Alpine F1 Team CEO Laurent Rossi hails ‘phenomenal’ Alonso ahead of Abu Dhabi final
FIA praises Middle East’s ‘long-term dedication’ to Formula 1 ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
As the Formula 1 season comes to a close on Sunday at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, so too does the thrilling Gulf region hat-trick that saw Qatar and Saudi Arabia host the Grand Prix for the first time, before the season finale in the United Arab Emirates. – all within four weeks.
The F1 2021 campaign featured four stops in the GCC, starting in Bahrain last March and ending in the UAE capital this weekend; a clear indication of the growing importance of the region in the world motorsport calendar.
“I can certainly tell you from the point of view of the teams, they were very happy to come here, simply because things have been organized at a very high level, for many years,” said the secretary general of the FIA, Peter Bayer, at Arab News.
âQatar was obviously new to the calendar, we were trying to help them as much as we could, but it was a great race.
âWe then went to Saudi Arabia, which was a great success, I think given the limited time you had, the accomplishments were exceptional, honestly. “
The F1 traveling circus will return to the GCC in less than four months as the 2022 season kicks off with a double-barreled schedule in Bahrain and Jeddah at the end of March, and will once again have its typical curtain shutter in Abu Dhabi. Qatar will skip next year’s tenure as they prepare to host the FIFA World Cup, but begin a 10-year contract with F1 starting in 2023.
Bayer was particularly impressed with the way the first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix went and the world championship set up for a decisive title at the Yas Marina circuit.
âI was in Jeddah in January with President (Jean) Todt, because we went to see the Dakar Rally with Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal (President, Saudi Arabian Motor Federation), who took us to Jeddah for see the Track. And at the Corniche, he said: “Here, it will be the Formula 1 race”, recalls Bayer.
“And we literally said, ‘We don’t believe you’, and he said, ‘You’ll see, we can do it.’ And they delivered. Honestly, it was an exceptional event. Obviously, the show was on clear. . . given the media record numbers, also because the fight for the world championship is so close; So we are very happy to return to our traditional season final in Abu Dhabi now, knowing that this is an experienced crew, an exceptional event, so we look forward to the most exciting final since 1974.
Abu Dhabi made his F1 debut in 2009 and on Thursday it was announced that the emirate had extended his contract by 10 years. Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone wants this to be a 50-year extension, not just 10.
âThis is obviously what they deserve; they do a top notch job, a lot of promoters have tried to follow them. Certainly when they got into Formula 1 they started to raise the bar a bit so that was good for Formula 1, âsaid Ecclestone in a video message posted by Yas Marina Circuit.
“But I’m a little disappointed that the contract is only for 10 years because Formula 1 is definitely going to last another 50 years and therefore the contract should be extended for 50 years because we don’t want a Formula World Championship. 1 without Abu Dhabi in the last race, they were always the last race and it should be.
– Yas Marina Circuit (@ymcofficial) December 9, 2021
Bayer believes Abu Dhabi, and the region as a whole, has shown huge development in the sport and insists F1’s schedule remains balanced, even with four Gulf stops scheduled for 2023.
âFor us there are many reasons why we like to come here. If you look at the global calendar for next year, 23 events, we have 12 events in Europe, three in the Middle East, three in the Asia-Pacific region and five in the Americas, âhe explained.
âWe will obviously increase by one in 2023 with Qatar returning to the region with four, but at the same time Asia-Pacific will increase by one with China coming back on schedule; we can’t run there next year due to COVID-19.
âSo we think, as a world federation, that overall the balance of events here is absolutely justifiable and perfect. At the same time, it is a region that is growing, that is diversifying a lot, which is extremely important for us.
For pilots, Abu Dhabi has become a comfortable and popular place to end the season every year. After nine long and exhausting months of racing, returning to a destination renowned for its supreme hospitality has its perks.
âWe’ve had Abu Dhabi as our last race for many years now. It’s pretty cool, it always looks impeccable, it’s a bit like Disneyland in many ways, âquadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday.
âThe track is great, they are trying to make it even better this year, impatiently. It’s obviously pretty cold around the house so it’s nice to have a few extra warm days and see some new places as well. We had the Grand Prix in Arabia, the people there were pretty enthusiastic, it was a very exciting track.
“It’s always nice to go to new places, meet different people and see different cultures.”
Bayer is delighted to see this region’s âlong-term dedicationâ to the sport and praised Bahrain for stepping up when the pandemic struck and offering to host two races to make up for other canceled events.
âThere is flexibility, there are perfect facilities, they are state of the art, there is no doubt in any country what we have seen in the Middle East. For us, this is certainly one of the pillars that F1 is building as a global sports and entertainment property, âsaid Bayer.
“I think it also helps us in the transition of our mindset, because here we see a lot of countries that were originally focused on oil or gas, now turning into, whether destinations tourism, sustainable resource destinations, so there’s a lot of that happening, which is kind of the same transition that Formula 1 is going through.
âTo be a pure motorsport show, to become something that is much more than that; maybe you have seen our targeted campaign, it is very important for us to be at the forefront of sustainability and diversity issues.
âSo we’re happy to benefit from the transition here, but at the same time we’re also helping to foster the steps that need to be taken here.
âWe are perfectly happy to come back and obviously to have signed these long-term agreements, which is extremely important for the sustainability of the sport. We recently heard about Qatar which is another 10 year deal and we know about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and their long term dedication.
With Mohammed Bin Sulayem of the United Arab Emirates running for FIA President this month as Jean Todt ends his highly successful 12-year tenure, Bayer sees this as another clear sign of the scale of the development of the FIA. region in sport.
He believes the next step should be to put more effort into local initiatives to stimulate local interest and talent.
âWe need to see young people being drawn to the sport, we need to see kart facilities, kart championships; we need to see pilot development programs, âBayer said.
âI think we have to make sure that between the local ASN, the governing body and the organizers, there has to be close collaboration with the schools.
âOne of the areas that we are very keen to develop is STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – because not everyone can be a driving force, but there are many other opportunities in this world and we hope that ‘with the schools and our ASNs and the organizers, we can develop this path. This is what we need to focus on for the future.