Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Venue: Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi
Race sponsor: Etihad Airways
Date: 27 - 29 November 2015
Putting to one side the misguided attempt to raise the jeopardy of the final event of the Formula One season by making it worth double points, a situation that was out of the control of the organisers in Abu Dhabi, the Yas Marina event has become one of the standout races on the calendar, generating a magnetic appeal for sponsors, high-rollers and celebrities.
“I meet people all year, every year who say they are looking forward to going to Abu Dhabi at the end of the season – it’s interesting how many people in the corporate world do gravitate towards it,” muses former Jordan GP and Cosworth marketing director Mark Gallagher of the venue, created as part of the US$40 billion manmade Yas Island project.
Following the departure of Richard Cregan, who headed for Sochi to assist with preparations for the first Russian Grand Prix, the Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management organisation appointed Tareq Al Ameri as the new chief executive of Yas Marina Circuit in March 2014. Al Ameri, a former Abu Dhabi Aviation executive who was 34 when he was appointed, previously ran the circuit’s burgeoning commercial division, but has now taken the top job – the experienced Cregan, however, has retained an advisory role and reports to the board.
“Since coming to Yas Marina Circuit I have been bitten by the motorsport bug,” Al Ameri said. “And that will always be our core business. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is an iconic fixture on the Formula One calendar and that alone is a truly fantastic achievement for everyone involved. The Grand Prix will always be the focus but we must keep driving forward what we do throughout the year – from exciting motorsport racing to bringing even more fantastic events to the circuit.
Al Ameri added: “In 2011 and 2013 we hosted the World Economic Forum which shows we are so much more than just a racetrack. That strategy will continue and we will be fighting for business in the market. Yas Marina Circuit is truly passionate about motorsport – here in the UAE, in the region and globally.”
Gallagher has been impressed with the way the venue, a state-of-the-art, scarcely-believable facility, is maturing. “The track was built from scratch in the desert and it’s no longer on its own there,” he says. “It’s ringed by hotels. It’s a conference centre capital for the Middle East. Any MENA conference will inevitably look at Dubai and Abu Dhabi and quite often Abu Dhabi wins. One of the reasons it wins is because companies enjoy going there, visiting the track or Ferrari World [Ferrari’s theme park adjacent to the circuit] and doing a bit of go-karting.
“Building that racetrack and the infrastructure around it, in a very micro-scale is what the Olympics talks about in terms of economic legacy of a sporting event. The economic legacy of the Grand Prix for Abu Dhabi has been very significant. It’s definitely driven a lot of business there.”
“I understand that passion and I am also ready for the challenge and responsibility of developing all areas of the business.”
The race has a local start time of 5pm, ensuring it begins in daylight and concludes, with the obligatory fireworks and the changing LED tones of the Yas Hotel exterior, under floodlights. It is a spectacular way to round off a lengthy season.