Drivers must 'respect' Abu Dhabi track

Formula 1 drivers will need to treat the new Abu Dhabi track with the same respect that circuits like Spa-Francorchamps and Suzuka have, even though it does not have the same kind of classic high-speed challenges

Drivers must 'respect' Abu Dhabi track

That is the view of former grand prix drivers David Coulthard and Martin Brundle, who think that the track has hidden charms that do not come to light from simply looking at pictures or a circuit map.

In particular, both men feel that the decision to replace now traditional long run-off areas with widespread use of Tecpro barriers has changed the feel of the track - and means mistakes will be heavily punished.

When asked by AUTOSPORT for his feeling on the track following a recent try-out in two-seater F1 cars, Coulthard said: "The big surprise first of all is that it has a real street-circuit feel to it.

"You mentally get so used to all the modern tracks getting more and more run off, and then in Abu Dhabi suddenly the run offs are really short because of this Tecpro Barrier. You look at it and think, 'that doesn't look like much run-off'.

"Yet, I would happily trundle around Monaco and not even think about run-off. You always get used to a level of comfort and suddenly, if it is not there, you think about it - but does it actually affect your ability to do your work and the rest of it? It doesn't.

"So, I think there will be a few of the drives saying, 'this looks a bit tight'. But in many ways, they have got used to having tracks with lots of run off and you go to Suzuka, which is a track with not a lot of run-off, and kids are throwing it in the wall.

"I actually think we need an element of that in Formula 1 to maintain respect for the people out of the car - that if you drop it you are going to have a big shunt.

"Also for the drivers, there has to be a penalty for going off a circuit. It should not be a big crash that ends up hurting you, but there has to be a price to pay. And I think this track has redefined the FIA safety standards because of the safety barriers."

Brundle added: "I think it's good. What is refreshing is that it is not a car park with delineated kerbs. You can still whack the barriers there.

"Like at Suzuka, if you make a mistake then you pay the price. Those that didn't [in Japan] looked awesome didn't they? The real stars to me were showing up in Suzuka because it was bloody tough and hard for then - and Abu Dhabi if you make a mistake you will be in the wall.

"It is nice, because in some areas everything else is done to excess, that they have not created acres of run off and supermarket car park zones."

The challenge of the new Yas Marina circuit is also increased by the unique pitlane exit tunnel - which swings through a tight sharp-left at the bottom of a tunnel.

Coulthard thinks the solution is not ideal, but feels that fears of it being a massive problem are going too far.

Coulthard said: "That sort of thing, you can look at it and say it is challenging, but the bottom line is that it is actually a bit silly. It is the width of a car and it is a 90-degree left at the bottom of a tunnel after a blind hill.

"It is one of the things - the FIA stipulates this amount of run-off everywhere around the track but they don't specify pit in and pit out. So you could say let's put some landmines in the wall! It is a bit silly.

"Will we know that? No, because there won't be a camera there. Could there be an incident? Yes. Will there be? Probably not. It is one of those things that if you practice it all day you could probably pick up half a second, but in the overall scheme of things, is that half a second going to make a difference between winning or losing the grand prix?

"If it was really tight of course it could, but probably it will not. So I would err on the side of caution, having found out very early in my career just how costly pit-ins and pit-outs can be! I only made that mistake once."

Although the Yas Marina track features long straights and tight corners to try and improve overtaking - the presence of sand may well be the limiting factor in allowing drivers to pass each other.

"It is very dirty offline," said Coulthard. "I think the only place that might be good for overtaking is down into the first hairpin, and then out of there and down the back straight.

"I think all the stuff around the hotel is just follow-me, it is so tight and twisty. But I think people might go off line in that triple right hander before the hotel, and perhaps go off track there.

"It is similar to Bahrain and that corner behind the pits. There are lots of similarities to lots of other tracks, but it does seem to flow. A lot of modern tracks just don't seem to flow at all, but this does quite well."

F1 hopeful Bruno Senna, who has also lapped the track in a two-seater F1 car, echoed his concerns that sand may well be a limiting factor in allowing drivers to race.

"I think there is one thing that goes against it which is the fact that it's going to be very dusty offline, really, really dusty," said the Brazilian. "So unless they clean the track very well maybe overtaking could be difficult - but it will be possible."

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