- Sam Bird's track preview
Bird's eye view of Abu DhabiSam Bird October 30, 2013
It's been nearly six weeks since I last raced and I've been focusing since then on my F1 duties at the Mercedes factory in Brackley and out in Korea, Japan and India. Now I'm focused on the GP2 season finale in Abu Dhabi and I'm looking forward to it.
I did my first ever Formula One test at Abu Dhabi in 2010 with Mercedes and drove again for them there at the Young Drivers Test in 2011. Abu Dhabi is also where I drove my first ever GP2 race - I shared the front row with Davide Valsecchi. This weekend is likely to be my last ever GP2 event and it would be very appropriate for that chapter to end where it began. Full circle!
All in all, I think I've done five or six days of F1 testing at that circuit as well as the GP2 races, so I've got a good amount of experience at there and there's no reason why we can't be very competitive as we have been for most of the year. I firmly believe that if Russian Time gives me the car I know they can deliver, and I drive at 100%, then we can come away with a very strong result.
I enjoy the circuit and it holds good memories for me, but whether it's the most exciting track is another question. It's a layout of two halves: the first sector and a half features long straights and wide run-offs, whereas the final sector and a half is quite twisty, and tight and if you go off you're in a barrier.
Turn one is medium speed and taken in third gear after you've hit the brakes at the 100 metre board. You take a little bit of apex kerb, use all of the exit kerb and then it's uphill and flat-out through Turns 2 and 3 in an F1 car. You might need a small lift in GP2 for Turns 2 and 3 depending on your car's balance.
Then you shift the brake bias forwards for a hard braking zone where you are braking and turning into a kerb and then firing the speed into Turn 5. So it's quite difficult and tricky down there and you have to make sure that the car lands at the right angle over the kerbs. Straight after that you've got to work very hard to get the car back to the right hand-side, brake correctly for the hairpin and get round it as well as you can so that you set yourself up for the long, long drag down the straight.
The two braking zones at the end of each of the long straights are the best overtaking zones on the circuit. If you don't get your rival into the first one, you can line them up so that you can get a good run at them at the next one where there's another opportunity.
Next up is the Marina part of the circuit and the long triple-apex right hander known as Turns 15, 16 and 17. Firstly, you need to adjust your brake balance rearwards because you are braking and turning at the same time. It's very easy to lock up your front right into there, so the trick is to get a good brake shape, which is actually quite tricky. You find that some people's brake shapes are not hard enough at the beginning and then get hard towards the end as you get straighter, but you need to maintain almost a block-like shape instead of the traditional 'V' shape. It's a very different type of corner; you don't get too many of those around on the Formula One calendar.
Next up you go under the hotel and by this point you can be suffering with thermal degradation in the rear tyres, so it might feel a bit more slippery. There's no difference in the asphalt so there's no reason why the track should offer less grip, but it is also a little bit shaded under there so you might find that the track there is a degree or two out compared to the rest of the track.
Into the final two corners of the circuit, you have a medium to high-speed right hander that then feeds pretty much directly into a longish, slow medium-speed corner to end the lap. Again, you load that rear-left tyre quite heavily before crossing the finish line to end the lap.
Looking ahead to this weekend, I'm just happy to be getting back into my race car now. It's been a strong year so far, but where we are in the championship is where we are and I just want to go out there and do the best I can in both races. Of course, I'm well aware of what the points situation is, but if I go into the weekend and do well in those races like I have done at quite a few events this season, then there is no reason why the points deficit can't swing my way. I need two good races so I'll take them as they come. It's all about "process, not outcome". In other words, if you just focus on executing the game plan, then you are more likely to get the required outcome.
I'm relaxed; I'm where I want to be.
Sam Bird writes for ESPNF1 after every World Series by Renault weekend