x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Formula One helps define Abu Dhabi

The decision to host Formula One in Abu Dhabi was based on sound reasoning.

When Abu Dhabi was announced in 2007 as the latest location to host a Formula One race, a frequent reaction from many around the world was “Abu where?”

With the fifth race just a couple of days away, the impact of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on the capital’s profile is evident. Millions around the world now have not just heard about Abu Dhabi but are familiar with the characteristics the UAE capital wants to project about itself: a modern, tolerant and ambitious city that is recreating itself on the edge of the Gulf.

This transformation demonstrates that Formula One is far more than the noisy and indulgent spectacle that some decry it as, and that Abu Dhabi in particular was a prime example of the benefits of international exposure the race is able to provide.

But the race has provided far more than a spectacular motor-racing event and enhanced name awareness for its host city.

At the time the Abu Dhabi Formula One was announced in early 2007, the Yas Marina Circuit was little more than a notion and Yas Island itself was effectively undeveloped. Legions of critics claimed there was no chance that a purpose-built Formula One circuit and all the associated hotels and hospitality outlets would be ready in time, prompting an entirely different kind of race to prove the naysayers wrong.

“We didn’t have a track, we didn’t have a date and we didn’t have history in Formula One,” Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak recalled just before the first race.

“I can’t describe the amount of times people said there’s no chance you guys will deliver this track on time for this race. But we did it.”

That delivered a powerful message to the world that Abu Dhabi not only harboured lofty ambitions but it also had the hard skills that could turn that vision into reality. Behind the style, there is also substance.

Other benefits have flowed from the decision to host Formula One. The so-called Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) market has boomed in the capital, with many now timed specifically to coincide with the Grand Prix weekend. Is it any wonder they are so well-attended?