SILVERSTONE, ENGLAND // Abu Dhabi would consider hosting two rival races if the split in Formula One leads to competing championships next year, organisers said yesterday. At the same time, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), motorsport's governing body, started legal action to stop the top F1 teams, including Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull, from carrying out a threat to run a breakaway series in 2010 after failing to reach agreement on proposals for the future that include a Dh241million budget cap for each team.
The bitter row has left the future of the sport in limbo and created uncertainty surrounding the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The capital has a seven-year agreement with Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management to host the event. The FIA said it would be "issuing legal proceedings without delay", adding that "preparations for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship will continue but publication of the final entry list will be put on hold".
But Richard Cregan, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management (ADMM), said he did not feel the F1 crisis would affect the ambitious plans for Yas Island, which will also include a Ferrari World theme park, and its circuit. "This won't affect Yas. We might have two races in the future," he said. "We will never not consider any kind of an event. In the case of that [a breakaway series] we will look at that event the same as any other. It would have to fit into our criteria to maximise the exposure and we will talk to anyone.
"We have to understand contractual obligations we have currently and honour those, and when we achieve that, we will move forward. The most important thing to remember is that we have established Yas Marina Circuit not just for Formula One. "Without wishing to be demeaning to F1, we are looking way beyond that. Our target is to run it for 300 days a year and to have in the region of five or six major events a year. We want the top events. We are in discussions with various groups at the moment; the Le Mans group, FIA GT, Australian V8s. We are looking very strong and Formula One is just one of those events."
He added: "We are bound by duty to maximise the usage of the circuit in Abu Dhabi. Our clear agenda is to put Abu Dhabi on the map in terms of motor sport, but in parallel with that, it is to create this destination expanding from our circuit that involves tourists and business people. "That's what we are aiming to do and this situation will not change that. I believe in the future we are going to have a very strong range of events and Formula One will be one of them."
Mr Cregan, who worked with the Toyota F1 team before his role in Abu Dhabi, said Formula One could survive, despite facing the biggest challenge in its 60-year history. Meanwhile, the Dubai Autodrome expressed tentative interest in hosting a race for the proposed new championship. Paul Velasco, the communications manager at the autodrome, said there had been no communication with the rival teams but "if we do receive a proposal, we will definitely consider it, provided the event is sanctioned by a world governing body". He added: "The Dubai Autodrome comes under the jurisdiction of the ATCUAE [Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE], which in turn is affiliated to the FIA. "So, we will consider a race only if it is sanctioned by the ATCUAE. We are not going to jeopardise our future for just one race."
The legal action launched last night by the FIA aims to prevent eight teams, all members of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), from organising a new series, citing contractual obligations. The final list of entrants for the 2010 championship will now be delayed, while Ferrari says it has started court action against the FIA to protect its contractual rights. Mr Cregan said "every sport goes through difficult times", adding that motorsport had survived many crises and that evolution is "something that has to happen".
Max Mosley, president of the FIA, said a compromise could be reached, and despite calls for him to quit, said the row meant he might continue beyond the end of his tenure in October. "What you can't do is walk away from your organisation in a crisis." firstname.lastname@example.org additional reporting, Ahmed Rizvi