Dubai: Formula One track designer Hermann Tilke may have vowed to make every new circuit more intriguing than the last, but he admits Yas Marina holds pride of place in his portfolio.
Opened in 2009 and set to host its fourth Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, Yas may have preceded other Tilke creations in South Korea, India, the US and Russia, but it has yet to be matched for glamour.
“We’ve designed some 65 tracks, around 15 of which are F1 circuits,” Tilke told Gulf News. “I cannot choose one over the other because every track is like a child to me. All I can say is that Yas is one of the best in the world and everyone involved can be immensely proud of it. It’s something unique that you can’t find anywhere else in the world.
“It’s really world class and everything was built to a world-class standard. It has a very special atmosphere because it starts in the sun and finishes at twilight and, when the facilities are all illuminated, it makes for a great atmosphere.
“Of course, every time we design a track we try to make it in some way more spectacular than the last. But it’s most important that the track is fit to hold races and that the races held there are exciting for both spectators and drivers. I believe we achieved that — I’m already looking forward to this weekend.”
Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel, who leads the current driver’s standings by 13 points with three races to go, won the first two Abu Dhabi Grands Prix before a first-lap puncture denied him a hat-trick last year.
He said: “I have special memories of the circuit. In 2009 I won here and then repeated the victory in 2010 to win my first world title, so it’s a circuit I will never forget. In only three years it has become one of the highlights of the season.
“The [fall of] darkness [during the race] makes it unique and impressive. The circuit itself is impressive — 5.5 kilometres long with large loopholes and leaving boxes that pass through a tunnel to the other side.
“The other factor is that we drive anti-clockwise. The track’s a bit like Singapore from the speed, but the asphalt is smoother.”
Last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton said: “It is just the most stunning circuit we have, obviously with it starting in the late afternoon and going into the night. The facilities outdo everyone else’s unfortunately.
“I’ve always enjoyed the Yas Marina Circuit as I took pole here in 2009, finished second in 2010 and won it last year. It’s a track where you can really push the car, which is what I most enjoy.
“There are a wide variety of corners. I love the fast sweeps in the first sector and it’s incredibly satisfying to hook together a good sector through the tricky marina section of the lap. Good mechanical balance makes all the difference here because you’re always changing direction. I feel confident that we can pull together a strong race weekend in Abu Dhabi.”