Eddie Jordan interview: 'The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is mind-blowing'
The former F1 team boss talks about how the Middle East has added to the spectacle of Formula One, and why he doesn't just come here for the racing
With less than a week to go before the pace car lets drivers finally let rip at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the eyes of the world’s motorsport community are already trained on events happening in the capital.
Eddie Jordan, arguably the face most associated with Formula One aside from the drivers themselves and grey-mopped, dark-spectacled founder Bernie Ecclestone, will be part of the media circus descending on the city for the final curtain call of the 2019 season.
Speaking to The National, the former driver and head of the eponymous F1 team of the 1990s spoke of the impact Middle East circuits and events has had on F1.
Jordan describes the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, which has hosted the second race on the F1 calendar for the past two years and will do so again next year, as a “pure, simple and wonderful venue”.
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Abu Dhabi, though, is “mind-blowing”, he adds.
“The car going through the hotel, everybody loves it. It’s a really nice track, though difficult and technical.”
The event itself is perfect for a variety of reasons, according to the Irishman, not least for its similarities to one of Europe's most historic races.
“Is it the best race on the calendar? Some people will say yes. A lot of people are saying it’s the equivalent to Monaco outside of Europe, and for sure it is," he says.
“And, invariably, the championship is decided at Abu Dhabi. This year is a bit different, obviously, as Lewis Hamilton has already won it, but that doesn’t take away from the event. It will be hugely popular. And it’s one of the races that is an absolute must for the calendar.”
Jordan recounts how he personally played a part in generating publicity for races in the Middle East.
“I have a little rock and roll band and was playing in a restaurant in London about 22-23 years ago and I remember one of the people there was a Crown Prince from Bahrain,” Jordan recalls. “We got talking and he asked me for the loan of a show car, and I obviously I gave one to him.
“Two weeks later it was photographed everywhere and captioned ‘this is a Formula 1 car in the desert in Bahrain and two years from now this car will be racing here’. So I have had a great strong relationship with the region and I am so proud and happy that the races in the Middle East have proved to be such a success.”
Jordan doesn’t just come to the region for the F1 though. He was here for the Dubai International Motor Show, checking out the vehicles on display and taking part in a question and answer session with event attendees. He sees the innovation at these types of shows as inextricably linked with F1, with mainstream car manufacturers taking inspiration from what they see on the track and constructors doing the same with the cutting edge tech emanating from commercial vehicle design.
“Everything I did at Formula One was all about new innovations, new technologies, what drives the public, what drives the perception of where we are going and, very often, whether it’s motor sport or the car industry, it’s usually at the pinnacle of maximising technology,” he says.
“So I was excited to see what’s going on here. I noticed a huge emphasis on electric vehicles and totally new ideas about mobility and where are we going in the future – families, kids, grandkids … how they are going to be going around the world.”
Jordan is also keen to visit the UAE for non-motor-related activities. Most particularly, golf. He describes the Yas Links course, a stone's throw from the Yas Marina Circuit that will host this weekend's F1 season-finale, as “sensational”.
“The last three holes there are the best in golf,” he says. “Comparing with Cypress Point or anywhere. They’re unbeatable.”
He also likes the course at Dubai Creek, and has fond memories of playing there with former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell.
Hamilton wrapped up this season's championship with two races to spare at the United States Grand Prix this month.
That leaves Hamilton one shy of Michael Schumacher's record of seven titles, but Jordan reckons the Mercedes driver may not have things his own way again next season.
“In the second year of Honda, and knowing how good those people are, I think Max Verstappen will be a big contender for the championship next year,” Jordan says. “He’s is so exciting to watch and Lewis Hamilton knows it.
“You’ve also just had Charles Leclerc come onto the scene and he’s going to be a sensational driver when he races.
“Do not assume that Lewis Hamilton can win the championship next year because I think it’ll be a lot tougher.”
Published: November 26, 2019 09:53 AM