Frontline workers will be allowed to attend the season-ending Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix after a limited number of passes were allocated at the Yas Marina Circuit to thank them for their efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Saif Al Noaimi, acting chief executive of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, added that the Abu Dhabi Hill at capital's racetrack would be renamed "Frontline Heroes Hill" for the December 11-13 grand prix weekend.
A total of 600 passes have been made available, 200 for each day of Friday's practice sessions, Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race.
"We are really happy to be able to confirm we'll have a number of frontline heroes attending this year's Grand Prix over the three days," Al Noaimi told The National.
“Unfortunately, we are not able to open up the event for the fans in the usual way we always have. But we are fortunate that we have the approvals for the frontline heroes. It is very fitting for us to prioritise them in terms of attendance at this event and offer them an opportunity to come see the race live in real time.
“They have had a very difficult year. We have 600 frontline heroes in total, so 200 attendees across the three days.
“In honour of the frontline heroes we are going to rename Abu Dhabi Hill as the Frontline Heroes Hill for this race,” Al Noaimi said.
“We feel that’s a fitting tribute to those who have sacrificed a lot during this difficult times and this is one way for us to honour them.”
Formula One has been severely disrupted this year as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The start of the season was delayed by nearly four months, causing many races to be either postponed or cancelled. With the exception of the Tuscan and Russian Grands Prix which allowed limited fans, all races have taken place without trackside supporters.
Given the challenges of staging a grand prix this year, Al Noaimi said his team have adapted to these difficult times.
“We are at the delivery stage of the Grand Prix,” he said. “The energy is high within the team and we are very excited.
Damon Hill on why Yas Marina Circuit is 'perfect venue' to end F1 season
“We are ready to go. It is the execution of our plans. The fact the Bahrain Grand Prix right before ours means there is a lot of work that happens the week leading up to our Grand Prix where all of the teams and their freight arrive.”
Al Noaimi said ADMM had worked closely with the government to ensure that the venue complies with all the guidelines for Covid-19 protocols.
“Obviously it’s been a challenging year but we are proud we are able to organise the season finale in Abu Dhabi,” Al Noaimi said.
“It says a lot that we are able to host and organise an event in a safe manner given the difficult period that everyone is facing right now.
“It really demonstrates our ability and also demonstrates all the hard work that the frontline heroes and all of the relevant entities have put over the last few months to make sure Abu Dhabi is safe.”
Looking ahead to next season, Al Noaimi is excited to see Saudi Arabia added to the F1 calendar to make it three races in the Gulf.
“Saudi Arabia’s entry to motorsports and the various events they are doing are really exciting in the region,” he said.
“For us, having more events in the region means you are developing more motorsports interest and developing future generations in motorsports.
“This year, given the challenges we have been facing, for F1 to be hosting 17 races in different countries is an accomplishment. We are happy to be the last race again and for them to celebrate a successful championship here in Abu Dhabi."