Abu Dhabi track changed to increase overtaking – and could HELP Hamilton beat Verstappen – but qualifying is crucial

ABU DHABI is the setting for the final showdown in arguably the greatest title tussle Formula 1 has ever seen.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen go into the last Grand Prix of the season level on points.



Barring some incredibly unlikely scenarios, whoever finishes ahead of the other will be crowned 2021 world champion.

Ahead of the weekend, SunSport's Ben Hunt gives you the lowdown on everything you need to know about the final race – and why some changes for this year could play in Hamilton's favour…

HISTORY

The Yas Marina Circuit was opened in 2009 and constructed at a cost of £800million.

The lucrative agreement for F1 means the track has hosted the season finale for the past seven years.

It wraps around the marina and the iconic W Hotel, which is illuminated at dusk.

Nerdy fact, the 3.3mile track is lit by spotlights and the track surface is made with aggregate from Bayston Hill in Shropshire.

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PREVIOUS WINNERS

Lewis Hamilton has an impressive record in Abu Dhabi. He's won five times while Sebastian Vettel has three victories.

Mercedes have won seven times at the Yas Marina while Red Bull have four wins.

  • 2009 – Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)
  • 2010 – Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)
  • 2011 – Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
  • 2012 – Kimi Räikkönen (Lotus)
  • 2013 – Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
  • 2014 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2015 – Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
  • 2016 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2017 – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  • 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2019 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2020 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)

CHANGES FOR 2021

This year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take place on a new and improved layout, making it faster.

There are three main areas which have been tweaked from previous years.

The north hairpin (Turn 7), the south marina (beginning at Turn 11), and the hotel section (beginning at Turn 17) have all been redesigned.

The idea is to increase overtaking, historically a problem on this track by creating sweeping curves rather than hard-braking zones.

FAVOURITES

Mercedes had won six times in a row here, but that run came to an end last year when Verstappen took the chequered flag.

However, if you listen to those in the paddock, they say that with the new changes, it plays back into the hands of the Silver Arrows.

The quicker speeds will suit the Mercedes power advantage and they will be able to utilise the DRS zones to the maximum.

That said, Red Bull have a steely determination and will lap up the twilight twisty sections of the circuit.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

Qualifying is crucial here. Saturday will be of HUGE importance.

A front row start is imperative if you are to have a chance of winning this race.

Only once has the winner not started in either P1 or P2.

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