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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

How To Fix The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

A is the original layout and B is my version. You can tell because they're labelled in Altastrada font, which is superior to your font.
Although double DRS and a lack of Vettel helped to spice up this year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, it wasn't exactly Canada or Silverstone. Much of the problem with this race is in the track layout, as Hermann Tilke was probably far more interested in a) grandstands and facilities, and b) getting paid lots by sheiks, thus the track doesn't really lend itself to overtaking. Does someone without a background in circuit design or any proper real-life motor racing experience honestly believe they can do better at designing a Formula 1 racing circuit than a paid professional?

Well duh. Haven't you been on the internet before?

Using a mix of Google Earth and GIMP, I have shown two points that I really do think would make a difference. I would've done the same to Turn 8, but it's too complicated with a short route coming off T9 immediately afterwards, so I made do with a line map in Microsoft Paint. Anyway, here are some of the things I'd change:

Turn 6

This annoys me so much it's not even funny, partly because it's such an easy fix to make and yet they don't bother. Drivers brake to turn into Turn 5 looking down a perfectly nice piece of straight, only to turn left instead. Turns 5 and 6 do a great job of putting the grid more-or-less in single file for the T7 hairpin that opens up onto the very long straight (a staple of any Tilke track), and because there's only really one line through this complex, aside from drivers deciding when they want to clip the inside kerb, there is normally no overtaking. How much better would it be if they could completely ignore T5 and 6? If they just went straight into what would thus become Turn 5, there would be a lot more options for the likes of Hamilton and Alonso, many more lines to choose, and if they were to move the apex inwards a bit like I have here, more room to squeeze down the inside. Also, the much higher entry speed would mean a much longer braking zone, and that's when drivers tend to make bold moves down the inside. It would be a much better corner, and people who stumbled over from the horrid Ferrari World behind that fancy grandstand would have something to watch when they'd finished vomiting and got inside. You could go further and adjust the inside kerb to have a "late apex" instead of an even radius throughout, giving drivers even more room like in India and suppourting the line they like to go for in that corner to get the throttle open earlier, but I don't know if the Arab owners would dig such imperfection... or character.

Turn 8
To be honest, I'm not sure what to do with this corner. As you can see, there's not much room for change with that barrier there, which has a grandstand behind it. The same thing makes changing Turn 1 tricky as well, but that corner will never provide an exciting start to the race as it is, unless they keep the tyre spikes on the edge of the kerb for anyone as unfortunate as Sebastian Vettel was this year, but I digress. I think this might need changing because it proved tricky to get past unless you managed to fully utilise DRS and get up the inside anyway under braking (with that nice long braking zone like we just gave "Turn 5"). As the top picture shows, what I did do was make the straight to T9 shorter (if the above changes were applied, of course these would become Turns 6 and 7, but let's not make this confusing for the time being), as well as straighten the run through T10 down to T11 at the bottom, which I am about to mention. Anyway, this could make it less fiddly to overtake someone, because you don't so much have to double back on yourself, and you can accelerate away instead of slowing back down to take another corner immediately afterwards. That may or may not work or be accurate, but it would certainly help to widen the entry à la India (which would've worked better at this year's race if the track as a whole hadn't been so flippin' dirty). Turn 9 would subsequently be smoothed out a bit, as shown by my mad MS Paint skills, which I don't mind because it doesn't really add anything anyway. It would just be faster. I also widened the entry to the final corner, and moved the apex ever so slightly across. Hamilton overtaking Massa at the very last corner of the British GP was awesome, so maybe it could happen here with more opportunity. Who knows?

Turn 11

The problem here is similar to that of T7, except the unnecessary corner comes afterwards instead of beforehand. Cutting Turn 12 (or T10 if you applied the above changes) out of the equation would make overtaking much more straightforward, I reckon, and when combined with the faster run out of T9, could even mean we could get rid of the second DRS Zone that so frequently undid the moves made in the first DRS Zone at T8, and maybe put it on the pit straight. If you get overtaken at the first of these corners, line up behind the attacker and get him in the next one (I didn't stitch the corners together very well, but the red lines show a more refined line of the entry for the corner). The first turn in the picture is exactly the same, but the unnecessary chicane, which doesn't add anything to the track, has been removed. Is this change necessary when this year's GP saw Jenson Button and Mark Webber swapping around through the left-right-left-left, as well as Kamui Kabayashi overtaking two cars in one go at T13? Well, those were impressive bits of racing, but this layout, in my mind, would make overtaking more frequent without having to force it by way of DRS. Each corner is the same radius in both images, the picture orientation is just a little different, something I've only just noticed...

Would these changes work? We'd have to apply them and see. I like to think they would, of course, particularly the first one. The hotel section near the end of the lap could also use some spicing up, but there's even less room for improvement there than Turn 8, in terms of run-off area (or area that could be used for track laying), so I'll leave that puzzle for another day. If you have any thoughts and ideas, feel free to add them in the comment box below!

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