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Lotus F1 Team's French driver Romain Grosjean drives during the third practice at the Yas Marina Circuit prior to the 2012 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Already compared to Monaco in some circles, Richard Cregan and his staff are looking to make the race feature more unique experiences for fans.
Lotus F1 Team's French driver Romain Grosjean drives during the third practice at the Yas Marina Circuit prior to the 2012 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Already compared to Monaco in some circles, Richard Cregan and his staff are looking to make the race feature more unique experiences for fans.

Yas hope that more fans say 'yes' to Abu Dhabi GP ticket choices

Comparison to Monaco aside, Yas organisers are hoping to develop more unique experiences for fans attending the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Gary Meenaghan reports.

MONTE CARLO // Squeezed between a couple of super-yachts in Monaco Harbour, the Apache II is a silver-and-white picture of luxury, complete with polished teak interior.

At the start of last week's Formula One activities, the deck of the boat enjoyed a cerulean splash of colour as Abu Dhabi Grand Prix officials converted it into a floating function suite.

As invited guests arrived, the boat gently swayed, making the ice in the little tray of complimentary Yas Island Iced Teas clink enticingly.

International agents and on-sellers were handed the aqua-blue mocktails by crew clad in Yas aprons, while circuit chief executive Richard Cregan mingled gregariously, dressed in a smart suit jacket and jeans.

Lamb samosas and skewers of steak floated around appealingly.

A charm offensive has never been less offensive.

The evening's primary aim was to promote the fifth anniversary of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which will take place November 1-3.

By doing so aboard a boat at the most luxurious event on the Formula One calendar, it is hoped the UAE capital's race will strengthen its image as the Monte Carlo of the Middle East.

"When you go way back to when the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix concept was first created, there was a lot of ideas put together to come up with something special for the Middle East, and one of the things we looked at was here," Cregan said.

"You try to pull elements from all the top races, and Monaco is impossible to ignore because it's one of the best in terms of weekend. Of course, you look at this and you want to try to replicate it, and if you see what Abu Dhabi has achieved in four years, I think we can be very proud."

Al Tarek Salem Al Ameri, Yas Marina's senior director of commercial, said a direct comparison cannot be made but there are definite similarities between the two.

"Monaco obviously has the history and prestige and has been around for many years, so it is good to align with that," he said. "It is part of the tradition in F1 and we would like to start our own tradition."

Al Ameri calls the new ticket options "an explosion of choices".

Initiatives are in place to expand the appeal of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with particular attention being paid to families and Emirati nationals.

The most significant sees the grassy knoll that greets visitors to Yas Marina being opened up to the viewing public, a decision that increases the circuit's capacity by 10 per cent.

With ticket prices starting from Dh395 per day, organisers also hope it will appeal to a previously untapped market.

"There was a segment of the market we were not in touch with," said Al Ameri, "so now we start to try to appeal to them."

Options include Friday Brunch deals and a Big Three package with access to Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.

"The most important thing this year is we are trying to open up the venue to more people," Cregan said.

"Opening up Abu Dhabi Hill is key to that.

"Every race has its own DNA, whether it is Spa or Singapore or Silverstone. Every circuit has its spot that becomes known and one of those spots for us is Abu Dhabi Hill. By opening it up, we are catering to a completely different market, which for us is very exciting."




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