x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Putting Abu Dhabi on the map

Richard Cregan praises Vettel and track marshals but there is no rest for Yas Marina though with a busy winter schedule in store for the capital's track.

Sebastian Vettel is congratulated after taking the chequered flag at Yas Marina Circuit to win the Abu Dhabi GP and the drivers’ title.
Sebastian Vettel is congratulated after taking the chequered flag at Yas Marina Circuit to win the Abu Dhabi GP and the drivers’ title.

ABU DHABI // Yas Marina Circuit entered the history books on Sunday night as being the location of Sebastian Vettel becoming the youngest Formula One world champion.

But for Richard Cregan, the track's chief executive, one of the most impressive moments from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was just how quickly the circuit stewards were able to clear the road following the spectacular opening-lap collision between Michael Schumacher's Mercedes GP and the Force India-Mercedes of Vitantonio Liuzzi at Turn 6. The Force India rode up over the front of the Mercedes and the front left wheel just missed the cockpit and Schumacher's helmet by a matter of inches.

With debris spread across the track and both cars wedged together, the safety car was brought out for the first time in an F1 race at Yas Marina.

Remarkably, despite the wreckage, the track marshals were able to clear the track so that racing was able to resume at the start of lap six.

Cregan paid tribute to the work of the marshals, saying: "They did a tremendous job to clear up so quickly and it was a credit to them and their training.

"I know that Charlie Whiting [the F1 race director] was very pleased and impressed with the job that everyone did in that clear up and that is a great tribute to them and to the track."

Cregan confessed to being very relieved to see Schumacher walk away from the collision unhurt, and he added: "When you first saw it, it was a scary moment.

"I think the fact that Michael was able to get out of the car unhurt showed just how far the safety of F1 cars has come in recent years, with the increased sides on the cockpit helping to protect the driver that bit more than in the past."

While the seven-time world champion had an early end to his race, his German compatriot Vettel had a far more fulfilling afternoon as he won at Yas Marina for the second successive year.

The 10th victory of the 23-year-old's career proved enough for the Red Bull-Renault driver to take the drivers' title as Fernando Alonso, who had led the championship going into the race, could finish only in seventh place.

Cregan felt that Vettel was a worthy champion, and was pleased Abu Dhabi had been the scene of his success.

"I think he is a well-deserved champion and he has been very quick all year," he said.

"I think what was key for him was getting the pole position on Saturday because, as we have seen before, Sebastian is very hard to catch once he is in front and he showed that again on Sunday.

"Him becoming the youngest champion and doing it in Abu Dhabi is great, and in some ways is helping even more to put Abu Dhabi and Yas Marina Circuit on the map."

The build-up and the race weekend was an exhausting time for Cregan, but he revealed he had no plans to put his feet up now it is over, especially with the younger driver F1 tests beginning at the circuit today followed by the winter programme.

"There is no real time for rest," he said. "We have the F1 boys here for another week of testing and then we have two weeks of GP2, and then we are on to our winter programme with drag racing, the Aussie V8s, the GT1 sportscars and the drifting all to come, so it is going to be very busy in the coming months."

 

gcaygill@thenational.ae