Trackside Performance Analysis: The millimetric challenge of Abu Dhabi’s Turns 12-13

Special Contributor

Mark Hughes

The chicane at Turns 12-13 in Yas Marina is a deceptively tough sequence, with some high kerbs and unfriendly camber ready to catch out drivers who try to take liberties there. F1 technical guru Mark Hughes observed the drivers threading their way through this section during Free Practice 1 in Abu Dhabi to analyse their differing approaches.

Turn 12-13 is a tricky low-speed right-left chicane. Tricky because 11 has a particularly high ramp kerbing that you cannot take liberties with. But doubly tricky in that the camber of the road falls sharply away on the exit of 13, overloading the front tyres and making it a slower exit than just the angle of the corner would suggest.

READ MORE: Bottas heads Verstappen in opening Abu Dhabi session as Vettel crashes

The cars are actually a little beneath their cornering limit in the right-handed part of the turn in order to be on the best bit of track to attack the left. If only they could somehow get that right-hander direction change quicker: Max Verstappen has a plan. He attacks the first kerb, trying to use it to turn the car more – but it’s too violent, actually throws the whole car – rather than just the rear – too far across the track. He goes back to nibbling at the edges of that kerb, like everyone else.

Both Bottas and Hamilton are able to turn the car almost violently

For Turn 13, it’s important to get the car fully turned in and settled on a trajectory before the downhill camber begins. So drivers tend to be very assertive with the steering at this point – but there is one car that responds to this visibly better than all the others, and that’s the Mercedes. Both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton are able to turn the car almost violently, and still it responds without getting out of shape.

The Red Bull looks pretty good over the sequence, but even Verstappen can’t be quite Mercedes-aggressive with it. However, the car’s acceleration out of there on the short chute down to Turn 14 is exceptionally impressive. The Honda is working extremely well here, even back on a sea level track.

Alex Albon begins aggressively, with a big mid-corner snap of oversteer on one occasion, but is Verstappen-smooth by the end. The Toro Rossos are scraping their outer front wing endplates along the ground as they land from the first kerb, Daniil Kvyat in particular.

AS IT HAPPENED – First Practice in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Aston

Albon smoothed his approach throughout FP1

The Ferraris looks supple, both Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel able to take a little more of the second kerb than the others. It shares this trait with the Haas, which uses Ferrari suspension – so perhaps there’s a link. This is in contrast to the Renault, which jumps from bump to bump in a violent manner, not giving Daniel Ricciardo or Nico Hulkenberg an easy ride. In addition Hulkenberg is repeatedly locking a wheel under braking for Turn 11 at the end of the straight.

This all happens amid a lot of traffic, with a lot of tyre cooling going on. But the patterns emerge regardless.


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