Dubai: Dubai Autodrome officials would welcome Formula One testing in January after being touted as the preferred venue to host pre-season trials in the Middle East.
Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain are under consideration after a change in engine formula leaves teams searching for the ideal location to replicate race temperatures. Dubai – the only circuit out of the three that doesn’t host a grand prix – is considered the favourite.
The development comes after Emirates airline signed a five-year deal to become a global partner of Formula One in February.
The FIA-approved circuit has already hosted the GP2 Asia Series, which is the main feeder category for F1, as well as rounds of the FIA GT Championship and its own flagship event the Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai.
Dubai Autodrome manager Richard Birch said: “Of course we would welcome the opportunity to host F1 testing at our venue. We have the facilities and Dubai has all the infrastructure required for a week of testing.
“At this stage, it is merely talk and speculation, as the final decision is not in our hands nor has it even been made as far as we know. But if asked in an official capacity, then we will certainly embrace the project.”
F1 teams met on the sidelines of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix where — for the first time — they agreed about the prospect of a Middle East test location, placing local venues on high alert.
Ross Brawn, team principle of Mercedes said: “Middle East tests will get the weather we need to give the engine a good workout.
“So the first test will be European and second and third will be based in the Middle East. We must do both tests at the same circuit so we don’t have any logistical issues.”
A spokesman for Dubai Autodrome told Gulf News F1 testing in Dubai would be a huge development for the city, but he stopped short of that one-day materialising into a Dubai Grand Prix.
“Dubai is a fantastic place at that time of year. The weather conditions are perfect and the city has a lot to offer its visitors,” said the spokesman. “It would be a major boon for the track and the region in terms of motorsport. But F1, of course, transcends sport and it would also be a major boon for the city.
“We are aware of talks in Hungary. But there has been no contact regarding the availability of the circuit. We await the formal decision and have no expectations.”
Asked if a Grand Prix was on the horizon, the spokesman added: “It’s not our goal to host a F1 grand prix at this stage in our gameplan.”
F1’s regulations are changing next year in one of the biggest upheavals in decades. The sport has a new V6 turbocharged engine with energy recovery systems replacing the current V8. As a result, teams have been allowed to test earlier than before, in January instead of having to wait until February, and outside of Europe.
Both Emirates Airline and Yas Marina were unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, Indian Grand Prix organisers said on Monday they hoped not to lose the race after Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone hinted that India could miss out in 2014.
Ecclestone reportedly expressed doubts about India and South Korea hosting races next year at a confidential briefing for team principals during last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Jaypee Sports International, which has organised the Indian Grand Prix at its circuit in Greater Noida outside New Delhi since 2011, said it hoped the race would not be taken away.
“We do not have any communication from Formula One management in this regard,” Jaypee Sports spokesman Askari Zaidi told AFP.
“Our agreement to hold F1 races at the Buddh International Circuit is valid till 2015, and we are keen to hold the races at least till then.”
The bone of contention appears to be the Indian government’s decision to tax the race organisers and drivers during their stay in the country.
Ecclestone is reported to have agreed to pay a flat-rate sum for this year’s October 25-27 race to meet government demands, but could favour other prospective hosts from 2014 onwards.
Political and financial issues are reported to be the main concerns in India and South Korea, prompting Ecclestone to eye new venues in the United States, Russia and Austria.
“I’m juggling a lot of balls,” he reportedly said at the meeting in Budapest.
Formula One is looking to add up to three races to its calendar in 2014 with the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the hosts of next year’s Winter Olympics, set to become the first Russian venue on the circuit.
Other new venues on the cards are Spielberg in Austria and New Jersey in the United States.
Local officials in charge of the Yeongam circuit in South Korea are reportedly unwilling to cover costs because it has lost out financially since its first race in 2010.
- with inputs from agencies