Designed by Hermann Tilke, the Yas Marina Circuit is, to date, the most advanced circuit ever built and one that comes with unique architectural attributes such as the world-famous hotel that sits over the track and under which the circuit tunnels, making for a spectacular backdrop when the race falls into night and the lightshow comes on.
It’s a gorgeous place to race and, after opening its doors back in 2009, quickly became a blue-ribbon event for many international racing series including top echelon open wheelers and GT racing.
The track itself is a mix of two long straights (one over a kilometer in length) and 21 turns, a combo of fast-fast sweepers and niggling 90-degree ones. If you get a pass done here, give yourself a pat because you’ve earned it—the sweeps and tight turns are challenging. But don’t let that sour you because finding your limits is an absolute joy, with the graywacke surface affording loads of grip—something you’ll appreciate when you nail the throttle through the testy end-section of the lap that puts a premium on mechanical grip.
There are three distinct sectors around Yas Marina: the super-quick and fun sweeps from the start down through from T1 to T7; the two long straights that follow; and the intense, difficult, right-up-to-the-wall section from T11 to T21.
This place will test your braking ability like few others—almost one quarter of an average lap will see you stomping the middle pedal—with a dozen or so spots that really benefit the last of the late brakers. If you’re timid on the brakes here, you’ll never be quick enough.
Setups are also difficult to sort out: If you’re setup for speed, you’ll suffer at the end of the lap as you run through the final sector, and if you’re setup for grip, you’ll be left for dead on the two long straight.
Compromise is your best friend, setup wise, but what you really is a planted rear-end for both corner exits and turn-ins. A loose car is going to bite you at Yas Marina, and the walls are perilously close through the final sector.
The other challenge here is the curbs: make sure your setup is compliant enough so you’re not nervous running the curbs because you’re going to get friendly with a lot of them. Which ones are cordial and which will cause you all sorts of pain is something you’re going to have to learn the hard way—but to be quick around Yas Marina, this is a lesson you have to attend in person.
Ultimately, this is a circuit that favours drivers who know how to get the best out of their brakes, and those who are both technical and super-aggressive. A rollercoaster ride that’s waiting for you in Project CARS 3.