Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Former F1 drivers are optimistic

This year's Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi will trigger a boom in interest in motorsport in the region and lead to long-lasting tourism benefits for the UAE, a trio of former Formula One drivers predict.

This year's Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi will trigger a boom in interest in motorsport in the region and lead to long-lasting tourism benefits for the UAE, a trio of former Formula One drivers predicted. They also insisted it was right for F1 to venture into different parts of the world, even if it meant that some classic circuits no longer hosted Grands Prix; traditional hosts Canada and France are missing from this year's calendar.

Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Johnny Herbert were at Dubai Autodrome over the weekend to compete in two races in the Speedcar Series, both won by Alesi. A round of next season's series, in which all drivers race 6.2-litre stock cars, is likely to be held as a support race to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Alesi, a former Ferrari and Benetton F1 driver, said the Abu Dhabi track on Yas Island would be on a par with the world's top circuits.

"They spend money very, very well here and now they have decided to have Formula One, they will make the best circuit for sure," said the 44-year-old Frenchman. The decision to bring the F1 circus to Abu Dhabi was good for the region and the sport, he said. "It's a very good window for the world because there's nothing better to promote the country, but at the same time it's a very good opportunity for Formula One to go to a modern part of the world."

Alesi conceded it was "a little bit" of a shame that circuits with considerable motorsport heritage were losing Grand Prix, but said the increase in enthusiasm for the sport seen in Bahrain after it began hosting a Grand Prix would be repeated in the UAE. "There is a big interest in motorsport and more people are following it," he said. "Formula One has to follow the progress of the countries." According to Frentzen, 41 - a former Grand Prix winner with the Williams and Jordan teams - the UAE will "for sure" receive benefits that extend beyond the race weekend, thanks to an elevated international profile and an increase in interest from holidaymakers.

"It is very good advertising," he said. "Formula One is not only a high-class motorsport, but is a tourism endorsement." Johnny Herbert, a Briton whose Grand Prix career included spells with Benetton, Lotus and Stewart and three race wins, said he too was looking forward to the UAE's first F1 race. "To have a Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi is very good because there's a lot of investment going into it," he said. "It's good to have Formula One somewhere where it's never been before."

Motorsport, he said, "develops and moves on", adding: "It is nice to have old classic race tracks, but they are still there and still used by other formulas." Given how close the past three F1 seasons had been, with the title decided in the last race, Herbert said it was "quite possible" the championship would still be open when Formula One rolled into the UAE for the Nov 1 race - the last of the 2009 season.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Shah Rukh Khan performs at the IPL Gala dinner to open IPL VII at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

In pictures: Shah Rukh Khan stars at IPL Gala dinner in Abu Dhabi

The superstar entertainer Shah Rukh Khan on stage last night at a gala dinner to launch the Indian Premier League cricket tournament.

No words can describe this April 17, your captions will

Have a catchy caption for this picture. Share it with us and we might publish it and reward you.

 When this 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta stamp goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s in New York on June 17, it is expected to attract a world record bid for a single stamp of up to $20 million (Dh73.4m). Courtesy Sotheby’s

Rare 1856 stamp up for auction at Sotheby’s

This is one of the world’s rarest stamps and when it goes up for auction in June it should fetch $20million. Its history since it was issued in 1856 is fascinating – and includes one murderous chapter, as Jonathan Gornall reports

 This Dh17,000 Miele system can prepare your choice of coffee - from capuccino to espresso - at a touch of a button. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: Miele puts art in coffee making

Miele has devoted itself to the art of preparing the black liquid with its beautifully designed coffee machines, living up to its mantra of turning kitchens into cafés.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National