British ace Lewis Hamilton may have retained the World Championship well before the final Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the capital but the twilight race at the Yas Marina Circuit will have plenty to offer for racegoers and there is no need to create any ‘artificial drama’ feels chief executive Tareq Al Ameri.
With little less than a week to go, the preparations are in full swing and Al Ameri spoke at length with Gulf News on how he and his team is gearing up to brace the challenge to make the ninth edition a grand success.
As a Grand Prix venue does the dominance of one particular team worry you?
Having a title decider is great but it’s by no means the only ingredient and main event. Firstly, on-track the racing is competitive regardless of a decider or not especially in light of recent events in Mexico and Brazil. You have 24 highly competitive drivers and they want points to close out the season and they don’t like to be beaten however the league tables are standing so it will still be a thrilling race for our capacity sell-out crowd of 60,000.
Equally, constructors are pushing for more points and end of season bonuses. Secondly, the off-track entertainment and after race concerts make it a massive weekend of loaded entertainment. We have a lot of F1 fans attend but casual F1 fans also, so regardless of their connection to the championship standings, all our fans come for the over-all entertainment promise and to soak up the amazing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix atmosphere.
What do you think can be done to keep the last race interesting?
The drama is already there, especially after the Brazilian GP. Vettel will be looking to finish on a high, and Hamilton won’t be resting on his laurels, with the other drivers looking to push them hard and mark their own mark in the important last race. There’s no need to create any artificial drama, the end of what has been a thrilling season will provide all the spectacle that racing fans could hope for.
Away from the track, we have lined up yet another four nights of world-class musical A-list entertainment, as well as other fun elements so we’re expecting another fantastic weekend.
Will any modification to the track especially the straights which gives an edge to front runners? Can we expect any such change in future?
We’re excited by the new technical rules for this year, the cars are lower and wider, faster in the corners. There’s no requirement to modify the track but we will see much quicker lap times, we’re expecting a difference on last year by as much as five seconds. So, with a lot of driver pride at stake, the racing will be epic.
Are you still happy to keep the last race or will you be pushing for a chance?
Being the last race of season has its advantages, but you have to create those advantages and build a relevant story behind it.
However, the current calendar positioning works very well for us — the November window is perfect as it’s not too hot here in Abu Dhabi and it’s not too late so we continue to attract international visitor’s pre-Christmas, especially from the UK and Europe.
What was the main challenge that you faced from the time you took over?
We are now in our 9th year of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and it’s really important we continue to set ourselves high-standards for our wide range of local, regional and global visitors. We have a rolling 12-month planning programme that sits under a long-term and ongoing strategy to position Abu Dhabi as a world-class, modern definition of a Grand Prix.
As a promoter, we work tirelessly to update and improve the overall Abu Dhabi Grand Prix fan experience from every aspect and it’s important that after every Grand Prix we wrap up with a comprehensive understanding of what worked well and where we can innovate for the future.
How do you find the new promoters Liberty, the vision for the sport and what sort of a relationship do you share with them?
Our relationship with Formula 1 management has always been very strong and this continues to be the case as we all go forward. We share the same vision and ambition for the event here in Abu Dhabi and our approach has always been strategic and highly collaborative; this aides strong and effective partnerships.
Q What sort of a spectacle can we expect this time round at Yas for F1?
A We always strive to make it the best possible experience for race-goers and the teams alike and this year will again be no different. It’s not just what happens at the event but also the buzz around it — the atmosphere and sense of connection is key to the experience. In 2016 we trended number 1 globally on twitter on race-day, generating 7 billion impressions, and owned the global conversation for a full 3 hours.
We’ve embraced ‘new rules’ for our theme this year and it sums up our desire to always excite and innovate. Putting fans at the heart of F1 is what the new owners are very much looking to do and this is something we have always and wholeheartedly believed in. This year we will kick off the Grand Prix with Super Thursday giving all ticket holders access to the F1 Fanzone, autograph signings and Calvin Harris after-race concert. Non three-day ticket holders can upgrade on the day for the public pit-lane walk and Yas hot laps for the first time. We continue with Family Friday – a new initiative with ‘Kids Go Free’– providing up to 4 kids under 12 years’ old free access to the ticket holder’s Grandstand. Ticket holders will also be able to secure Golden Circle Upgrades for the first time and experience Yas Island’s theme parks through GP Parks Passes, as well as the inaugural F1 eSport Series World Finals.