x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Third time will be a charm for Cregan

Richard Cregan, Yas Marina Circuit's chief executive, is confident Sunday's Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the most entertaining yet at the track.

Richard Cregan, the Yas Marina chief executive, says there have been a lot of technical changes to the cars this year, which will make the race interesting.
Richard Cregan, the Yas Marina chief executive, says there have been a lot of technical changes to the cars this year, which will make the race interesting.

ABU DHABI // Richard Cregan, Yas Marina Circuit's chief executive, is confident Sunday's Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the most entertaining yet at the track.

He is pegging his expectations to the two DRS (Drag Reduction System) zones, where cars within a second of the car in front can adjust their rear wing to gain more straight-line speed, giving them a better chance at making a pass.

"The big plus for us is having the two DRS zones at the end of the main straight and into Turn 11 and I think we are in for some really exciting stuff," he said.

Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull Racing driver, is the only man to have won at Yas Marina in an F1 car.

The German arrived in Abu Dhabi having already retained his drivers' title, and it was something of a surprise to see him crash into the barriers at Turn One during Friday's second practice.

That was one of a number of incidents on the first day of the event, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the double world champion, crashing at the same corner as Vettel. Several other drivers were involved in spins.

Cregan believes a change in the F1 regulations was a factor in the spate of incidents, but warned spectators against expecting to see similar developments during Sunday's 55-lap race.

"There have been a lot of technical changes to the cars this year in terms of their aero packages and tyres," he said.

"It is a very different car set-up to last year, but that is what Fridays are for.

"Drivers of a professional level as Sebastian are out there on Friday testing. They are testing their limits, the car's limits, and trying to find that delicate balance between performance and staying on the track."

Two years ago, during the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Cregan's main focus was on ensuring that the big event went off without a hitch. But he hopes he can sufficiently switch off Sunday to be able to enjoy the race.

"I won't say I will relax, but I will try and watch it," he said on Saturday, before crediting his tranquil demeanour to the experience that has come from holding the race twice before.

"I think probably the event for us is very different [from 2009] in the sense that it is our third year of operation, we have a good team in place who have time to concentrate on their core job, where as in the first year, in particular, we were just trying to deliver the circuit, we were trying to deliver the F1 event itself and we were doing a lot of firefighting.

"Whereas now in the third year definitely it is … I won't say it is easier because we are dealing more now with detail … but at the same time the big effort this year has been planning, so it has given us some flexibility around the time of the event."

The event was given a fillip on Thursday before an F1 car had turned a wheel in anger when it was confirmed that the last of the 50,000 tickets to the event had been sold, ensuring a sell-out for a third successive year.

Cregan said: "It says a lot for Abu Dhabi and the UAE that we can still sell out an event of this stature and it says it all about the event itself that it has become a must-attend social event as well as a sporting event."

One new scheme that has been launched for this year: ticket holders this weekend have the chance to buy tickets for next year's grand prix, scheduled for November 4, at 2011 prices.

Cregan said the measure was aimed at saying "thank you" to the Yas Marina Circuit's customers. "This year we looked at different ways of retaining our customer base and give something back, particularly to those who have been very loyal to us, coming back year on year," he said.

"So we said 'why don't we sell the tickets this year to the customers during this year's event for 2012 at this year's price so that gives them the chance to buy into the experience [and] plan for the fourth of November and 2012'."

gcaygill@thenational.ae