Al Tareq Al Ameri: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix committed to remaining as the Formula One finale
The Yas Marina Circuit chief executive happy with event's place on season calendar despite Lewis Hamilton having wrapped up title ahead of Sunday's race in the UAE
Yas Marina Circuit officials are committed to keeping the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the season finale on the Formula One calendar.
As preparations for the 10th staging of the race this weekend intensify, the track's chief executive, Al Tareq Al Ameri, confirmed he is happy with the event's position despite Lewis Hamilton having already wrapped up the 2018 drivers' championship.
It is the third time in four years that the five-time world champion will arrive in the UAE having already sealed the title, but Al Ameri believes the continued popularity of the event means they are content with where they are on the schedule.
All grandstand seats and spots on the Abu Dhabi Hill have been sold out for the three days of action, and Al Ameri credits the late November race date, when the climate is cooler, as key to encouraging tourists to attend the event.
"It works really for us to be the season finale," Al Ameri said on Monday. "The end of November window is good for us as it encourages people to come here, to enjoy themselves and to experience what Abu Dhabi has to offer."
Al Ameri believes the fact the championships are already decided will help the spectacle, with no danger of team orders like those in Russia when Hamilton's Mercedes-GP teammate Valtteri Bottas was requested to slow down and give up the lead to help the Briton's title push.
"We have seen it before that it has not taken a lot from the event," Al Ameri added. "Plus it usually makes for a good race in that you see the drivers allowed to go all out for victory with no team strategy or orders to get in the way. It produces pure racing."
Reflecting on the growth of the grand prix since its first race in November 2009, Al Ameri says it has grown into one of the highlights of the year in the UAE.
"I think it is the pinnacle of the sporting calendar," he said. "It is an international event, it grabs the attention of the globe for three days here in Abu Dhabi. It is always amazing to be able to host the season finale here and it is a good opportunity to celebrate."
Al Ameri insists there is much more to come in the future and says they are working closely with the sport's owners, Liberty Media, to find further ways to develop the event.
"We have a really close relationship with them," he said. "We always try to investigate how we can push the envelope and share ideas with them on how we can make changes to improve things even more.
"We are hoping there will be an evolution to the event. We always define ourselves as the modern definition of a F1 event."
One new initiative for this year is that there will be an area in the Marina Grandstand dedicated to Max Verstappen fans.
The Red Bull Racing driver has quickly become one of the most popular drivers since his debut as a 17 year old in 2015.
Orange Verstappen shirts in support of the Dutchman have become a regular sight, and Al Ameri said the track had decided to act for this year's race, with around 500 people expected to be congregated in the stand, with a Dutch DJ positioned behind the grandstand to add to the atmosphere.
"It happened naturally," he said. "We began seeing some momentum [in ticket sales from Verstappen fans] and the team, when they ran the analysis post event, they engaged the fan base and where the sales were coming from. So we decided to support it and see where it goes."
Updated: November 23, 2018 10:41 AM