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2021 Abu Dhabi GP Race Recap : And then, there were Two...

The 2021 F1 Season finale got held at the iconic Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The circuit on Yas Island is famous for hosting a race at dusk, with the Chequered Flag getting waved under lights. Designed by Hermann Tilke, the track has been the venue for season finales for several years since its inception. Recently, the circuit got awarded a ten-year extension up until the 2030 F1 Season. 

The Abu Dhabi GP has seen several farewells over the years, and this year was no different. Kimi Raikkonen bid goodbye to the world of Formula 1, ending a career that spanned two decades. The Iceman had been one of the most popular drivers of the sport, endearing himself with his straightforward approach to life in F1. The Finn would complete 349 race starts, the most by any F1 driver, leaving behind a legacy like no other.

Meanwhile, his teammate Giovinazzi would end a three-year tenure with Alfa Romeo Racing, only to switch to Formula E for 2022. Williams said its farewells to Russell, who would replace Bottas at Mercedes in 2022, while the Finn would move over to Alfa Romeo to replace the retiring Raikkonen. Meanwhile, Haas F1 announced Pietro Fittipaldi as their reserve driver for 2022. Logan Sargeant ( F2 Driver ) got a chance to drive an F1 car with Williams at the young drivers' test, scheduled after the Abu Dhabi GP weekend. 

The season finale was a tense affair for the title contenders. With Verstappen and Hamilton level on points in the Drivers' Championship, the stakes were as high as they could be. This feat got repeated for the first time since 1974. Abu Dhabi had been a happy hunting ground for Verstappen, but Hamilton had the momentum going into the weekend.

Although Red Bull trailed Mercedes by 28 points, their focus was to win the Drivers' title. Bottas and Perez had their work cut out for the weekend. A DNF for both Verstappen and Hamilton would crown Verstappen the 2021 Champion! 

The Yas Marina Circuit promised better battles and closer racing, having gone through a reconfiguration at certain turns.

Which driver proved himself worthy of the crown? Time for a recap of the final race of 2021!

Practice :

Williams gave Jack Aitken, their reserve driver, a chance to participate in FP1 in place of Russell. It was an eventful FP1 for Ocon, who narrowly escaped hitting the wall and got stuck in neutral after going over the kerbs. A settings change quickly resolved the false-neutral issue. The McLaren and the Ferrari drivers took to the run-off areas on a few occasions. Hamilton had several lap times deleted for exceeding track limits. Leclerc was unhappy with Verstappen, who drifted into his path in the final sector. Raikkonen suffered a spin at turn nine, while Vettel lost the rear of his Aston Martin near the end of the session. 

Verstappen topped the timesheets, with Bottas and Hamilton P2 and P3 for Mercedes. Perez was P4 in the other Red Bull, while Alonso split the Alpha Tauris of Tsunoda and Gasly in P6. The Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz were P8 and P9, and Vettel completed the top 10.

Ocon was P11 in the other Alpine, followed by Norris and the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. P15 was the best that Stroll could manage, with Ricciardo P16. The Williams of Aitken and Latifi were P17 and P18, with Schumacher and Mazepin completing the rear of the field in the Haas cars. 

It was time for the race simulations in Free Practice 2, and all eyes were on the lap times set by Verstappen and Hamilton. Bottas locked up his tyres at turn 12 and tapped the barriers at 14. Meanwhile, Latifi damaged his rear wing after a spin at turn 13. Alonso suffered from several lap time deletions after exceeding track limits.

The session got Red Flagged at the end after Raikkonen wrecked the rear of his Alfa Romeo at turn 14. Thankfully, the Finn was ok and returned to the pits in the medical car. 

Hamilton ended FP2 the quickest, from Ocon and Bottas. The Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez were P4 and P5, followed by Alonso and Tsunoda. Leclerc and Sainz were P8 and P9 for Ferrari, with Gasly completing the top 10. 

Giovinazzi split the McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris in P12. The Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel were P14 and P15, respectively, with Raikkonen 16th in the other Alfa Romeo. Russell and Latifi were P17 and P18 for Williams, with Schumacher and Mazepin completing the rear of the field.

While Hamilton had the better one-lap race, Verstappen looked menacing in race trim. Which team was masking its actual pace remained a mystery. Saturday promised to be an intriguing day. 

FP3 got underway, and gusty conditions at turn 12 unsettled some cars. While Norris ran wide, Hamilton had to take corrective action on his flying lap. A pit marker almost fell on Gasly's car as he exited his pit box. Meanwhile, Mazepin wasn't pleased with Hamilton ending up in his path ( again ). Thankfully, the Briton got away without an investigation.

Hamilton topped the timesheets, and Bottas split the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez in P3. Norris was P5 for McLaren, followed by the Alpha Tauris of Tsunoda and Gasly. Ricciardo split the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc in P9. 

Stroll was P11 for Aston Martin, followed by Ocon and the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. P15 was the best that Alonso could manage from Vettel and Russell. Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin completed the rear of the field.

Qualifying :

The lights went green for the start of Q1, and, barring the Ferraris who chose the mediums, everyone else persisted with the softs. Schumacher ran wide at turn one, and many drivers had fuel for multiple runs. 

Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Norris, Alonso and Gasly were the top 6, with Stroll, Vettel, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin in the drop zone, halfway through Q1. 

Verstappen improved to P2, while Gasly had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 16. Schumacher's eventful Qualifying continued as he hit the bollard at the final turn, followed by Norris driving over it. The session got Red-Flagged for safe extrication of the bollard. Replays showed that Vettel clipped the wall at turn 14, and then Ocon impeded him at the end of his lap. The incident got flagged for investigation. 

Everyone switched to the soft tyres for their final runs, and Giovinazzi locked up his brakes at turn one. Vettel complained about traffic in the last sector again. 

Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Perez, Tsunoda and Gasly were the top 6, while Latifi, Russell, Raikkonen, Schumacher and Mazepin got elimiated at the end of Q1.

Q2 got underway, and the Aston Martins ( used ), Ferraris, Alpines and Ricciardo chose the soft tyres for their first runs. Verstappen began his flying lap but locked up at turn one, which resulted in a flat spot on his tyre. Nevertheless, the Dutchman set a representative lap time. At the end of the first run, Sainz, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc, Bottas, and Tsunoda were the top 6, with Ricciardo, Stroll, Giovinazzi, Vettel and Gasly in the drop zone. 

With Verstappen flat-spotting his medium tyres, Red Bull saw it prudent to send him again on a set of softs. Barring the Mercedes and Alpha Tauri drivers, everyone chose the soft tyres for their final attempts of Q2. A queue of cars began to form up in the last sector. As the drivers jostled for track position, Vettel stopped to clear himself off the traffic. Alonso was unhappy with a McLaren in front, while Gasly reported brake-by-wire issues which hampered his lap time.

The following drivers made it to Q3 - Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Bottas, Norris, Tsunoda, Ocon and Ricciardo. 

Alonso, Gasly, Stroll, Giovinazzi and Vettel got eliminated. 

It was time for the final shootout of 2021 ( Q3 ), and everyone bar Ricciardo emerged from the pits with a fresh set of soft tyres. Red Bull deployed a strategy to help Verstappen gain time in the second sector. His teammate Perez used his Red Bull to give Verstappen a tow down the straight, and the Dutchman didn't falter. He was the quickest ( provisionally ), half a second clear of Hamilton. Perez was P3, eight-tenths adrift. Meanwhile, Tsunoda had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits. 

Hamilton and Bottas emerged earlier than the rest for their final attempts of Q3. Hamilton couldn't improve in sector one but set personal best times in two and three. However, his lap time wasn't enough to dethrone Verstappen at the top. The Briton got within three-tenths of Verstappen's time, though. Verstappen was improving on his 2nd attempt but backed off as soon as it got confirmed that he would be on pole position. Meanwhile, Perez got bumped down to P4 by Norris in the dying minutes of Q3!

So the Championship contenders lined up on the front row, with Verstappen starting on pole position. Norris was P3, followed by Perez. Sainz and Bottas were on row 3, with Leclerc and Tsunoda on 4. The top 10 got completed by Ocon and Ricciardo.

Ocon got a reprimand for impeding Vettel, while Ricciardo got let off for holding up Alonso.

It had been an eventful Qualifying for Red Bull. With Verstappen flat-spotting his medium tyres, the team got forced to switch to an alternate strategy. While it wasn't ideal to start the race on the softer tyres, Verstappen would enjoy better traction from P1. Perez, meanwhile, also deserved credit for his role in Qualifying. The Mexican was instrumental in helping Verstappen with the tow that eventually got him the pole position. Having qualified P4, Perez was better placed than Bottas to help his teammate. Red Bull needed to get their strategy right to help Verstappen win the title. Although Red Bull trailed Mercedes by 28 points, they still had a chance of winning the Constructors with teamwork. 

As for Hamilton and Mercedes, it wasn't the ideal situation. Having set the quickest lap times in Free Practice sessions, Hamilton was the favourite to claim Pole Position. The Briton still had a front-row start, and with the medium tyres, could go longer than Verstappen in the race. Bottas had a disappointing Qualifying, managing only P6. Bottas needed to gain positions quickly to negate the Red Bull advantage, but like Hamilton, he too had the medium tyres and was under threat from guys with the faster rubber ( soft ). 

Norris produced a stellar lap to go P3, while Ricciardo struggled to qualify only P10. McLaren had fallen back in the race for P3 against Ferrari but hoped to end 2021 with a strong result for Norris and Ricciardo. 

With Sainz and Leclerc qualifying P5 and P7, Ferrari looked set for a double-points haul and securing P3 in the Constructors' Championship. Who would win the intra-team battle remained a mystery.

It had been a tough day for Gasly, who got plagued by brake-by-wire issues throughout Qualifying. The Frenchman could only manage P12, while his teammate, Tsunoda, did a commendable job to qualify P8. If Alpha Tauri could address Gasly's issues and if Tsunoda could keep himself incident-free, the cars had the pace to achieve a double-points finish in the season finale. 

It hadn't been a strong Saturday showing for Alpine. While Ocon qualified P9, Alonso managed P11. Thankfully, the latter had free tyre choice and could make up places by overcutting those ahead. As for Ocon, he needed to maximise the use of the softer rubber to gain positions at the start.

Aston Martin had had a mediocre second half of a season, and the trend threatened to continue in Abu Dhabi. Both drivers lacked outright pace, and going deeper into the race was the only solution for a finish in the top 10. Vettel felt hard done by traffic in Qualifying, while Stroll hoped to make amends in his 100th race start.

It was an emotional weekend for Alfa Romeo Racing as it bid goodbye to its drivers, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. Giovinazzi, with his Qualifying performance, again showed his mettle over one lap, while Raikkonen's Qualifying got cut short due to an error on his final attempt of Q1. The team needed a potent strategy to give both drivers a memorable finish and a fitting farewell for their time in F1.  The fight for P8 with Williams wasn't over yet. 

An error by Russell took him out of contention for Q2 in his final race for Williams. The Briton also got out-qualified by Latifi. Williams looked quicker only than the Haas cars. As for Haas F1, it was an eventful session, with Schumacher taking out the bollard, which caused the Red Flag in Q1. The German rookie out-qualified Mazepin yet again, the duo destined to remain as backmarkers.

All eyes were on Verstappen and Hamilton. Was Verstappen at a disadvantage by starting on soft tyres, or would Hamilton try and claim track position at turn one with his mediums? If there was a Safety Car, who would benefit from it? Would Norris get into the mix and challenge for a win? The season finale promised a humdinger of a race.

Race :

Mazepin tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn't take part in the race for Haas F1.

Fifty-eight laps separated the F1 world from its 2021 World Champion. C3, C4 and C5 were the tyres available for the race, and there was a mixed choice outside the top 10. While Gasly ( new ) and Alonso ( used ) chose hard tyres, Schumacher opted for the softs while the rest persisted with the mediums. Pirelli predicted a one-stop race. 

The five red lights went out, and Hamilton had a better get away from the line, leading into turn one. Verstappen slotted into P2, while Perez moved up to P3 after Norris ran wide. Meanwhile, Bottas fell back to P8. 

Verstappen, desperate to retake the lead, tried a divebomb at the Turn 9 hairpin. The duo banged wheels, and Hamilton had to cut the chicane to rejoin the race. Hamilton seemed to have gained a visual advantage over VerstappenMercedes acknowledged that Hamilton had "restored" the original gap to Verstappen. The stewards decided against investigating the incident.

Further down the field, Raikkonen got past Latifi for P16. Hamilton was the fastest man on the track as the DRS got enabled on lap 3. The Aston Martin teammate battle saw Vettel get the better of Stroll for P14. Hamilton began to extend his lead at the front. Red Bull continued its discussions with the Race Director about the opening lap incident, but the justifications got ignored. Meanwhile, Verstappen complained about his tyres losing grip.

Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Norris, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Bottas, Ocon and Ricciardo were the top 10 on lap 10. 

Hamilton continued to set blistering lap times as the field got spread out. Meanwhile, McLaren informed Norris that he had to manage his gearing issues throughout the race. 

The first round of pit stops kickstarted with Verstappen pitting for the hard tyres on lap 14. He rejoined P5. Leclerc, racing behind Verstappen on the track, got distracted by the Dutchman and ran wide. The Monegasque lost P6 to Tsunoda as a result. Verstappen began his charge on the hard tyres with an overtake on Norris for P4. Meanwhile, Leclerc retook P6 from Tsunoda on lap 15. 

Mercedes decided to pit Hamilton for the hard tyres on lap 15 to negate Verstappen's pace. The Briton rejoined in P2, behind Perez. Leclerc and Ocon followed suit a lap later. Hamilton was the fastest man on the track as Leclerc got past Latifi, and Verstappen relegated Sainz to P4. Norris and Giovinazzi switched to the hard tyres on lap 18, while Ricciardo and Sainz followed suit on 19 and 20, respectively. 

Hamilton, meanwhile, had closed upon Perez, who was leading the race. Red Bull extended the Mexican's stint on the soft tyres to hold up Hamilton and allow Verstappen to close the gap. The ploy worked as every attempt by Hamilton got thwarted. Perez made Hamilton lose more than 5 seconds to Verstappen over one lap. The Briton wasn't pleased with the standard of driving, and when he eventually got past on lap 21, Verstappen had reduced the deficit to 1.2 seconds only. 

Verstappen got past Perez without any drama, and Hamilton's advantage got negated. Further down the field, Norris and Leclerc relegated Raikkonen to P13. Perez, Stroll and Raikkonen pitted for the hard tyres on lap 22. Vettel and Tsunoda followed suit two laps later.

Hamilton began to build a gap to Verstappen at the front while Giovinazzi overtook Russell for P14. Disaster struck Raikkonen on lap 26. The Finn suffered from brake failure, got spun around, and hit the barriers at turn 6. He limped back to the pits, the issue being terminal. It was a cruel end to his racing career in F1. Russell, meanwhile, also retired from the race with Williams detecting a Power Unit failure on his car. Latifi switched to the hard tyres on lap 29.

Hamilton was the fastest man on the track, extending his lead at the front. Meanwhile, Bottas pitted for hard tyres on lap 31 and rejoined in P9 behind Leclerc. 

Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Alonso, Gasly, Sainz, Norris, Leclerc, Bottas and Tsunoda were the top 10 on lap 34.

Bottas, after a few attempts, finally got past Leclerc for P8. Giovinazzi was the next casualty from the race, with what looked like a hydraulic failure on his car. The Italian, like Raikkonen, got robbed of a befitting farewell. The incident caused the stewards to deploy the Virtual Safety Car, and a few drivers decided to pit again. More importantly, Mercedes chose to keep Hamilton on the older hard tyres to avoid giving track position. Red Bull, however, did the opposite and switched Verstappen to another set of hard tyres. Leclerc and Perez were the others who did likewise, while Alonso and Gasly opted for mediums.

Racing resumed on lap 38, and Verstappen trailed Hamilton by 17 seconds. The Dutchman began his charge to reduce the deficit, and with Hamilton carving his way through traffic, it happened quicker. Verstappen was the fastest man on track as Tsunoda and Alonso jostled for P7. Hamilton asked Mercedes if they had made the right decision by not pitting him as he believed he would run out of grip towards the end. The Briton's lead over Verstappen got reduced to 14 seconds.  

Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Norris, Bottas, Tsunoda, Gasly, Alonso and Ocon were the top 10 on lap 46.

Norris was holding off Bottas for P5 when McLaren detected a slow puncture on his car. The Briton pitted for new tyres and rejoined in P10. Mercedes informed Hamilton to avoid the kerbs at turns 15 and 16 ( lap 50 ) as Verstappen reduced the gap to 11 seconds. Norris got past Ocon for P9 and then Alonso for P8. At the back of the field, Latifi was racing with Schumacher for P15 when he ran wide and rejoined the track only to lose grip at turn 14 and clatter into the barriers!

The Williams was a wreck, and there was no option for the stewards but to deploy the Safety Car! Mercedes chose decided against pitting Hamilton! They believed that the incident would last long enough to end the race behind the Safety Car. However, Red Bull switched Verstappen to the soft tyres. Ricciardo, Perez, Stroll and the Alpha Tauri drivers did likewise. The marshalls had to use fire extinguishers to douse the flames from the brakes and the Safety Car period got prolonged.  

The top 10 changed to - Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Bottas, Tsunoda, Gasly, Norris, Alonso and Ocon on lap 55.

Red Bull detected an oil and water leak on Perez's car and called him back to the pits, leading to his retirement on lap 56. Five lapped cars separated Verstappen from Hamilton, and Michael Masi, the Race Director, chose against letting the lapped cars overtake the Safety Car.

The decision attracted the displeasure of the Red Bull pit wall, and on the penultimate lap, Masi overturned his previous decision. Surprisingly, he also decided to end the Safety Car period on the same lap, which paved the way for Verstappen to make one last attempt at victory on the final lap.

Mercedes were livid with the decision making but couldn't affect further change. The Safety Car peeled into the pits, and Verstappen's eagerness to attack Hamilton momentarily put him ahead of the Safety Car-line. Racing resumed, with Verstappen attacking Hamilton at turn five and succeeding in taking the lead. He tried to break the slipstream that Hamilton desired and fended off a challenge at turn six. Hamilton hadn't given up made another attempt to retake the lead at turn nine, but Verstappen had more grip to retain the position.

Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Abu Dhabi GP! He became the 2021 F1 World Champion! He also took the point for the fastest lap. Hamilton had to settle for P2 while Sainz completed the podium finishers.

The Alpha Tauris of Tsunoda and Gasly were P4 and P5, with Bottas P6 in the other Mercedes. Norris finished P7, followed by the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon, with Leclerc completing the top 10.

Ricciardo split the Aston Martins of Vettel and Stroll in P12, with Schumacher in P14 completing the classified finishers.

Celebrations erupted in the Red Bull garage as they had finally won a Drivers' Championship after eight years. Both Max Verstappen and Christian Horner were in tears, overwhelmed by the joy of winning again. Hamilton cut a forlorn figure in the pits, Mercedes speechless with the events from the last few laps. As other drivers made it to Parc-Ferme to congratulate Verstappen, the new Champion, Hamilton took refuge in the arms of his father. Jos Verstappen joined in his son's celebrations, the dream achieved.

Hamilton was gracious in defeat and congratulated Verstappen for his exploits in 2021. However, Mercedes was unhappy with the result, and Toto Wolff got told off by Michael Masi for his protests. As the podium celebrations kickstarted, Kimi Raikkonen got the "The Driver of the Day" award, the fans recognising the legacy of the Iceman. 

It had been a titanic battle in 2021, but Verstappen finally emerged Champion. The Dutchman had no answer to Hamilton's pace but used the circumstances to his advantage to tip the scales in his favour. Verstappen had repaid the faith that Red Bull had had in him. He also had Perez to thank, who was instrumental in holding up Hamilton, which eventually proved pivotal during the VSC and SC periods. Although Perez ended the race in retirement, he had played the perfect support role to his teammate. Christian Horner had said that the team's focus was to win the Drivers' Championship and enjoy the prestige it carried. Verstappen became the first non-German and non-English Champion since Raikkonen in 2007. It was also a year of redemption for Honda powertrains, who had attracted a lot of criticism ever since their return to F1. They bid goodbye to the sport, having broken Hamilton's domination through Verstappen.

Mercedes had been outwitted and outclassed by the Red Bull pit wall. The strategists at Mercedes refused to give up the track position, which eventually brought Hamilton's undoing. The strategy calls in 2021 had let the team down more often than not, and despite having the speed advantage, Mercedes was unable to help Hamilton to his 8th World Title. Poor Race Direction by Michael Masi led Mercedes to lodge two protests - the first being the incident where Verstappen was momentarily ahead and the other where the FIA had broken their regulations concerning lapped cars and Safety Car. The stewards ruled that the Race Director had the right to control the deployment or withdrawal of the Safety Car as per his judgement of conditions. The protests got dismissed, and Mercedes lodged a right to appeal, which meant that the decision would go to the Court of Arbitration. Mercedes had won their 8th Constructors Title, continuing their team domination in the Turbo Era. It was the first time since 2008 ( Ferrari ) where a team failed to win the Drivers' Championship despite winning the Constructors. Bottas, in his farewell race, had a tough day at the office and could only manage P6.

Sainz's P3 saw him leapfrog Norris and Leclerc in the Drivers' Standings ( P5 ). Leclerc managed P10, and the double points haul was enough to seal P3 in the Constructors for Ferrari. Ferrari had been on a resurgence in the second half, and the future looked promising for the Italian outfit.

Tsunoda secured his best finish in 2021 with P4, followed by teammate Gasly, who had remained consistent throughout the season. Although Alpha Tauri couldn't dethrone Alpine from P5 in the Constructors', they finished the season on a high, with a memorable farewell to their powertrain supplier, Honda. 

Norris finished P7, while Ricciardo could only manage P12 for McLaren. It was a disappointing day for Norris, who had qualified P3 and fell backwards in the race. The Briton was nursing an issue with gearing throughout the race. Ricciardo, like Norris, lacked the speed to challenge those in the front. McLaren finished 2021 in P4 in the Constructor standings.

Alpine secured P5 in the Championship with a double-points finish for Alonso and Ocon. The duo finished P8 and P9 after some great wheel-to-wheel battles with those around them. Only 13 points separated Alpine and Alpha Tauri at the end. As a works team, Alpine hoped for an improved showing in 2022.

Vettel finished P11, while Stroll managed P13 for Aston Martin. It was another point-less weekend for Aston Martin, completing a dismal 2021 season. It was back to the drawing board with improvements needed in all departments for 2022.

Williams had a double DNF. While Russell's final race with the team ended prematurely with an engine failure, Latifi crashed out of the race after hitting the wall at turn 14. The Canadian had run off track a few corners earlier and lost grip due to the tyres getting dirty. His incident tipped the scales of the title battle in Red Bull's favour. For Williams, though, a double DNF for Alfa Romeo saw them secure P8 in the Constructors, a marked improvement from the mediocrity of 2020.

It wasn't the fondest of farewells for either Raikkonen or Giovinazzi. While Raikkonen suffered from brake failure, a hydraulics issue cut short Giovinazzi's race. Alfa Romeo suffered a double DNF, ending their challenge for P8 in the Constructors. Be it 2013, 2018 or 2021, all the farewell races for Raikkonen have been DNFs. The Iceman got a standing ovation from the crown as he bid farewell to a sport he had been a part of for the past two decades. Despite a commendable Qualifying performance, Giovianzzi got denied the opportunity to challenge for a top 10 finish. The Italian had a strong 2021 but would ply his trade in Formula E for 2022.

Haas F1 had only Schumacher participating in the Grand Prix after Mazepin tested positive for COVID-19. The German had some wheel-to-wheel battles at the back of the field, eventually finishing P14 and last. Haas F1 failed to score in 2021, finishing last in the Constructor standings.

2021 had been one of the most exciting seasons in the history of F1. Verstappen and Hamilton were in a league of their own and, after 21 races, were inseparable at Abu Dhabi. Although Hamilton looked Champion elect, circumstances swung the title to Verstappen. While Red Bull and Verstappen had produced a racing masterclass to victory, Mercedes and Hamilton felt hard done by the Race Director's decisions and rulings. Neither driver deserved to lose, but there could only be one winner!

The "Dutch Lion" had emerged as the new king of the F1 jungle. Hamilton was hurting but would be back, with a vengeance in 2022, to reclaim his crown. 

Verstappen, the beloved of the Oranje Army, was the 2021 F1 World Champion! The efforts at Red Bull Racing finally bore fruit! 

As the dawn of the 2022 season nears, we remember the legacy of a young Finn who took the F1 world by storm in the early 2000s, became Champion and continued to enthral in the new era of racing.

The Racer, the Champion, the Legend, Kimi Matias Raikkonen!

Kiitos Kimi! Wishing you a happy retirement!

2020 Abu Dhabi GP Race Recap : Clinical, Calm and Composed in a Bull!

The finale of the F1 season gets held at the Yas Marina International Circuit, and 2020 was no exception. The circuit designed by Hermann Tilke, situated on Yas Island, is the venue for farewells and goodbyes as drivers and mechanics move on to other ventures or teams for the next season.

This year was no different with a host of changes happening in 2021. Renault F1 and Racing Point F1 would race under the names of Alpine Racing F1 and Aston Martin Racing F1 next year. The drivers who would call it a day with their current teams were - Vettel at Ferrari, Perez at Racing Point, Sainz at McLaren, Ricciardo at Renault, Magnussen at Haas, Kyvat ( probably ) at Alpha Tauri. While Vettel, Sainz and Ricciardo had their future contracts locked in, uncertainties remained over Perez, Kvyat and Albon with Magnussen taking a sabbatical from the series.

Mercedes unveiled a special livery for the weekend, featuring the name of each person who has been a part of their success. Offtrack, McLaren announced that it had sold a minority stake ( in its F1 team ) to a consortium of US-based investors including MSP Sports Capital ( valued at 185 million pounds ).

Romain Grosjean, who had suffered a life-threatening accident at the Bahrain GP was unable to recover for the season finale and Fittipaldi, the reserve driver, got another opportunity in the Haas. Hamilton's availability ( due to COVID 19 ) was still a question mark. The reigning World Champion, however, tested negative in Bahrain on Wednesday, travelled to Abu Dhabi on Thursday where he produced another negative test, thus fulfilling the protocols of the UAE government and confirming his participation of the Final GP of the year. Russell returned to Williams while Aitken got re-assigned to the Reserve Driver Role.

The battle for P2 in the Drivers' Championship wasn't over, and neither was 3rd place in the Constructors'. Bottas, who had a mediocre showing against his stand-in team-mate ( Russell ) in Sakhir, hoped for a better showing in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen's charge got brought to a halt when he crashed on the opening lap ( at the Sakhir GP ), but Bottas' poor result kept him in the hunt for 2nd in the Championship.

Racing Point, who celebrated their maiden win and double podium were on the backfoot with Perez starting at the back of the grid due to a power unit change ( over and above the allocation ). Magnussen in the Haas was another driver to suffer a similar fate. Meanwhile, Leclerc carried a three-place grid penalty for his misdemeanour at the Sakhir GP. 

So, who reigned supreme in the lights of the Yas Marina International Circuit? Time for a quick recap!

Practice :

Free Practice 1 got underway with drivers trying different setups and exploring the limits of their cars. The teams also brought in 2021 parts to gather data and understand real-world results. Mick Schumacher, the 2020 F2 Champion and Haas F1 Driver for 2021 replaced Magnussen during FP1 while Kubica got another Friday drive at Alfa Romeo, taking Giovinazzi's place. Albon suffered a spin entering the marina section while Ricciardo ground to a halt with a fuel pressure problem that ruled him out of further participation in FP1. Meanwhile, Hamilton had a brake issue and had to sit out half of the session. It was Verstappen who topped the timesheets at the end of FP1, three-hundredths clear of Bottas. Ocon was 3rd for Renault ahead of Albon, Hamilton and Stroll who completed the top 6. Perez was 7th in the other Racing Point followed by the Alpha Tauris of Kvyat and Gasly who were having a strong second half with Raikkonen, the fastest Ferrari powered car in 10th.

Leclerc split the McLarens of Sainz and Norris followed by his team-mate Vettel in the other works Ferrari. Kubica was 15th from Russell and Latifi with the Haas cars of Schumacher and Fittipaldi completing the rear of the field. Ricciardo didn't set a lap time in FP1.

Pirelli had brought in the 2021 tyres for testing to Abu Dhabi, and the drivers were obliged to run eight timed laps on those sets. Raikkonen escaped a fire at the back of the Alfa Romeo in FP2, the Finn trying his best to assist the marshalls in finding the source of the flames. Smoke was still billowing when the car got extricated near the end of the session. Russell was another driver to suffer a power unit related issue, and the Williams crew exercised extreme caution as they tried to find the source of the problem since the car was leaking current. Albon had an eventful FP2, running wide several times and having his lap times deleted, and almost had a coming together with Ocon on a DRS straight. 

Meanwhile, Gasly suffered a spin at turn one while Vettel locked up his hard tyres at the same spot. The brake issues on Haas cars didn't seem to go away with Fittipaldi locking up both his tyres. The fastest time of FP2 belonged to Bottas, the Finn three-tenths clear of his team-mate, Hamilton. Verstappen led the two Red Bulls followed by Norris in 5th. Three-thousandths of a second separated Ocon, Perez, Leclerc and Ricciardo with Stroll completing the top 10. 

Sainz was in an Alpha Tauri sandwich of Kvyat and Gasly ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel. Magnussen was the fastest Haas car in 16th followed by Giovinazzi and Russell. Fittipaldi and Latifi completed the rear of the field. 

The Red Bulls reigned supreme in FP3 with Verstappen half a second clear of his team-mate Albon. The Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon popped in a surprise with the 3rd and 4th fastest times followed by Norris and Hamilton. Stroll was 7th for Racing Point, ahead of Sainz in the other McLaren with Bottas and Perez completing the top 10. The Alpha Tauris of Kvyat and Gasly had Leclerc splitting them with Vettel another three-tenths adrift. Russell got ahead of the Alfa Romeos while Latifi was in a Haas sandwich at the back of the field. 

It seemed to be a close affair between Mercedes and Red Bull, and the battle of "fine margins" continued in the midfield.

Qualifying :

Q1 got underway with the entire field choosing the soft tyres for their first runs. Ocon decided to stay in the pits and go "out-of-sync". There was drama in the pit lane with Verstappen having to slam the brakes to avoid hitting Latifi who got released out of the box by Williams, just ahead of the Dutchman. The incident got flagged for investigation by the stewards. Verstappen suffered a flat-spot on his tyres and expressed his displeasure. Giovinazzi and Hamilton had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 20. Hamilton straddled over the kerbs and requested the team to check for floor damage. The top 6 at the end of first runs were - Bottas, Perez, Albon, Stroll, Sainz and Leclerc. 

Hamilton and Verstappen managed only the 7th and the 10th quickest times, respectively. However, Verstappen improved to 2nd with 5 minutes remaining on the clock.

Raikkonen was on the cusp of elimination with Magnussen, Fittipaldi, Russell, Latifi and Giovinazzi in the drop zone. The Red Bulls, Racing Points, Sainz and Ricciardo chose to stay in the pits while the rest of the field came out on a fresh set of soft tyres. The lap times improved with track evolution, and Hamilton ended Q1 with the quickest time, followed by Bottas and Leclerc. Verstappen, Norris and Perez completed the top 6. Giovinazzi made it into Q2, eliminating his team-mate Raikkonen with Magnussen, Russell, Fittipaldi and Latifi being the other eliminations at the end of Q1.

Tyre choice was pivotal at the start of Q2, and there was a mixture of strategies adopted by the drivers. Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault sent their drivers on mediums while Alpha Tauri and Giovinazzi ( Alfa Romeo ) chose the softs. McLaren split the strategy with its drivers, Sainz choosing the mediums and Norris the softs. 

Albon and Ricciardo had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 21. Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Sainz, Verstappen and Gasly were the top 6 at the end of the first runs with Ocon, Giovinazzi, Albon, Ricciardo and Perez in the drop zone. Although Perez was to start at the back of the grid, the Mexican exited the pits to complete an installation lap on the soft tyres. 

Verstappen and Leclerc exited the pits with another set of medium tyres while the rest of the field chose softs for their final runs of Q2. Despite having fresh tyres, the majority of the drivers were unable to improve on their lap times. The top 6 at the end of Q2 changed to Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Albon, Norris and Leclerc with Ocon, Ricciardo, Vettel, Giovinazzi and Perez getting eliminated.

It was time for the top-ten-shootout, and the Alpha Tauris and Norris were on a used set of soft tyres for their first runs of Q3. A tenth and a half separated the top four drivers with Bottas on provisional pole from Verstappen, Hamilton and Albon. Sainz and Norris were 5th and 6th, followed by Stroll, Leclerc and the Alpha Tauris of Kvyat and Gasly.

Everyone was on a fresh set of soft tyres in the final minutes of Q3. Hamilton set blistering sector times and seemed to have bagged pole before Bottas relegated him to 2nd. However, a few seconds later, Verstappen crossed the finish line and pipped Bottas to pole! Norris catapulted his McLaren into 4th with Albon slotting in at P5. Sainz was 6th in the other McLaren followed by Kvyat and Stroll on row 4 and Leclerc and Gasly in row 5.

It was the first time in 2020 that a non-Mercedes car had bagged pole! Verstappen had pipped Bottas by two-hundredths and Hamilton by eight-hundredths of a second for the best starting position on Sunday. Celebrations erupted in the Red Bull garage, their months of hard work finally coming to fruition on Saturday. Verstappen had the perfect launch pad to fight for 2nd place in the Championship. Bottas was looking sharp all weekend while Hamilton was still getting back up to speed after his ten-day layoff due to COVID. Mercedes knew it wasn't going to be a leisurely Sunday evening drive. 

In a tight midfield, McLaren had a great chance of outscoring the Racing Points with their 4th and 6th place in Qualifying. Once again Red Bull didn't have both its cars in the top four but hoped to see Albon challenge the Mercedes since he would start on the faster and grippier soft tyres. 

Kvyat admitted that this was the best qualifying effort of his career as he looked to capitalize on Sunday. Stroll was Racing Point's best hope since Perez needed to carve his way through the field and needed an optimal strategy. The team was already on the backfoot in its defence for P3 in the Constructors' Championship. A stellar qualifying effort by Leclerc ensured Ferrari representation in the top 10. Gasly was 10th, and it was rare to see him getting out-qualified by his team-mate.

The biggest surprise of Qualifying was the Renaults. The duo had exceptional pace in FP3 but came up short in Qualifying. A free tyre choice, combined with a good strategy, could tip the balance in their favour. Vettel's travails continued on his farewell weekend, and the German was glad that only the race remained for his ordeal to end. Giovinazzi proved the doubters wrong by out-qualifying his more experienced team-mate Raikkonen and winning the team-mate battle for the season. Sunday was the day that mattered though. Haas and Williams remained stuck in the backmarker battle with Magnussen and Russell being the drivers on whom their hopes were riding. 

The race would be long and demanding, but it was time for one final push in 2020!

Race :

Sunday arrived, and it was time for the final race of 2020. C3, C4 and C5 were the compounds provided by Pirelli in what seemed to be a one-stop race.

Norris, Albon, Kvyat, Stroll and Gasly were the drivers inside the top 10 who started the race with their ( soft ) tyres from Q2. Those in the latter half of the field chose the mediums with Ricciardo, Perez and Magnussen opting for the hards.

The drivers took a knee in the fight against racism, stood in honour of the national anthem before handing Chase Carey, the outgoing CEO of F1 a helmet signed by all the drivers on the grid. It was then time for the formation lap, and the drivers got themselves ready for the final bout under the lights. 

The race got underway, and it was a clean getaway for Verstappen, the Dutchman comfortably fending off any challenge from the Mercedes into turn one. Bottas had a slower exit out of turn one but was able to hold onto 2nd despite the pressure from Hamilton. Further down the field, Ocon was able to jump Gasly for 10th while Vettel and Raikkonen overtook their team-mates for 12th and 14th, respectively. Magnussen moved up three positions from the back of the grid, and it was an incident-free opening lap.

Verstappen wasted no time in building a gap to the Mercedes and was 1.7 seconds clear at the end of lap 1. Gasly recovered 9th from Ocon on lap two at turn 9. Verstappen set the fastest lap on lap three while Perez, who had started 19th after the engine change, got past Fittipaldi for P18. Norris was holding off Albon in the battle for 4th, and the latter quipped that Norris was overdriving and might not be able to complete the race with a single stop. 

Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Norris, Albon, Sainz, Kvyat, Stroll, Gasly and Ocon were the top 10 at the end of lap 4. 

Perez relegated Russell to 17th ( lap 5 ) and Giovinazzi to 16th ( lap 6 ) while Renault instructed Ocon to let Ricciardo by ( for P10 ) a lap later. The battle for 4th culminated with Albon getting the better of Norris with DRS assistance. The Racing Point drivers were making overtakes on track with Stroll getting past Kvyat for 7th, and Perez completing a move on Raikkonen for 14th. Kvyat then lost 8th to team-mate Gasly while the VSC got deployed due to an incident in sector 3. Perez had ground to a halt at turn 19 ( lap 10 ), retiring from his final race with Racing Point. 

It was still early for a pit stop, but the teams decided to utilize the VSC period to pit their drivers. The Ferraris, Ricciardo, Giovinazzi and Magnussen chose to stay out while the rest of the field pitted for a fresh set of hard tyres. Sainz got flagged for investigation ( post-race ) for driving unnecessarily slowly in the pitlane. The marshalls needed more time for extrication, and the VSC got changed to a full Safety Car. As the field got bunched up again, Hamilton complained about balance issues on his car. Perez and his mechanics at Racing Point were distraught, and they knew the ramifications of this retirement in the battle for 3rd in the Constructors'.

The Safety Car returned to the pits at the end of lap 13, and it was a clean getaway by Verstappen again. Raikkonen got past Magnussen for 15th while Sainz relegated Leclerc to 9th on lap 14. Giovinazzi, one of the drivers who chose to stay out, lost 12th to Ocon while Stroll got past Leclerc for 9th, only for the Monegasque to fight back and retake the position at the end of the straight. Giovinazzi continued to fall backwards with Kvyat and Raikkonen getting past the Italian in the space of 2 laps while Sainz overtook Vettel for 7th ( lap 17 ). 

Leclerc suffered a similar fate and got overtaken by Stroll, Gasly and Ocon, warning the team that he needed to pit if he wanted to salvage something from the race. He finally pitted from 12th on lap 23, for a set of hard tyres, rejoining in 19th and last. On the track, Russell got past Giovinazzi for 15th while Stroll was honing in on Vettel for 8th, but ran wide at turn 11, allowing Gasly to reduce the deficit to him instead. 

Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Albon, Ricciardo, Norris, Sainz, Vettel, Stroll and Gasly were the top 10 at the end of lap 26. 

Leclerc began to recover the places he had lost with overtakes on Fittipaldi, Latifi and Magnussen for 18th, 17th and 16th respectively. Giovinazzi pitted on lap 29 for hard tyres, rejoining in 19th while Latifi got past Magnussen for 16th. Verstappen was lapping six-tenths quicker than the Mercedes duo and extended his lead to 7 seconds at the front. 

Stroll, who had failed to get past Vettel, now found himself defending 9th from Gasly. The defence didn't last long, and Gasly was up into 9th on lap 30. The Frenchman then closed in on Vettel and got past him for 8th, but the latter put up a dogged fight, his tyres unable to provide the levels of traction like Gasly's though. Further down the field, Magnussen lost 17th to Fittipaldi. The Haas driver finally pitted for mediums on lap 33, rejoining in last. The battle for 14th was an intense one between Russell and Leclerc, and the latter was able to get the job done on lap 35.

Hamilton reported that he had suffered a flat-spot on his tyres while Vettel finally pitted for a set of medium tyres on lap 36, rejoining in 15th behind Russell. Latifi did the same on lap 37, rejoining in 17th. The last of the drivers to pit, amongst those who had started on the hard tyres, was Ricciardo. The Australian pitted from P5, having held off Norris long enough, for a fresh set of mediums on lap 40, and rejoined in 7th. Leclerc was now on the tail of Raikkonen for 12th and had an opportunity to pass on lap 41, but Raikkonen fended off the challenge, his experience coming to the fore.

Vettel got past Russell for 14th on lap 42 while Mercedes asked Bottas to start pushing and close the gap to Verstappen in front. However, Verstappen responded with quicker laps of his own, extending his lead by another two seconds. 

Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Albon, Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo, Gasly, Stroll and Ocon were the top 10 at the end of lap 45. 

Leclerc got a Black and White Flag for exceeding track limits at turn 21 multiple times. Haas pitted both its drivers with Magnussen switching to new mediums and Fittipaldi to softs on laps 49 and 50 respectively. Giovinazzi was honing in on Russell in the battle for 15th as Albon started to catch Hamilton for the final podium position, reducing the deficit to less than 2 seconds. Ocon closed up on Stroll and got past him for P9 on the last lap.

Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and Victory at the 2020 Abu Dhabi GP. The Dutchman could have completed the "Grand Slam" but for Ricciardo to take the point for the fastest lap off him on the last lap. Bottas and Hamilton came home in 2nd and 3rd for Mercedes, followed by Albon in the other Red Bull and the McLarens of Norris and Sainz. Ricciardo, Gasly, Ocon and Stroll completed the top 10. 

Kvyat was 11th in the other Alpha Tauri, followed by Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo. The works Ferrari team could only manage 13th and 14th followed by Russell and Giovinazzi. Latifi, Magnussen and Fittipaldi were the final classified finishers. 

While Verstappen celebrated with Red Bull on parc-ferme, Hamilton and Bottas performed their customary season-ending donuts on the start-finish straight. Magnussen did the same in the final sector as the Dane returned to the pits, his last race in F1. The radio channels got flooded with emotional exchanges between teams and drivers, some bidding farewell and some thanking their mechanics for the season, vowing to return re-energized for the challenge in 2021. 

Verstappen had given it his all, but Bottas' 2nd place was enough for P2 in the Drivers' Championship. Albon did all he could in the other Red Bull, but the final decision about renewal for 2021 rests with the team. Hamilton had recovered from COVID-19 but not to full fitness, and it showed. The Mercedes duo was managing an MGU-K issue which explained their lack of pace against the Red Bull of Verstappen. Norris and Sainz' 5th and 6th place finish combined with Perez's retirement in the race allowed McLaren to jump Racing Point in the Constructors' Championship. The investigation on Sainz ended with "no action taken", and McLaren had bagged 3rd place in the Championship

Perez didn't get an ideal farewell with Racing Point, but finishing 4th in the Drivers' Championship makes his CV for 2021 stronger. It had been an eventful year for Racing Point, from its RP20 being called the "Pink Mercedes" to having 15 points docked in Constructors' Championship. Despite the penalties dished out to them, they had accomplished a lot in 2020.

Renault had another double-points weekend, and they would miss the services of Ricciardo who is McLaren bound for 2021. They were locked in an intense battle all season long, and 5th was the best they could achieve. Alpha Tauri had a strong second half and got close to outscoring Ferrari. Gasly was the star of the show and with Honda backed F2 driver Tsunoda coming in, things can only get better in 2021. 

Raikkonen had a strong end to the season, finishing the highest of the Ferrari-powered cars in the season finale. Giovinazzi out-qualified his team-mate, Raikkonen, and would be looking to produce more points-scoring finishes in 2021. It was back to the drawing board for Ferrari, the Maranello-based outfit ending the season a dismal 6th in the Constructors'. Russell carried a thank-you tribute on his helmet for Sir Frank Williams and Claire Williams and would be hoping to bring Williams further up the grid next year. His team-mate Latifi would also need to step up his performances. Magnussen said goodbye to the sport, having spent the majority of his career in the midfield, his talent never getting the recognition it deserved. It was a good learning experience ( in the final two rounds ) for Fittipaldi who would take up the role of reserve driver again in 2021.

Verstappen controlled the race from start to finish, kept it clean and reaped the rewards at the end. Hamilton and Bottas had no answer to his pace and looked second-best throughout the weekend, but they had already accomplished what they set out to achieve. Nevertheless, this win helped Verstappen and Red Bull sign off 2020 on the right note and carry the momentum into 2021.

2020 had been a tough year for the world, and the likelihood of having a sizeable F1 season seemed improbable at the onset of the pandemic in March. However, the FIA, FOM and Liberty Media planned an elaborate yet hectic calendar of 17 races and accomplished the task. Kudos to them! The sport returned to some classic tracks besides visiting venues where F1 had never raced before. Some even welcomed fans. The 2020 Season had been unique in that way. There were 78000 COVID Tests throughout the season, and the protocols set in place got followed to the T. 


The start of the 2021 F1 Season is less than 100 days away, and the battle will resume in March, Down Under!

Till then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The F1 Travel Guide : Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one of the most popular races on the F1 Calendar ( also being the first dusk race ).

Designed by the legendary circuit designer Hermann Tilke, it has been the season-ending race ( but for 3 years ) with Lewis Hamilton being the most successful driver here.

Who can forget the nail-biting finish in 2010, when Fernando Alonso failed to overtake Vitaly Petrov which let Sebastian Vettel win his maiden Championship or the Drama that unfolded between Lewis Hamilton & Nico Rosberg in 2014 and 2016 when the title fight went right down to the wire! 

Who can forget Kimi Raikkonen's win at the circuit in 2012 ( after his return to F1 ) which featured those famous radio communications: "Just leave me alone, I know what I am doing" & "Yes Yes Yes I am doing it all the time, you don't have to remind me every 10 seconds!" or those horrendous crashes between Rosberg & Karthikeyan in 2012 and Hulkenberg & Grosjean in 2018. 

The circuit is also a venue for it for Drivers leaving a team or F1 personnel switching to another employer or taking retirement from the sport altogether. It is also the place when everyone wishes each other a restful winter break and drivers make a resolve to return stronger for the next season. 

I still remember those weekends of 2013 and 2018, the two occasions on which I was present at the track. 

My experience from 2018 is shared here :

The Circuit Layout :

Official Website :

Location :

The Circuit is located on Yas Island, a 30-minute drive from Abu Dhabi city centre. It is easily accessible from Dubai as well. There are multiple exits offering access to the island from the highway connecting Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The island is home to several hotels, a water park and the iconic Ferrari World! Its a place bustling with activity all over the weekend and sees a lot of visitors on normal days as well! The island, built-in 2006 has infused a major boost to an already thriving economy of the country. Etihad Airways, the national carrier of UAE is the title sponsor for the race.

Closest Airports :

Abu Dhabi International Airport ( AUH ) is the nearest airport to the circuit and one of the biggest international hubs in the Middle East offering connections to all parts of the world! Its also home to the National carrier of the UAE Etihad Airways.

Dubai International Airport ( DXB ) which is less than 100 km from Yas Island cannot be discounted either. Home to one of the largest airlines in the world, Emirates, its the busiest airport in the Middle East ( and 5th in the world ). All the airlines of the world fly to Dubai. It is also a major hub for Emirates' Codeshare partner Qantas Airways.

Emirates is the airline of choice for me - excellent connections worldwide, a modern fleet of aircraft & fantastic services onboard. Emirates owned Low-Cost Carrier FlyDubai which offers connections to Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and some parts of Europe also has Dubai as its hub of operations. 

My Emirates Flight Experience ( latest ) from Mumbai to Dubai is shared here :

Where to Stay :

There are a lot of options over a race weekend. If budget is not an issue, then its best to opt for a Hotel on Yas Island. There is always a premium to be paid over the weekend, most of them non-refundable rates. Those with even deeper pockets can stay at the unique Yas Viceroy Hotel which is within the circuit, overlooking a lot of sections of the track! There are also a few Airbnb apartments in the vicinity of the Island but they tend to sell out quickly. 

Abu Dhabi has a lot of hotels from budget to serviced apartments to ultra-luxury accommodation and its best to stay near the city centre which offers multiple options for a commute to the Island. The hotels in the city charge a premium over the weekend as well. 
Airbnb accommodation is available as well. Most of the rates are non-refundable.

Dubai is another great place to stay ( my city of choice ) with options for all pockets and prices comparatively cheaper ( no premium charged ) to those in Abu Dhabi. However, one must be prepared for a 90-minute commute to the circuit each way ( which can be expensive in a taxi ).

There is no camping facility at the track.

Circuit Access :

The Circuit is well connected by road, sea and even air! There are multiple entry points into the circuit and kudos to the Race Organizers for doing a top job every year. 
Taxis are plentiful at the circuit and the preferred mode of transport for most! There is also Uber on offer but with surge pricing, flagging down a taxi tends to be cheaper. VIP Guests can make their way to the Yas Viceroy Hotel Entrance and then walk down to a water taxi which takes the guests across to a Paddock Club / Paddock Access gate, the journey from the Hotel to the Access Gate takes about 20 minutes. 
Most hotels on the Yas Island offer free circuit shuttles to the main circuit entrance, so one can utilize those shuttles if they have friends staying on the island. There is another access via Ferrari World, one can walk or hop onto a circuit shuttle to enter the circuit.
Do note that there can be long queues every evening post the sessions/concerts so it makes sense to use the circuit shuttle to go further away from the circuit to take cabs back to the city. 

I stay in Dubai and use a taxi service to one of the Yas Island Hotels where my friends stay over the weekend ( the commute from Dubai takes about 90 minutes ). We then use a Complimentary Shuttle provided by the Hotel which drops us at the Main Entrance, it is a short walk to the Paddock Club from thereon ( using tunnel access under the circuit ).

Those who choose a car hire can purchase trackside parking ( which is limited in number ) or park at the Yas Mall and get on a circuit shuttle from there. There are multiple car hire options at both airports and cities.

Buses are the cheapest mode of transport for the weekend. Bus Number 190 runs from Abu Dhabi Bus Station ( next to Al Wahda Mall ) to Yas Island. If travelling from Dubai one must use a service from Al Ghubaiba Bus Station to Abu Dhabi and then hop on to the 190 to Yas Island. The commute to Yas Island from Abu Dhabi Bus Station takes about 40 minutes with buses every 20 minutes. 

There are multiple complementary shuttle buses on Yas Island which connects hotels to various attractions, hotels, malls and the various grandstands.

The main shuttles are the Circuit Circular Shuttle and the Yas Courtesy Shuttle. The former runs around Yas Island and through the Yas Marina Circuit. The latter runs within the circuit premises and is available for any ticket holder throughout the weekend. Other shuttle services are the Pit Lane Walk Shuttle, Paddock Club Shuttle and Yas Suite Shuttle. 

Details about the Various Shuttle Buses are shared here :

There is also another service called the Yas Express, a shuttle that gets you around Yas Island. 

More Details shared here :

These buses tend to get jam-packed in the evenings as the fans make their way to the concert arena ( or their way home ). It is advisable to walk ( if the distance isn't too long ) under such circumstances.

High fliers also have the option to book Helicopter Transfers, to and fro from the circuit!

F1 Village, Fan Zones :

The F1 Village, situated behind the Main Grandstand is one of the best on the F1 calendar. There are many merchandising and food outlets along with a few stores selling Official Circuit Merchandise as well. The Official F1 Store is well stocked and one of the largest. 
There are makeshift stages for performances by local artists throughout the day, Circuit Mascots strutting their stuff with volunteers distributing circuit guides, Race Programmes & Protective Headsets. Show cars on display by companies like McLaren, Renault and Mercedes make this village a must-visit!
Competitions such as the Pit Stop Challenge, Batak Challenge and the Simulator faceoff run throughout the weekend. The winner of the Simulator competition over Friday and Saturday wins couple passes for the Paddock Club for Sunday. 
There are smaller merchandising and food outlets spread over other parts of the circuit as well. Food options are limited but reasonably priced.

Fan Experiences :

3 Day ticket holders are eligible for Pit Lane Walks on Thursdays. VIP Guests, Paddock Club Guests and Celebrities can purchase a Pirelli Hot Laps Experience ( pricing dependent on the type of car and the day ). 
There are concerts on all days i.e. Thursday to Sunday. These are free with a valid race ticket for the day but fans need to collect a wristband from the Oasis area for access to the concert. It is a daily exercise for those planning to be at all the concerts!
F1 Experiences, the official hospitality partner of the sport offers fans great upgrades to their existing tickets, from single day Paddock Club passes to guided Paddock Tours, guided Track Truck Tours, guided Podium Visits and Photo-op with the Race Winning Trophy!

The "YasHub" app ( available on iOS & Android ) keeps fans up to date with all that is happening over the weekend. 

It is recommended wearing hats or caps and light clothing ( in adherence to the laws of the land ) since it can get pretty hot during the day. 
Fans cannot bring any food or drink to the circuit and one must be prepared to be screened thoroughly at the circuit entrance gates.  

The Circuit also offers guided tours ( on normal days ), go-karting experiences, track days in Formula cars or other supercars! Details are available on their official website.

Yas Island itself is a must-visit for any traveller to the UAE. The Island is home to 3 world-class parks - the Ferrari World, an indoor theme park run by the Italian brand with its famous Prancing Horse logo on the roof and is situated next to the track. The team also runs a special activity on Thursday, so fans at the park can get a glimpse of the Ferrari F1 Drivers;  the Yas Waterworld, a huge waterpark and the island's newest addition Warner Bros World which is a theme park devoted to the characters of Looney Toons, DC Comics and Hannah-Barbera
Visitors can purchase 2 days-2 parks or 3 days- 3 parks tickets. 
The Marina itself is worth a visit; one can enjoy beautiful sunsets while wining and dining at some of the finest restaurants and cafes dotting the marina. Its also home to many Luxurious yachts, some of which are venues for parties on a race weekend.

The Yas Marina Circuit leaves a lasting impression. It offers so much more than just a normal F1 Race Weekend. I rate this circuit higher than the one in Singapore. 
The island is like a city in itself and one can easily spend more than a week exploring all that it has to offer. I am convinced that this circuit will be a part of the F1 circus for many more years to come! Time to draw up plans for another visit this year!

The Flying Diaries : BOM - DXB - BOM ( Emirates Business ) ( Nov 2018 )

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

2018 Abu Dhabi GP was the last race of the season and I had the opportunity of attending the same. 2013 was the last time I flew to the UAE for F1. It also was my last journey of the Old Terminal of Mumbai International Airport.

The Outbound Journey was on 22nd November 2018 and the Return Journey on 27th November 2018.


Mumbai - Dubai ( Emirates Business ) ( 22nd November 2018 ) :

Packed and ready!

Emirates have revamped their Chauffeur services with the introduction of the BMW 520d Luxury Edition for ferrying its guests to the airport :

Shots of the Lounge :

The View of the Airport..mesmerizing :

The Business Class onboard Boeing 777-300ER, not the upgraded version this time :

The Menu onboard :

Preparing for Takeoff :

Takeoff Video Link :

Lunch, Paneer Makhani and Chocolate Mousse Cake :

The Descent into Dubai :

Touchdown Dubai International Airport :

Landing at Dubai ( Video Link ) :

Another BMW 520d Luxury Edition for pickup at Dubai Airport :

Dubai - Mumbai ( Emirates Business ) ( 27th November 2018 ) :

The Chauffeur Service to the airport :

The Business Class Lounge, Classy as ever :

A lipsmacking spread in the Lounge :

The New Business Class onboard the Boeing 777-200LR. This is a 2 class Boeing which has Business and Economy Class only.

Time for Pushback :

Taxiing to the Runway :

The Onboard Cameras :

Prepare for Takeoff :

Takeoff from Dubai ( Video Link ) :

Bye Bye Dubai, see you next time :

The Dinner Menu :

A spread of small bites in the Boeing 777-200LR

Dinner Service, Paneer Butter Masala, Chocolate and fig Mousse Cake :  

Landing at Mumbai in the evening :

Touchdown in Mumbai ( Video Link ) :

Another BMW to ferry me home :

It was a great experience flying with Emirates in 2018. A Big Thank you for their Hospitality! Looking forward to many more memories and Journeys in 2019!

The Flying Diaries : BOM - DXB - BOM ( Emirates Business ) Encore

The Month of February in 2015 was my First Foreign Trip of the year. I was to visit Dubai for the "Gulf Foods" Exhibition, a work related trip.

The Flight to Dubai is just a 3 hour ride and as always I flew with Emirates, my favourite carrier.

Documented below is the Business Class Experience. The Outbound Flight was on 10th February & the Return on 14th February.

Mumbai - Dubai ( 10th February 2015 ) :

Emirates Chauffeur Service to Mumbai International Airport :

A brisk check in and Security and it was time to relax in the newly launched Lounge.

The Newly opened First & Business Class Lounge :

Shots from the Lounge :

Soon enough it was time to board the Flight to Dubai. It wasn't a new flight and still ran the old 777-300ER Configuration.

Business Class onboard the Boeing 777-300ER :

Taxiing to the runway :

Airborne & enroute to Dubai :

The Menu for the day :

The Food never fails to impress onboard Emirates and the Brunch Service was exceptional.

Brunch Service :

Nearing touchdown at Dubai :

Dubai International Airport :

A Short Drive to the Hotel and it was time for the Business Trip / Holiday to start.

Dubai - Mumbai ( 14th February 2015 ) :

The Return Pickup was from Hotel Atlantis at the Palm Jumeirah.

Emirates Chauffeur Service to Dubai International Airport :

Enroute to Dubai International Airport, always a beautiful drive :

Necessary Formalities complete, it was time to board the Aircraft and head home!

Business Class on the Return Flight :

So, whats cooking ?

Nearing Takeoff :

Up in the air and on my way home :

Lunch Service :

On Time Performance, Brilliant Service, Exceptional Hospitality characterize Emirates!

This was a short "Flying Diaries" post. Trips to Vienna & Brussels coming online soon! So watch this space

The Flying Diaries : BOM - DXB - BOM ( Emirates Business )

Dubai was the last destination I travelled to on Emirates Airlines in 2013.

I got the opportunity to attend the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and this time I had a co-traveller. My Mother got the first taste of Emirates' Hospitality and believe me, she was thoroughly impressed!

Mumbai - Dubai ( 30th October 2013 ) :

Shots from the Lounge :

Mum is all smiles :

The Flight to Dubai was a Brand New Boeing 777 - 300 ER and the seats were comfortable as always :

The Touchscreen Controller shaped as a Tablet adding to the Premium Feel :

Mum settled in her seat :

Breakfast time!

Time to rest :

In less than 3 hours, we had reached Dubai :

Fast Track Services meant minimal time at the Immigration and soon enough we were on our way to our hotel :

Dubai - Mumbai ( 8th November 2013 ) :

Enroute to the Dubai International Airport in a Volvo :

The Burj Khalifa towering above the Dubai Skyline :

Shots from the Lounge :

Mum relaxing after a good meal :

Boarding commenced from the Lounge and this time we were flying in the Airbus A330 - 200.

Taxiing to the runway :

The Beverage service on Emirates is always amazing :

Enroute to Mumbai in the Setting Sun :

Dinner :

This was the shortest journey during my association with Emirates. My mother was all praise for Emirates. The Hospitality shown to her was special and as a Gold Member, I always felt welcomed.

This was the last trip in 2013 but 2014 saw me completed 2 trips to the Americas with a trip to Germany in between.

There is more to come in the "Flying Diaries" Series, so keep visiting. God Bless and Take Care!