ABU DHABI // The final Formula One grand prix of next season is likely to be in Abu Dhabi again, although on a slightly later date than the capital's inaugural event. Broadcasters and F1 team managers were handed provisional race calendars for 2010 at the Belgian Grand Prix meeting yesterday, with Abu Dhabi scheduled to host its race next year on November 7. This year's event is on November 1.
It means that the next F1 season will be bookended by races in the Middle East, with Bahrain scheduled to host the opening race on March 14, more than a month earlier than this year's round at the Sakhir circuit. The provisional dates were not confirmed by the world motorsport governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, yesterday. They have to be presented formally by the World Motor Sport Council, which meets in Paris.
However, Richard Cregan, the chief executive of the race organiser, Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, who was in Belgium yesterday, said he hoped that the dates would remain the same. "I've seen the schedule for 2010 this morning," he said. "Again, it's a nice position to be in and it is in keeping with what's happened this year. "I can see [the calendar] staying like this and we'll be in a strong position next year as an established race.
"It's all dependent on deals being done and contracts being signed. We'll wait a while and see if the WMC [World Motor Sport Council] ratifies the calendar. "We're happy with the current situation and will always support any decision the FIA and Formula One Management [which owns F1's promotion of content] make," he said. Changes to the race calendar are still possible following the first announcement. Abu Dhabi's race date was moved forwards two weeks after the provisional 2009 calendar was released in June last year, and Canada's race was dropped entirely.
However, it is rare for the first and last races to be changed, making it highly unlikely at this stage that Abu Dhabi would lose its place as the last race of next season. Mohammed ben Sulayem, the FIA's vice president for sport, said: "The calendar has to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council, but it is just perfect for the Gulf. When we first talked about taking races to the Middle East, we always thought about the conditions to make it the best race possible for drivers to perform and spectators to watch.
"Last year in Bahrain [on April 29], we had stewards who were very dehydrated. The spectators found it difficult in the heat and the drivers too. It was not easy and I spoke to Bernie [Ecclestone, owner of F1's commercial rights] about this. "By moving it to the first race in March, it is a great move for Bahrain. The climate will be cooler and I expect to see a lot more people. Everyone will enjoy it better."
If the dates are confirmed, it will cement Abu Dhabi's position as the finale to the F1 season, after years in which Brazil hosted the last race. Two races next year, in Canada and Britain, are provisional. Neither is yet in a position to confirm its participation next season - Canada because of doubts over whether a commercial agreement will be signed with Formula One Management, and the UK owing to uncertainty over the readiness of the circuit.
* The National