OK, so Jenson’s the F1 world champion and he’s The Man right now, but I’ve got one over him: I’ve driven Yas Marina circuit and he hasn’t. So there. Yeah.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the circuit to have a look round and take a Nissan GT-R on a lap or two. And I have to say, it looks like a phenomenal place for a race. If this is the future of F1, I’m all for it.
Yas Marina circuit is one tiny part of the Yas Island development. Yas is a big island near Abu Dhabi which is costing about 36 billion bucks to create as a whole, and includes hotels, golf courses, theme parks, high-end housing and lots of other cool stuff. A great deal of that will be finished in time for the 2010 race, but this year, they’ve had their work cut out just to finish the track.
And what a track it is. Its main feature is the Monaco-style marina next to the giant Yas Hotel, which has 5,800 individually-programmable LED screens for a roof. The pitlane passes underneath the first turn, through a tunnel, there’s a run-off area under a grandstand, and the track actually passes through the hotel, too. Stunning.
It’s an interesting lap, and hopefully it’ll throw up one or two good overtaking opportunities around its long 5.5 km. The straight is the longest in F1 at over a kilometre, and it’s bookended by two slow corners, which means it should be a terrific braking zone and overtaking area at the end of it. And the rest of the circuit is quite a challenge, with a lot of off-camber corners and some technical combinations.
I was struggling to remember it from corner to corner, but Jenson will learn it in about two laps. Guess that’s why he’s world champion and I’m, er, not.
The race starts at sunset and runs into the night, the first time that’s ever happened in F1. If you can’t get to it this year, make sure you book your 2010 tickets early. I know I will…