Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Venue: Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi
Race sponsor: Etihad
Date: 21 - 23 November 2014
There will likely never be a Formula One circuit built to better Yas Marina in terms of facilities. The product of a wider government investment in sport, tourism and international brand-building, the venue, which lies on the manmade US$40 billion Yas Island, an all-new leisure, residential and commercial hub, has raised the bar to a level few, if any, will be able to match. Its construction, in time for a debut Grand Prix in 2009, was the in all likelihood the high watermark of Formula One venue design. The only disappointment is the track layout, which is not one of Formula One’s effective in-house designer Hermann Tilke’s finest pieces of work.
Facilities and new attractions have been growing around the circuit since that first race in 2009. Yas Island now boasts seven hotels, two championship golf courses, a soon-to-be-opened shopping mall, the Yas Waterworld water park and Ferrari World, the rather garish scarlet red building which the Italian manufacturer opened in 2010.
The marina, manmade but always full during race weekend, has room for 192 boats, ranging from eight to 150 metres. The circuit is flanked by the Yas Viceroy Hotel, which lights up as night falls during the Grand Prix – largely for the benefit of European television viewers, the local start-time is 5pm with the sun setting during the first hour of the race.
Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, which operates the circuit and has turned it into a vibrant community centre through a combination of track events, concerts and leisure initiatives, has undergone a major change ahead of the 2014 Grand Prix. Irishman Richard Cregan, a former Toyota team manager who has run the circuit as chief executive since 2009, stepped down from his position at the turn of the year, to oversee the management of the new Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. Although Cregan will remain an advisor to Abu Dhabi, his guidance and steady hand will be much-missed by a venue which has quickly come to host one of the standout races of the season, at least from a corporate perspective. A replacement had yet to be appointed as January turned to February.
With money seemingly no object, there is no danger of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix falling off the calendar. First announced in 2007, the emirate is coming to the end of its first seven year deal for the race: the 2014 edition will be its sixth Grand Prix. A new deal for 2017 onwards should be imminent.
Abu Dhabi hosted the final race of the season in 2009 and 2010, the latter a championship decider, and will do so again in 2014. In a controversial and unpopular change to Formula One’s scoring system, the race, as the final round of the championship, will be worth double points to drivers and constructors, a rather ham-fisted way for the sport to try and secure a final race title showdown.