ABU DHABI // Organisers of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix insist they have no quarrel with the FIA World Motorsport Council (WMSC) over the surprise decision to move the season-ending round of next year's provisional 20-race Formula One calendar away from the UAE capital.
The enlarged 2011 schedule - the longest in F1 history - features an earlier start and later finish than this season, with the championship-closing Brazilian Grand Prix pencilled in for November 27. Abu Dhabi's staging of the penultimate race is scheduled for November 13. "We're not disappointed at all, we're happy with it," said Richard Cregan, the chief executive of Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi's F1 venue. "It's always been our intention to feature at the latter end of the calendar, but not to necessarily be the last round. The penultimate race could well be a championship decider, but that's not our priority.
"The most important thing from our position is that we continue focusing on hosting the best race possible - that's what we strive to do." Mohammed ben Sulayem, the FIA vice-president for sport and the president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), agreed. "We've tried the last race and now we can try the penultimate," said ben Sulayem, who attended last week's WMSC meeting where the 2011 calendar was ratified.
"In my opinion, the last race is a double-edged sword; it is impossible to know if the championship will be decided or not. Really, there is no benefit to having the first race or the last. The benefit comes with having a race, with staging the competition." While the 2011 calendar remains provisional and subject to change, Cregan ruled out the possibility that Yas Marina Circuit - built, according to operators Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management (ADMM) , for an estimated Dhs4.53billion - might swap dates with Brazil's Interlagos circuit to ensure the emirate retains last-race honours for a third consecutive year.
"November is a good time for us in terms of the temperature and climate, we have no complaints, we're happy," said Cregan. "Brazil, like ourselves, has a window and long before the final calendar was ratified, there were discussions between every [grand prix organiser] involved. We all have to make sure that what we do is good for the sport; it is in all our best interests." "The time of year is the most important thing for us," ben Sulayem added. "My job, after co-ordinating with the race's management team and Khaldoon [al Mubarak, the ADMM chairman and an ATCUAE board member], is to make sure Abu Dhabi got its race in November and ensure the best conditions possible for F1 officials, teams and spectators - we have done this."
Ben Sulayem added there were no plans to alter the Abu Dhabi race's unique twilight format. "It went perfectly last year, so why change it? The day-to-night timing, in terms of international broadcasting and our spectators at Yas, is perfect." For very different reasons, Cregan and ben Sulayem are both satisfied with next term's expanded F1 schedule. "The calendar is incredible," said Cregan. "It's been the target to have a 20-round season for some time and there have been discussions with teams for the last three or four years to that purpose, to that target.
"F1 is expanding, there is a new race this year and a new race next year - that's down to the work of Formula One Management [FOM] and [F1 franchise owner] Bernie Ecclestone. They have got new races in the calendar without compromising logistics and they've managed to keep costs as low as possible." With the precarious global financial situation responsible for a raft of cost-cutting measures across the majority of international motorsport series, ben Sulayem insisted F1's longest-ever season illustrated how the sport has defied the recession and continues to prosper.
"Everyone is agreed [about 20 races] - the teams, FOM, the circuits, everyone," said ben Sulayem. "The support and demand shows the decision is the right one. "It's not cheap, or easy, to run a Formula One team, but the support for the new calendar shows the championship is healthy." The 2011 calendar includes four back-to-back races - Malaysia and China, Spain and Monaco, Germany and Hungary, and Japan and Korea.
Meanwhile, the new Indian Grand Prix in Delhi is the fourth in six consecutive non-European based rounds which end the campaign. Tickets for this November's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are already on sale and can be purchased from the Yas Marina Circuit website. email@example.com