Race with a difference

2009-10-31 15:07

THIS year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be Formula One’s first ­experiment with a day-to-night ­transition.

Lights will be on from the start of the race to ease the transition and not create a sudden change in ­viewing conditions.

Drivers are confident that there will not be a repeat of the opening race of the season in Australia, when the race finished at dusk and the drivers complained of sunset glare and a rapid cooling of track temperature which greatly reduced grip levels late in the race.

“I do not think there will be any problems,” Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen said.

“It might look a little bit different at some point when the sun disappears, but the lights – at least in ­Singapore – were so good that you hardly saw the difference between day and night.”

Track temperature in the desert heat of Abu Dhabi should also allay the effects of evening cooling.

“In Australia the track temperatures were different,” Renault driver Fernando Alonso said.

“The track temperature at the start of the race will be maybe 50 degrees, so it will never be cool enough to give problems warming up tyres.”

The arrival of Formula One in Abu Dhabi is part of an ambitious effort to transform the emirate from an oil-rich enclave of little international profile into a financial, cultural and entertainment centre.

The man charged with making it happen is Khaldoon al Mubarak, the managing director of Mubadala, Abu Dhabi’s government-run business development company.

The Formula One race is being staged on Yas Island, a man-made island that will also host giant theme parks, including one run by Ferrari, and other entertainment hubs. Other islands off the coast will host more refined activities, with the Louvre and Guggenheim museums setting up operations there, along with the Paris-Sorbonne University.

But the jewel in the crown is Formula One, which attracts massive global television audiences and will provide Abu Dhabi with its craved name recognition.

That rationale also prompted the investment in English Premier League football club Manchester City, of which Al Mubarak is the chairman.

“We wanted to bring the best event that is out there to Abu Dhabi, and that is what we got,” Al ­Mubarak said.

“Of course we want to show the rest of the world what we can do, but this is really for the people of Abu Dhabi.”

Organisers said tickets for today’s race, at a circuit that had ­already earned teams’ admiration, had been sold out. The venue delivers unprecedented levels of luxury and features including a section of track that passes beneath a hotel lobby, run-off areas under grandstands and a functioning marina abutting the paddock.

If the teams think it looks good for this year’s inaugural event, they can expect further improvements for the 2010 race.

“We will progress with the facilities at the track and we need to keep getting more people here involved,” Al Mubarak said.

Lotus, one of the new teams for 2010, filled a significant gap in its ranks with the appointment of a chief executive on Friday.

Riad Asmat, formerly general manager of Malaysian car-builder Proton, will take the key job.

“Riad’s expertise, which is a good blend of corporate experience and motorsports knowledge, will provide the dynamic and success-oriented leadership that the Malaysian team requires,” team principal Tony Fernandes said.

Proton, which is the owner of the rights to the historic Formula 1 name, Lotus, is a partner in the new team, along with the Malaysian government. – Sapa-AP

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