed meaning it’s no longer about good stopping acceleration into the ninety-degree corners. This could make it difficult for Red Bull to be beaten, this circuit has always tended to favour the championship-winning team/the car which is fastest in a straight line and the corners.

Verstappen has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, this weekend there is little doubt who is the favourite having won all but three races this season. Victory in Abu Dhabi would be his eighteenth win of the season, with the top three Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Hamilton being confirmed last weekend in Las Vegas.

Before Verstappen’s record-breaking seasons in 2022 and 2023, Sebastian Vettel set a record equalling thirteen wins in Abu Dhabi and Brazil 2013. Many though that record would never be broken.

One of the most famous races and one which highlighted one of the issues with the previous configuration was 2010. Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber went into the final race all mathematically able to win the title.

Vettel took pole ahead of Hamilton and Alonso, the Red Bull driver converted pole into the lead and retained it following the restart and then controlled the lead. Alonso and Mark Webber became stuck behind the Renault of Valtiy Petrov allowing Hamilton to close the gap, despite being on heavily worn option tyres compared to the fresher, hard tyres of Alonso and Webber.

The stalemate continued for much of the middle part of the race, and with sixteen laps to go Button released Vettel, Hamilton and Robert Kubica pulling away from the Englishman. A few laps later, button released Vettel who had a twelve second lead over Robert Kubica re-joining in fourth.

In clean air, Hamilton set the race’s fastest lap on lap forty-seven, as he closed slightly on Vettel. No further passing attempts were made on track, and thus, Vettel led the race to the end, to take his fifth win of the season. The McLarens of Hamilton and Button, who was knocked out of the title race in Brazil, completed the podium. Vettel took the title having not led the championship all season, beating Alonso by four points.

This is a slightly different race to Vegas; it’s a twilight race rather than a full night race and the region is a lot warmer than the Nevada Desert. But teams still need to remember as the sunset shortly before qualifying, so the air temperature will drop throughout the session which lead to faster lap times.

Vettel would win his third title in Abu Dhabi working his way up from last after being disqualified from. But he worked his way up to third to secure his third world title. That race saw Kimi Raikkonen’s first win for Lotus and his first since returning to F1.

Vettel continued his domination of the second half of the season in 2013 after passing teammate Webber at the first corner then going onto take a thirteenth win, tying the then-season record with Michael Schumacher.

The beginning of the hybrid era saw the start of the domination of Mercedes, the 2014 race putting Hamilton up against teammate Nico Rosberg for the title. However, while the build-up as been dominated by the title battle, it unravelled early on when Hamilton pulled away and around half distance Rosberg developed an ERS issue

That lead to the German dropping down the field, while Hamilton cautiously made gains and went onto win the race. Rosberg finished outside the points while Hamilton went on to win the race by two and a half seconds. Much was made of the decision to award double points for the final race it didn’t matter in the end.

Mercedes set two new records, the first being 701 total points, the second being the margin of 296 points to second-placed Red Bull. This highlighted that Yas Marina is a circuit similar to Monza statically in favouring the cars which are good in a straight line and good in the corners.

Red Bull will set a new record of up to eight hundred and sixty-four points if Verstappen and Perez finish one-two this weekend in Abu  Dhabi. The top three in the drivers championship were confirmed in Las Vegas with Red Bull securing their first one-two finish in the championship.

2016 was controversial, while Hamilton won the race the three-time champion tried to back Rosberg into Vettel and Max Verstappen. This was in a bid to get them to pass him pushing him off the podium, thus allowing him to take his only title by five points.

Verstappen broke the Mercedes domination of Yas Marina in 2020, the Dutchman lead every lap of the race followed by Bottas and Hamilton. He controversially won last year’s race and the title after passing Hamilton on the last lap, after race director Michael Masi incorrectly applied the rules.

Race & Circuit Guide

Round 22 of 22
Race Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2023
Venue Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Configuration 2021
Circuit Length 5.281 km (3.281 mi)
Laps 58
Race Distance 306.183 km (190.253 mi)
Lap Record Race 01:26.103 (Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2021, F1)
Outright 01:22.109 (Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2021, F1)
Most wins drivers Sir Lewis Hamilton (5)
Most wins manufacture Mercedes (6)

Fast facts

  • The drivers are on full power for 69% of a lap at Yas Marina, including over 14 seconds on the back straight (one of the longest straights in Formula 1). Drivers make an average of 68 gear changes per lap or 3740 gear changes over the full 55-lap race distance.
  • Red Bull have never failed to get both of their cars through to the final part of qualifying on all their appearances at the Yas Marina Circuit.
  • In three of the first four Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, the polesitter failed to finish the race.
  • Until the addition of Doha last year Abu Dhabi was the only twilight race. The race normally starts around 30 minutes before the sun sets, though the circuit’s floodlights are illuminated for the duration of the race.

Event timetable


Local (UAE-ST)



P1 13:30-14:30 09:30-10:30
P2 17:00-18:00 13:00-14:00


P3 14:30-15:30 10:30-11:30
Qualifying 18:00-19:00 14:00-15:00


Race 17:00 13:00

What happened in 2022?

Max Verstappen beat his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez to pole by two-tenths after he improved on his final attempt in Q3. Perez in both Q1 and Q2 looked to be the driver to beat, as Verstappen struggled before responding after struggling with grip. But Verstappen found the car more to his liking in the final session, despite what he described as a “scare” when the car switched off as he tried to leave the garage for his first run and he had to reset all the systems.

Charles Leclerc was a tenth and a half ahead of his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, the Monacan four-hundredths of a second behind Perez. Ferrari has looked to have struggled to find enough pace to challenge Red Bull, although the Monacan did put in purple sectors he was almost a tenth and a half off pole.

Verstappen went onto dominate the race and take his sixteenth win of the season, the two-time champion looked never to be under threat. Leclerc managed to get past Perez to secure second in the championship.

Abu Dhabi for Ferrari was a race where everything went right for the team, they resisted the temptation to switch to a two-stop and went long before fending off Perez following his only stop.  Perez was left a second behind his rival when he re-joined with it growing to ten seconds by the chequered flag.

It seemed almost like the roles had been reversed, Ferrari having the better tyre management allowing Leclerc to keep Perez behind and force the Mexican into an extra stop. Sainz was fourth ahead of George Russell by ten seconds, Mercedes looked to struggle throughout the weekend but the Englishman was comfortably in fifth following his teammate Lewis Hamilton’s retirement

Race Result – 1) M. Verstappen, Red Bull, 01:27:45.914. | 2) C. Leclerc, Ferrari, +00:08.771 | 3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +00:10.093

What to watch for?

Max Verstappen goes into this race as the driver to beat given the way he has dominated this season and the way this circuit tends to favour the world champions.  He has set numerous records this season but he hasn’t yet had a bad race or retirement statistics that means it has to come this weekend. I thing Yas Marina will be strong given its long back straight only broken by the chicane at Turn Six-Seven.

This race historically has been one where overtaking has been more difficult, I think we are yet to see this race won by anyone other than Kimi Raikkonen from the leading teams and Ferrari has never won here. It’s a circuit like Vegas which could answer the question whether they got on top of the tyre issues, but this is a very different situation.

The track temperatures are not going to be as cold as Vegas but as the sunsets, we know the track gets colder. This means it’s likely to get faster and faster during qualifying as that’s the only full night session and getting the tyres switched on during the race is going to be key. The race can be lost in the pit lane as we have a very long pit exit and teams will want to one stop this race.

Ferrari looked in Vegas to get on top of the tyres, but I don’t think that’s enough for them to do what they did in Singapore and take victory. this is one of a handful of circuits they have never won at given it’s been on the calendar for fifteen years is quite a stat, I think that is unlikely to change.

Now the top three in the championship are settled we tend to see races becoming freer though the focus for this weekend is likely to be for fourth in the drivers with Carlos Sainz tied on points with Fernando Alonso. I think once the pointy end of the table is sorted, we normally see great ‘nothing to lose’ racing on track.

2021 vs 2022 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap


01:26.663 01:25.146 01:24.982 01:24.754 01:24.419 01:23.824 01:27:45.914 01:28:391


+01.654 +01.445 +01.708 +01.909 +01.619 +01.71 -02:28.631 +02.492


01:25.009 01:23.691 01:23.274 01:22.845 01:22.800 01:22.109 01:30:17.345 01:26.103

2022 Lap time comparison

Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Race. Time
01:26.663 +00.000 01:25.487 +00.341 01:25.22 +00.240 01:25.545 +00.791 01:24.774 +00.355 01:24.508 +00.684 01:28:21.802 +00:35.88 +00:10.996
Red Bull
01:26.967 +00.334 01:25.146 +00.000 01:24.982 +00.000 01:24.754 +00.000       +00.000 01:27:45.914 +00:00.000 +00:00.00
01:26.888 +00.225 01:25.599 +00.453 01:25.571 +00.589 01:25.090 +00.336 01:24.517 +00.098 01:24.092 +00.268 01:27:54.685 +00:08.777 +00:08.771
01:27.619 +00.986 01:26.377 +01.333 01:25.518 +00.536 01:25.387 +00.633 01:24.903 +00.484 01:24.769 +00.945 01:28:42.148 +00:56.234 +00:20.346
Aston Martin
01:27.268 +00.635 01:26.395 +01.401 01:26.012 +01.030 01:25.523 +00.769 01:24.978 +00.555 01:24.961 +01.137 01:29.02.845 +01:16.931 +00:19.691
Alpha Tauri
01:27.845 +01.212 01:26.684 +01.534 01:26.170 +01.188 01:25.630 +00.876 01:25.219 +00.800 N/A +00.000 01:29:15.285 +01:29.371 +00:05.473
01:27.891 +01.258 01:26.038 +00.892 01:26.073 +01.091 01:25.735 +00.981 01:25.007 +00.588 01:24.830 +01.006 01:28:43.154 +00:57.240 +00:01.006
01:28.142 +01.509 01:26.839 +01.769 01:26.356 +01.374 01:25.711 +00.957 01:25.225 +00.806 N/A +00.000 01:28:2.984 + 1 Lap +00:14.367
Alfa Romeo
01:27.655 +01.022 01:26.300 +01.154 01:26.189 +01.207 01:25.892 +01.138 01:25.408 +00.989 N/A +00.000 01:28:04.964 + 1 Lap + 1 Lap
01:27.840 +00.000 01:26.750 +01.604 01:26.051 +01.069 01:26.028 +01.274 N/A +00.000 N/A +00.000 01:28:05.844 + 1 Lap +00:00.880


White Hard (C3)

Yellow Medium (C4)

Red Soft (C5)

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