HOCKENHEIM // Mercedes-GP and Ferrari, two Formula One teams with strong ties to Abu Dhabi, are considering holding their Young Driver Test in France instead of running the scheduled programme planned for Yas Marina Circuit in November.
Aabar, an investment arm of the Abu Dhabi Government, is the majority shareholder of Mercedes-GP, while the UAE capital is home to Ferrari's only theme park, yet Norbert Haug, the head of motorsport operations at Mercedes-Benz, confirmed to The National last night that while "nothing has been finally decided", the German team are exploring the option of running at Magny-Cours the week immediately following the Italian Grand Prix in September.
A spokesperson for Ferrari also confirmed the Italian manufacturers are looking at the possibility.
The Young Driver Test planned for Yas Marina Circuit is due to take place the week after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 4. For the past two seasons, all 12 teams have run cars in the UAE capital, but this year Williams, HRT and Marussia opted to hold their test days at Silverstone, which they did last week.
"We were discussing this for a long time," Haug said of holding various Young Driver Test weekends.
"One of the main arguments against Abu Dhabi for some teams was that the mechanics would have been out for five weeks, so then we decided to split the test with Silverstone, because teams that are situated in England wanted to do the test at Silverstone. Now a third race track, Magny Cours, has come into the plan.
"Normally, we would say OK, let's do the test altogether, three days at the end of the season, but you know we are in a democratic world and therefore it was decided to split it."
Following August's month-long break, only one race from the final nine events is not paired back to back with another grand prix.
The demands such a schedule places on staff is widely appreciated by teams, and with Abu Dhabi's race arriving immediately after the Indian Grand Prix and followed soon after with the United States Grand Prix, which is paired back-to-back with Brazil, a Young Drivers Test at Yas would, for some, appear excessively gruelling.
All three teams that took part in the Silverstone tests were quick to make clear the decision not to run in the UAE was down to logistics and scheduling and nothing to do with the city or circuit.
John Booth, team owner of Marussia, said yesterday: "We looked at the calendar at the end of the year and running in Abu Dhabi would have meant our mechanics working - or travelling - for five consecutive weeks. We didn't feel we had the necessary man power to do that."
Team representatives of Caterham, Toro Rosso and Sauber all confirmed they intend to run at Yas Marina, while McLaren-Mercedes said at Silverstone it is their intention to run in Abu Dhabi.
Pastor Maldonado of Williams proved fastest during the opening practice sessions ahead of tomorrow's German Grand Prix, but rain showers largely affected running.
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