The Yas Marina Circuit (YMC), venue for next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix, would always remain “special” and the “pinnacle of F1 racing”, according to the CEO of Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management (ADMM) Richard Cregan.
Despite the world championship having been decided, there is no doubt in the minds of the organisers that interest in the penultimate F1 Grand Prix of the season has waned.
“This is our third Grand Prix and we are equally excited as we have always been. I think we are going to have a great event this year,” said Cregan speaking on the sidelines of the announcement of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals on Monday.
“The championships have been decided but it’s really an all-out challenge to win. A lot of teams are looking at testing items they are going to use for next year. I think we are in for a really exciting race weekend,” he said echoing the sentiments of 14-time Middle East Rally champion Mohamed bin Sulayem who described the Yas Marina circuit as a “great monument” to the sport in an interview with Emirates 24|7 earlier.
“It would be a championship within a championship,” said bin Sulayem, also president of ATCUAE (Automobile Touring Club of UAE) which is also responsible for the smooth functioning of the day/night race.
Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing may have sewn up both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles, but with two more races still remaining the desire to win will be no less.
“Drivers have achieved championship and teams have also achieved but they are hungry for wins. Nothing compensates for being on the top step of the podium. So they will always be striving to achieve that,” said Cregan.
“I think winning at Yas Marina Circuit is always very special. It is a beautiful event and a beautiful trophy. Drivers want wins,” he added.
It has not had any negative effect on ticket sales either for the November 13 race.
“Ticket sales are going well. Tickets are still available obviously, the same as during first two years at this stage. I do think we are in for an exciting weekend. The fact that championship has been decided, that for me is never an element of worry,” said Cregan.
Asked whether they would consider a change of slots having hosted the season-ending race last season which saw Vettel being crowned the youngest F1 world champion, Cregan said it was always up for discussion.
“I know this has been discussed before but certainly we are happy where we are in the calendar. Even if the championships are decided, people are looking at it as a great social event in the calendar and it offers great racing. It’s about the determination and passion to win,” he said.
Asked whether YMC faces challenges with new circuits having come up like the Buddh International Circuit in India, he replied they were not in competition with others but rather welcomed them.
“We’ve established ourselves already as one of the best circuits in the world and we welcome more races into the championship. It makes the championship maintain its level as the pinnacle of motorsport championship. We are not concerned about that. We offer our help and support to new circuits if we can. Come the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, everybody will see we are still up there with the best circuit in Formula One today,” he said.
“It’s encouraging that more and more countries want to get into Formula One. I think it shows a great trust in Formula One as a platform to show the world what a country can actually do by holding a grand prix and building a Grand Prix circuit, same as what we have done here in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“It’s going to be a great future for motorsport, great future for Formula One with more tracks coming in,” he added.
YMC had the longest straight before Buddh and has often been criticised for lack of overtaking opportunities. But Cregan feels the changes in FIA regulations have increased overtaking opportunities.
“This year we will have two overtaking zones and this will make a huge difference to the spectacle and spectators as well,” he said.
Explaining the new technical regulations, he said the drag reduction system (rear wing on the car) opens up to allow less drag on rear wing which then increases the speed. “Therefore you can overtake little bit easier. You also have other elements of car. Tyres have been a huge change this year. Pirelli tyres have introduced lot of different strategies and introduced lot of different overtaking possibilities. I think we have to wait and see how that’s going to pan out,” he said.
As a result, he believes there was no necessity to make any changes in the track at the moment.
“We will obviously keep reviewing the situation. The most important thing for us is the entertainment of the customer, fans and people who come to the event. We’ll always make sure they have an exciting weekend for us this year and then we will make some decisions following that,” he said.
Plans to stage a motorcycling grand prix have also been put on hold as they discuss the commercial viability of such a venture.
“At the moment we are still thinking about it. Motorcycle racing is very exciting. We’ve had some great events. Some track days and training days. They’ve been successful. We’ll keep seeing how viable it is for us to do that because we have to look at commercial element,” he said.
But YMC will always remain a monument for Formula One.
“Formula One will remain the pinnacle of our events. It’s the most important event for us here at the Yas Marina Circuit. Then we will look at other events and see how compatible they are from a commercial viewpoint. Anything we could come up we feel is good entertainment value, is good for the circuit, good for Abu Dhabi, for UAE, we will always consider,” he said.