Yas Marina Circuit is undergoing major changes Image Credit: Supplied
Saif Al Noaimi of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management
Saif Al Noaimi of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management Image Credit: Supplied

The Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is fast approaching as Gulf News took the opportunity to catch up with Saif Al Noaimi of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management to discuss the changes that are going to make this year’s race weekend — December 10-12 — even more special.

We are going to be welcoming back the fans for this year’s Grand Prix. What does having the crowd back mean to you personally?

We are delighted to be able to welcome spectators back in significant numbers, particularly given the fact they weren’t able to attend at all last year, aside from 600 Frontline Heroes. The fans make the event, and that doesn’t just apply to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, it’s the same for all sports. The difference with spectators, compared to without, is huge.
While this year’s event won’t be at full capacity, the fact there will be a significant number of fans in attendance is something we should celebrate and look forward to.

The Yas Marina Circuit plays host to the Abu Dhabi grand Prix once again
Yas Marina Circuit will host the Formula One season-ender

What changes can we expect for this year’s event?

One of the biggest changes will be the track, which by the time the Grand Prix comes around, will have undergone significant modification work. This is because we wanted to create more dramatic racing, increase opportunities for overtaking and enhance the overall race spectacle, so we’re really looking forward to seeing how the changes impact this year’s race.
Off the track, we will be bringing back the Yasalam After-Race Concerts following a one-year absence, which is fantastic for everybody attending the event. Stay tuned for more information on this, but we will look to work with government authorities on numbers which will be allowed to attend. Currently each Grand Prix ticket holder will be able to choose one of the nights to attend.
This year it’s all about being creative and finding ways to do things differently. Naturally, there were some key learning from last year’s event, and there are other changes which have had to be implemented due to the various restrictions in place. For example, Thursday’s Pit Lane Walk will be replaced by a Track Walk, which gives fans the opportunity to head out onto the new track configuration shortly before the drivers get to drive it for the first time.
Spectators at this year’s event will be able to see a preview of the 2022 car, which will undoubtedly excite those motorsport fanatics, and the event will also celebrate the UAE’s 50th anniversary via events and activations in the various entertainment zones, as well as Heritage Village.
F4UAE and F2 will also be part of this year’s event, and there will also be events incorporating our e-sports racing team, Yas Heat. Elsewhere, there will be designated Oasis areas, along with an enhanced F&B service, where guests can either order directly to a table or pick up at a designated collection point
As you will have seen this week from the latest government circular relating to numbers of attendees at public events, we are working closely with the authorities on working to the latest directives and giving as many people as are allowed the chance to enjoy the weekend.

Formula 1 fans walk the pit lane
Fans will return for the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The After-Race Concerts are also returning, can we expect a real party atmosphere to get the Abu Dhabi finale back on the map?

This is hugely positive news. Over the years, the concerts have become a real staple of the event, and the fact we weren’t able to stage them last year, albeit for totally understandable reasons, was a shame.
We’re really looking forward to the concerts, along with all of the other entertainment events which make the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix such a special event, although there will be some differences.
For example each ticket holder will be able to choose only one night to attend — based on the capacity of the Etihad Park venue.
For everyone who purchases their ticket before we announce the artists, they will be given advance opportunity of the artists to choose their night.
Naturally, people will want to know who will be performing at the concerts, and all I can say for now is that everything will soon be revealed and people are advised to stay tuned to Yas Marina Circuit’s official channels to find out more.
In terms of the race itself, it will be the first Grand Prix on the new-look track following the modification work which is currently taking place. Tell us a bit about that, and how you think it will impact the race …
The track modification work is all about enhancing the excitement levels for both drivers and spectators.
We have taken on-board feedback from drivers, teams, spectators as well as FIA and Formula 1 Management, with whom we have worked closely on this project. The changes will provide more opportunities to overtake, we should see some fantastic battles out on the track, and it will be a new layout for everybody, meaning every driver will need to adjust.
Formula 1 is all about the very best drivers going head-to-head, and the fact this year’s ADGP will see them doing that on a modified track should lead to a brilliant race.
This year’s championship is already shaping up to be an intriguing contest, and with Abu Dhabi being the final race on the calendar, we could potentially be in for an all-time classic, which is what we all want to see.

The Etihad fly-past marked the beginning of the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Island in December 2020.
The Abu Dhabi race is now firmly on the F1 map

Looking ahead, Abu Dhabi and Yas Marina Circuit are committed to F1, will we see expansions to embrace more motorsports?

It’s difficult to say exactly what will happen in the future, particularly during these ever-changing times, but evolution is of huge importance in everything we do.
While Formula 1 is the showpiece event on our calendar, we are eager to provide a platform for potential racing stars of the future to showcase their talents, which we will be doing once again over Grand Prix weekend by staging a Trophy Round of F4UAE, along with some F2 races.

Going green. What are your thoughts on going electric? Should we be looking at other fuel possibilities such as hydrogen? What will it all mean for the future of the sport?

Sustainability is an important topic across the world at the moment, and motorsport, as well as Yas Marina Circuit, have their parts to play.
From a Yas Marina Circuit perspective we have a number of initiatives in progress, from recycling the plastic from major events and turning them into clothing and staff uniforms, through to installing recharging stations. We have some of the fastest in the UAE at the circuit.
We are also actively working with partners and organisations on developing Yas Marina Circuit as a platform for new motorsport and automotive technology development and there are lots of exciting initiatives coming up to share so stay tuned.
For Motorsport more broadly, I am sure we will see a growth of competitive motorsport using alternative fuel methods and the growth and success of the recent Formula-E World Championship and the newly launched Extreme-E series among many others are testament to that.
The search for new fuel sources, employing new technology and innovation is critical to the future of the planet as well as motorsport, so we should embrace the journey.