x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Yas Marina preparations on target

Mark Hughes, the operations director at Yas Marina Circuit, is pleased with how plans progressing for November's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

SILVERSTONE, ENGLAND // Improvements for this year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are ahead of schedule following a series of meetings at Silverstone this weekend, said Mark Hughes, the operations director at Yas Marina Circuit.

Hughes was joined by Stephen Umfreville, the commercial director at Yas, during a one-day visit to the British track. They met with Allsport Management, the Switzerland-based company which manage Formula One's commercial rights, to discuss branding and infrastructure issues ahead of the Abu Dhabi race on November 13.

"We are looking at how we can develop the Abu Dhabi product and whether there is anything else we can do to improve," Hughes said.

"We wanted to talk to them about the support races and about our future plans."

Hughes joined the team at Yas Marina from the Bahrain International Circuit three months before the UAE's inaugural race in 2009.

He left shortly after the event to head up the coordination of the first Indian Grand Prix, which will take place later this year in October. When his wife became pregnant, the family moved back to Abu Dhabi.

"In many respects, we are ahead of where we were last year," Hughes said. "I came back in December and I am a stickler for planning things in advance because it makes everyone's life much easier. In the past, teams have waited, but F1 does not change massively every year, so there is no point."

Hughes and Umfreville met the entire Allsport team "from the CEO through to their various managers", Hughes said.

They discussed several issues, including the complications faced because of Abu Dhabi's position as the calendar's only twilight race.

"Ours is a little unusual in that it's a day-night race, so there are different power requirements and different lighting requirements to ensure the branding is in the right place and visible throughout," Hughes said.

Last year's event featured the Porsche Supercup and GP2 series, but with only five months to go until the capital's third F1 race, the support events have yet to be confirmed. Hughes said the operational side of things remain unchanged and he has a checklist to ensure there are no issues come race weekend.

"It's simple things such as knowing the nationalities of the drivers, making sure we have each of the national anthems and the respective flags," he said. "The podium, for instance, is one of the most highly visible parts of the grand prix weekend, so you don't want that to go wrong."

He added that as this year would see the introduction of a rooftop terrace and spa, as well as an ice cream bar, discussions were required with the management team of Formula One's exclusive Paddock Club.

"It is just to get a hand on what they are thinking about this year," Hughes said. "And whether there is any way we can help improve it."