DUBAI // The Formula One fraternity will descend on the UAE this winter ahead of next season's world championship, however whether the scheduled pre-season tests are held in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or both remains to be seen.
In Budapest this weekend, the 11 F1 team managers held a series of meetings to discuss potential dates and locations for the three tests. It is understood it has been agreed the first test will commence in Jerez, Spain, on January 27, one week later than originally planned.
The more pertinent question is where the second and third tests in February will run. There is an acceptance that they will both be held in the Middle East in order to guarantee warm track conditions. This season's testing in Spain was heavily criticised after cold and wet conditions rendered the sessions largely unproductive.
The Bahrain International Circuit has made its interest known, as have Dubai Autodrome and Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit.
The Autodrome, the only one of the three circuits that does not host a grand prix, has emerged as the frontrunner in recent days, with speculation suggesting Emirates Airline's recent $180m (Dh661m) sponsorship of F1 could work in Dubai's favour. Track officials said that nothing has been finalised, although the circuit is ready and willing to host.
Some team managers are believed to be sceptical about the value of testing at a track where teams have no comparable data, however. Bahrain is unlikely to be successful, as its position as one of the first races on the calendar mean the cars could arrive at the race already adapted to the conditions and produce a procession.
Yas Marina remain confident they have everything the teams would require and can offer the experience of having been used as a host venue for F1's young driver tests for the past three seasons.
No decision is likely to be made now until after the summer shutdown, which starts this week and runs until the middle of next month.