Abu Dhabi looks all but certain to lose the privilege of hosting the grand finale to next year's Formula One season. Some motor racing fans in the capital will be disappointed at the news, announced yesterday by the World Motor Sport Council. Next year's F1 calendar, for the first time since 2005, will contain 19 races, culminating in the Brazilian Grand Prix on November 14. Abu Dhabi will stage the penultimate event on October 31.
This year, the first time that the UAE has hosted a grand prix, Abu Dhabi has pride of place, with its November 1 race forming the end-of-season spectacular. Richard Cregan, the chief executive of the race organiser Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, was not disheartened by the reshuffle. "Formula One is a truly global sport, the addition of new teams and a 19th race in 2010 indicates positive growth," he said. "We are delighted Yas Marina Circuit is part of the championship as it continues to grow."
Neil Vorano, the motoring editor of The National, said: "As the last race of the season, so many people around the world will be tuning in to see the results. "Everyone wants the last race of the year to be the decider, to extend the drama throughout the whole season, as happened last year with Lewis Hamilton winning the title in Brazil over Felipe Massa. But the reality is that's not always the case."
Next year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will again be a dusk-to-dark race starting at 5pm, like this year's 55-lap event. Last week, the Yas Marina Circuit was handed over by its developer to the organisers of the grand prix, two and a half years after construction started and six weeks before the track's first race. Bruno Senna, the nephew of the late champion Ayrton Senna, marked the occasion with the first official lap of the track in a F1 car.
The event is expected to attract almost 60,000 fans to watch drivers including the current championship leader, Jenson Button, the reigning world champion, Lewis Hamilton, and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso. Next year's F1 season will start on March 14 in Bahrain. There is one event awaiting confirmation, the Canadian Grand Prix, subject to the completion of contract negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management.