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NEED TO KNOW: The most important facts, stats and trivia ahead of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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After another action-packed tour of the world, the 2023 season comes to a close with this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Ahead of the event, Need to Know is your all-in-one guide with stats, trivia, insight and much more. You can also see how fans have voted using our F1 Play predictor game.

The first two practice sessions at the Yas Marina Circuit will take place on Friday, November 24, followed by final practice and qualifying on Saturday, November 25 and the Grand Prix itself on Sunday, November 26.

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Vital statistics

  • First Grand Prix – 2009
  • Track Length – 5.281km
  • Lap record – 1m 26.103s, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 2021
  • Most pole positions – Lewis Hamilton (5)
  • Most wins – Lewis Hamilton (5)
  • Trivia – Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen all sealed their maiden F1 world titles in Abu Dhabi
  • Pole run to Turn 1 braking point – 194 metres
  • Overtakes completed in 2022 – 113
  • Safety Car probability – 38%*
  • Virtual Safety Car probability – 38%*
  • Pit stop time loss – 22.12 seconds

*From the last eight races in Abu Dhabi

FAN VIEW: The favouritism for Max Verstappen to be the fastest driver over a single lap has dipped in recent races, but he remains the leading F1 Play vote-getter for the final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. The Dutchman earns 62% of the vote, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc the nearest contender on 15%.

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The driver’s verdict

Jolyon Palmer, former Renault F1 driver: The circuit has been improved as it used to be quite fiddly, but they’ve got rid of the wishy-washy chicanes that are now Turn 5 and Turn 9.

As a result, it’s a much quicker circuit and better for racing. There are good overtaking opportunities under braking into Turn 6 and then at the exit toward Turn 9.

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The triple right-hander near the end of the lap is the trickiest part. You’re blind braking into Turn 12, so it’s easy to make a mistake. It’s been widened, but Turn 13 is still tricky and it’s important to get the car placement right.

The final sector is the least enjoyable to drive in many ways, but it’s where you can win or lose a huge amount of time.

As the last race of the season, it’s always a nice feel overall.

ONBOARD: Max Verstappen’s 2022 Pirelli Pole Position Award lap at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Last five Abu Dhabi GP pole-sitters

  • 2022 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2021 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2020 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2019 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

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Last five Abu Dhabi GP winners

  • 2022 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2021 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2020 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2019 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

FAN VIEW: Verstappen, unsurprisingly with 18 race wins for the season, is the pick of 87% of F1 Play voters to stand on the top step of the podium at the Yas Marina Circuit. Leclerc is the next best option with 8% of the vote, with McLaren’s Lando Norris a distant third with 1.6% of the votes cast.

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Verstappen has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, including when he sealed his maiden title in 2021

Strategy and set-up keys

Bernie Collins, former Aston Martin F1 strategist: Abu Dhabi is another dusk race, meaning a drop in track temperatures during the decisive second practice, qualifying and race sessions, which all start as the sun sets before progressing to full night-time conditions.

As the last race of the season, the paddock atmosphere will feel different to usual, with many taking the time to stop and talk to colleagues about holiday plans, while it is often a driver or team member’s last race at a team or in F1.

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A couple of quirks of the venue are the pit lane going under the track at Turn 1 and exiting at Turn 2, while there can be poor radio and GPS signal through the hotel section, which is often the point at which drivers will be discussing a pit stop.

Abu Dhabi boasts the fifth-highest DRS effect of the campaign, promoting overtaking and allowing multiple stop strategies to work, particularly with recent circuit changes which were made to allow easier passes.

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However, with the second DRS detection point on the exit of Turn 7, some limitations from cars getting on the throttle means activation is harder to achieve here compared with a detection point on the entry to a corner under braking, when cars naturally close up.

Other points for consideration are no practice starts at the end of the pit lane, having to manage traffic in the twisty final sector (especially in qualifying) and a low risk of a Safety Car due to large run off areas and car reliability given the race’s late position in the season.

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FAN VIEW: Outside of the three mentioned above, the likes of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, and Sergio Perez in the Red Bull are garnering a healthy share of the F1 Play vote for a place on the podium. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso is also in play, as is McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

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One more test lies ahead of the drivers as the sun sets on the 2023 season

Current form

It was a remarkable 18th win of the season for Max Verstappen, and 20th for his Red Bull team, last time out in Las Vegas, meaning the Milton Keynes operation moved ahead of Mercedes’ record of 19 from 2016 (albeit set with one fewer race).

Should either Verstappen or team mate Sergio Perez triumph in Abu Dhabi this weekend, Red Bull would end the campaign with a victory record of 91.3%, behind only McLaren’s MP4/4 from 1988 (93.75%) in the 73-year history of the sport.

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Given that Verstappen has won the last three races at the Yas Marina Circuit, and given Red Bull’s advantage over the course of this season, all the signs are pointing toward the outfit claiming all bar one race win in 2023.

However, with plenty still to play for in the two championships behind the confirmed world champions, their rivals will be fired up to make an impression in the last race of the season and maximise their points return.

In the constructors’, Mercedes are now just four points ahead of Ferrari in the battle for second, while only 11 points separate McLaren and Aston Martin in the race for fourth.

Meanwhile, in the drivers’, 12 points cover Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc in positions four to seven.

Plenty still to play for, then, in this final race of the season...

FAN VIEW: After an excellent result in Las Vegas qualifying, Williams’ Logan Sargeant is considered a probable points scorer, earning more F1 Play votes than his established team mate Alexander Albon. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin is also expected to score, as are the Alpine pair of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly.

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Iconic moment

There have been loads of thrilling battles and title-deciding weekends in Abu Dhabi over the years, meaning no shortage of options to choose from for our final iconic moment of the season.

However, after digging through the archives, we have selected the 2010 showdown where Red Bull team mates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton all entered with a shot at title glory.

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What followed was a tense and dramatic encounter that saw Vettel, some 15 points off the title lead heading into the race, complete an incredible turnaround with a charge to victory over Hamilton while Webber and Alonso endured traffic-related nightmares.

Relive how the race unfolded from start to finish in the video player below...

Radio Rewind: The story of Abu Dhabi 2010

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