Abu Dhabi GP: Season far from over as F1 heads to the desert

Yas Marina

The 2013 Formula 1 drivers' championship may already be decided after Sebastian Vettel clinched the title in India last time out, but there is plenty to play for in the three remaining races - starting with a trip to the desert this weekend for the visually spectacular Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

With seats still be filled for next season and points still to be gained, drivers up and down the grid will be determined to finish the season as strongly as possible.

Vettel himself will still be targeting wins. Another in the desert on Sunday will move him a step closer to matching Michael Schumacher's record of 13 wins in a single season.

The track

Fernando Alonso
Yas Marina features the world's largest permanent sporting facility lighting system

The 5.554km track features three distinct sectors. The first is a series of fast, flowing corners, followed by two long straights and a tight and twisty section completing the lap - meaning a compromise between straight-line speed and good traction is required.

At 1.14km, the main straight is the second longest in Formula 1 and is one of five anti-clockwise tracks on the calendar - Singapore's Marina Bay, the Korean International Circuit, Brazil's Interlagos and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin being the others.

The venue

Money was seemingly no object when the Middle Eastern country constructed a purpose-built facility from scratch in two years, hosting the first ever twilight grand prix in 2009.

Built on a man-made island in the east of Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina circuit organisers imported the granite used to build the track from the United Kingdom.

While many venues require teams to just 'make do' with the facilities, Abu Dhabi has pulled out all the stops to make their visitors' stay as comfortable and unique as possible.

The pit garages, for example, offer ample space and are air conditioned to help staff cope with the hot, dry conditions.

The pit lane features an exit which funnels out through a tunnel under the track, while the venue boasts the world's largest permanent sporting facility lighting system. That allows the race to start in daylight and end in darkness.

All this is set against the backdrop of the iconic 499-room Yas Hotel which straddles the track and uses 5,389 pivoting LED panes to produce a spectacular sparkling light show.

Next door, you will find Ferrari world, an indoor amusement park which is housed underneath a 200,000m square roof. It features the Formula Rossa roller-coaster that can achieve a top speed of 240kph.

What the drivers say...

Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen: "It's a track where you really hope to get everything nicely together during the whole weekend. When you succeed with that, it's a good place to race. I have had one very boring race being stuck in the middle group and then one great race fighting for the victory at the top. I know which I prefer."

Raikkonen ice cold on team radio

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel: "The race in Abu Dhabi is one of the highlights of the racing calendar. Starting at dusk and finishing in the dark makes it pretty impressive. I have special memories of the Abu Dhabi GP after winning the first race here in 2009 and then repeating the victory in 2010 to win my first world championship, that was an event I will never forget."

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton: "The race in Abu Dhabi is always a fun weekend and one which I really enjoy. The circuit and the whole Yas Marina complex are so impressive and racing from the sunshine into the twilight is quite special. With three races left of the season, we are still pushing and there is a lot that our team can achieve in that period."

Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg: "The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a stunning event, especially during twilight when you get some really nice footage and pictures. The paddock is really nice and probably has the best atmosphere of the year with very modern facilities. The track is pretty tricky and technical, especially the last sector which has a lot of twisty, 90-degree corners."

McLaren driver Jenson Button: "I've always enjoyed racing around the Yas Marina circuit and I think we can once again score points to consolidate our position in the constructors' world championship. Now that the drivers' world championship has been conclusively settled, I think the Formula 1 community will enjoy these last three races."

Marussia driver Max Chilton: "Taking part in FP1 at the Yas Marina Circuit last year was one of the highlights of my career and racing here for the first time is certainly one of the things I have been most looking forward to in my debut season. It's a great circuit, in a part of the world I love. With GP2 Series running with us here in Abu Dhabi it has been nice to spend some time ahead of the business end of the week training and relaxing with drivers I raced alongside over the past few years."

Force India driver Paul di Resta: "I enjoy driving in Abu Dhabi because it's a twilight race and one of the more spectacular events of the year - a bit like Singapore. As a track you don't have to rely too much on aero performance because it's mostly low-speed and that should suit our car quite well."

The highlights

2012 - Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen won as Sebastian Vettel held on to his championship lead despite starting from the pit lane. Raikkonen had inherited the lead when polesitter Lewis Hamilton retired in his McLaren. Vettel fought back up through the field, benefitting from a safety car period that wiped out early errors, to finish third behind title rival Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. But the day belonged to Raikkonen, who will be remembered as much for his amusing outbursts at his race engineer as he will be for a superb drive in the dusk.

Formula 1: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2012 highlights