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26 May 2024

Joining forces to grow

Bahrain will host F1 tests next month (GETTY IMAGES)

By Ahmad Lala

Martin Whitaker, CEO of the Bahrain International Circuit, says he is looking forward to working with organisers of the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi to create double-header events between the two tracks.

Bahrain has hosted a Formula One Grand Prix since 2004, while Abu Dhabi will host its inaugural race – the last of the 2009 F1 calender in November on their yet to be completed track.

"We have a good working relationship with them [Abu Dhabi]," said Whitaker, at the Grand Racing event that took place in Bahrain last weekend. "We also have an agreement to help promotion and host joint events.

"One of our problems is attracting championships from around the world, because at the moment there isn't that infrastructure here and you have to fund the travel and freight of those cars.

"However, when they get here they are incredibly successful. For example the V8 supercars from Australia last year was the biggest event we have held outside of F1 with some 35,000 fans attending.

"So if we can work with Abu Dhabi to make double-header events it will make racing more cost effective, but at the moment their focus is obviously on building the circuit and they still have a long way to go."

The new cost-cutting measures adapted by Formula One's governing body, the FIA, means there is a restriction on the number of tests teams can perform during a season, making it vitally important for them to choose a location that will ensure they get the maximum amount of test time. The tracks in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, when ready, fit this criteria, according to Whitaker.

"For example, Toyota were here just before the end of last year. In three weeks time, Ferrari, BMW and Toyota are coming and I think we may get one or two other teams coming as well, because the weather in Europe has been very inclement. It has been wet and snowing," said Whitaker.

"When they come here, they know they can test all day long. They can start at 7am and test right until it gets dark, and there are no noise pollution issues here because the circuit is away from the urban areas. The temperatures are also what you can expect at other races around the world.

"Also the grand prix will be held at the tracks, so it's good for them to be able to come test on a track that they will race on later in the year. Testing is very important, it raises the profile of the country."