You may have read this week that 18-year-old Mohamed Al Mutawaa has been named as one of only 18 drivers chosen for the FIA Institute's 2012 Young Driver Excellence Academy.
This is a fully funded training programme designed by the FIA to help race and rally drivers develop their careers. So starting next month in Edinburgh, Al Mutawaa will attend the first in a series of workshops that focus on all aspect of driver performance and safety. He will be in very good hands as the highly regarded Formula One driver Alex Wurz will be doing the coaching, along with World Rally Champion co-driver Robert Reid.
This experience will be invaluable as Al Mutawaa is likely to become the UAE's role model for future young drivers who, like him, have their sights set very high.
Born in Ras Al Khaimah, Al Mutawaa followed in older brother Khalid's footsteps after he started motor racing when the national scene started in 2006. Al Mutawaa entered the academy programme in 2008 and won a season of training and racing in single seaters in the Autosport Academy series in Europe. He rather sensibly kept up his kart-racing activity and, the following year, progressed into the UAE Touring Car Championship with a Renault Clio before moving on to Class B of the 2010/11 UAE GT Championship.
Now supported by Yas Marina Circuit, Al Mutawaa is competing in Formula Gulf 1000, where he is being coached by GulfSport Racing's international driver Andy Pardoe. With a sophisticated computer logging data related to both driver and engine performance, and with an on-board video camera recording his driving, Al Mutawaa is able to review every driving session in minute detail with Pardoe and performance engineer Martin Hope.
A UAE driver being selected for the FIA Institute's programme represents a major milestone in the development of national motorsport. The quality of Al Mutawaa's colleagues at the academy is stunning. Twelve of the 18 have a motor-racing background, including McLaren Autosport BRDC award-winner Lewis Williamson and Formula Renault UK Champion Alex Lynn. The others come from rallying, including three drivers from the World Rally Championship Academy. These 18 drivers come from 16 countries.
And we shouldn't underestimate young drivers. Some of the F1 teams stayed on in Abu Dhabi to test a select number of them, with 21-year-old Jean-Eric Vergne having a lap in a Renault-engined Red Bull that was only four tenths of a second slower than Sebastian Vettel's pole position lap.
However, they were not all there on merit. Some of the teams tested pay drivers. For example, Stefano Colleti, who finished 11th in GP2, reportedly paid a lot of money to have a test with Torro Rosso, as did Dani Clos with HRT.
But with older drivers such as Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher refusing to hang up their boots, this leaves a growing list of hopefuls looking to fill them.
Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to find an Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.gulf-sport.com or on Facebook at GulfSportRacing.