With just over two months to go before Abu Dhabi makes motor-sport history by staging Formula One's first-ever day-night Grand Prix, Richard Cregan, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, the race organiser, has been busy consulting the F1 teams on the late change of plan. Cregan, speaking from Spa - the venue for today's Belgian Grand Prix - revealed opinions canvassed during yesterday's practice sessions had left him certain the decision to run the race through sunset will be vindicated come November 1.
"It's new, it's different and it's in keeping with things we've been doing at the circuit," he said, adding that a pair of unnamed drivers unequivocally supported the switch: "It's been a very good reaction, very positive. The drivers remarked it would make the race all the more interesting." While Singapore hosted F1's first night race last year, no circuit has ever run a day-night race. Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit is set to take on the mantle after news emerged this weekend the race's start has been switched from 3pm to 5pm, about 45 minutes before sunset.
Suggestions have been made that the day-night race could be unsafe for drivers, but Cregan pointed to the Yas circuit's cutting-edge technology to allay fears the dramatic twilight staging - and variable lighting conditions - might compromise driver safety. "The key is that the lights will be on from the beginning and [the drivers will] know what's happening," he said. A sophisticated lighting system featuring more than 400 horizontal and vertical floodlights - strategically placed both on and around, the track - has been incorporated into the circuit's design to replicate a natural daylight environment.
Cregan believes the system will be so effective the drivers will not even notice nightfall: "We will have the lights on before the race to ensure the same light conditions for the race's duration. The natural conditions will change but those on the track won't," Cregan said, adding: "We'll be using lots of high-level and low-level lights, which will eliminate shadows and other things." According to Cregan, Yas Marina circuit's twilight race will not only maximise the European television audiences tuning into Abu Dhabi's inaugural Grand Prix, but will enhance the experience for track-side spectators at the F1 season's finale.
The enthusiasm was echoed by the UAE's most famous driver, the rally legend Mohammed ben Sulayem, who said he is delighted the capital will be able to provide what he described as a "unique element" at the Yas Marina circuit. "There will be no danger because of the change from day to night," said the former Middle East rally champion, an FIA vice-president for sport. "These are super drivers, they know what they are doing, and we will have the best lighting to ensure the change will be smooth.
"What it will be is a test of their ability. They will have to adapt and it is the kind of situation which can give you the edge as a driver and help make you a champion. "When I was in rally, we used to drive in day and night. I used to find I was quicker in the night. It could make the difference in winning a race and a championship. "Some of these F1 drivers will be better in day, some better at night so it makes the race even more interesting."
The Abu Dhabi organisers have always said they would provide a unique race and occasion and ben Sulayem believes that will certainly be the case with the timing of the Grand Prix. "It is something we talked about for months and I think it's fantastic," he added. "This is going to be special for Abu Dhabi and something that everyone will remember in the history of Formula One. "You always look at providing a unique element for races and this is one.
"No matter what happens in the future, this is the first time it will happen, here in Abu Dhabi, and I believe it will work perfectly for everyone, the drivers, the spectators and the television audience." firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com