Yas will have the answers

Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen say at a race day media centre at the Emirates Palace they are excited about coming to Abu Dhabi.
An artist's illustration of Yas Island.
An artist's illustration of Yas Island.

ABU DHABI // Formula One racing came to Abu Dhabi 15 months early on Sunday when the Ferrari team created a race day media centre at the Emirates Palace hotel with their two drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, occupying pride of place in a video link up especially for their supporters in the UAE.

Raikkonen, the world drivers' champion, and Massa, who is making a solid attempt to succeed him, answered a series of questions before going out to do their business at the European Grand Prix in Valencia. Both drivers were excited about the possibility of pitting their wits against each other and rival teams in the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November next year - the concluding race of the season which will possibly decide the destiny of the world championship.

"It is a local race for us because Mudabala are our sponsors," said Raikkonen about his Yas Island debut. "The UAE is a big area for Ferrari and I have a lot of fans there. It will be interesting to see the new circuit there. "I always like to go to new places but some of the old ones are really nice and it is sad when we leave them behind. But hopefully we will have changes each year and I am sure Abu Dhabi is going to be a good change. I am looking forward to going there."

Massa was even more enthusiastic. The Brazilian accompanied his Finnish colleague Raikkonen on a what they both regarded as a "fun trip" to the capital last year to drive a Ferrari on the open road, to the delight of the fans who turned up to watch. He can hardly wait for his next visit. "The people were so excited when I drove a Formula One car along the road in front of them and it was a terrific experience for them and for me as well," said Massa. "I am looking forward to going back to Abu Dhabi. Last time I spent most of my time in the hotel because it was so fantastic. Hopefully when I return I will see more and enjoy more of the city."

Massa, who is looking forward to visiting his team's new theme park, which is being constructed along with the race track, and a host of other amenities on the Yas Island site, added: "Ferrari is very popular in the Emirates area. "We are always made very welcome. It is a fantastic place to visit and we enjoy the facilities a lot. How this country is developing is really fantastic." Massa also had stronger views than his teammate on the way introduction of new circuits on to the Formula One calendar. "We are going to many new countries now and I like that," he said. "All the new venues are well prepared to receive the races.

"I am really in favour of taking away some of the races that are not very exciting and replacing them with ones that are. Hopefully we will have changes every year. It makes it more fun." Both drivers made the observation that move towards creating street circuits in cities like Valencia, the new stage for Sunday's European Grand Prix which attracted 115,000 spectators, is a step forward for the sport.

Massa, who is confident of overhauling Lewis Hamilton in the battle for the world championship in what promises to be another thrilling finale to the campaign, added: "All the new circuits are exciting to drive on but they are also extremely safe. I am sure the same will apply to Abu Dhabi when we finally go there." @email:wjohnson@thenational.ae

Published: August 25, 2008 04:00 AM

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