x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Yas Marina track not to blame for bland Abu Dhabi races, says Cregan

The chief executive believes that car design and drivers not being willing to take a risk is behind the lack of overtaking in Formula One.

Richard Cregan, the chief executive of Yas Marina Circuit, says he does not believe losing out to Brazil to host the final grand prix of the season is a step down for the track.
Richard Cregan, the chief executive of Yas Marina Circuit, says he does not believe losing out to Brazil to host the final grand prix of the season is a step down for the track.

ABU DHABI // The current design of Formula One cars and an unwillingness by drivers to take risks are the main reason why it is so difficult to overtake in the sport at present.

That is the view of Richard Cregan, the chief executive at Yas Marina Circuit, who believes that passing in other races at the track in Abu Dhabi has proven that it is possible to make up places there.

Yas Marina came in for criticism from drivers and media pundits last November for its layout and alleged lack of overtaking opportunities during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso lost out on the drivers' title after being unable to get past Vitaly Petrov's Renault for 39 laps, despite his Ferrari being clearly faster.

Cregan believes that the problems that limit passing are not simply due to track design, and conceded that he had a smile on his face when he saw Alonso stuck behind Petrov again in last month's opening race of the new season in Australia, at a track, Albert Park, where it was believed to be easier to pass.

"Motorsport drivers always look for reasons as to why they can't win or can't pass so they can't succeed, so unfortunately in our case it was the track," he said.

"But what we saw in Melbourne was that Fernando had the same problem with a different situation and track and it was quite interesting to see that.

"Formula One has introduced a lot of initiatives this year to promote overtaking. The rear-wing control for the driver and the Kers (Kinetic energy recovery systems), and it will be interesting to see if that does help things."

The former Toyota F1 team manager is vehement that it is not the layout of the current tracks on the F1 calendar that has led to a lack of passing on the track.

"In terms of overtaking in Formula One it is an inherently difficult situation with the current design of the cars," he said.

"You can see it around the world that you have tracks equally as good as Yas Marina Circuit, many of them with a longer heritage and still F1 becomes a procession.

"You could see from our races, whether it be GP2, V8s or the GT1s, there was amazing passing, amazing racing, taking place."

Ahead of this weekend's second round of the season, in Malaysia, Cregan believes overtaking is possible, but that the driver should not expect it to be easy, citing Kamui Kobayashi, the Sauber driver, as an example of what can be achieved.

"I think a lot of it is down to what the driver is willing to do," he said. "Kamui Kobayashi has earned a name for himself in Formula One as he is somebody who will take a chance and go down the inside, or go around the outside, and take any opportunity for passing.

"A lot of it is down to the driver and what is at stake" in the race.

Despite his defence of the track, the Irishman added that he and other Yas Marina officials were always in discussion with competitors on how to improve the venue, and there could be changes to the circuit in the offing to facilitate the arrival of the MotoGP motorcycling series.

"We are looking at various track modifications that we have to do for MotoGP and also what impact they would have on Formula One," he said.

Yas Marina officials are working with officials of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile and the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme as well as drivers, Cregan said.

"It is quite interesting to get their feedback as to what they feel will improve the circuit," he said.

"We want to be active in terms of increasing the spectacle."

This year's grand prix is on November 13 but for the first time is not the season finale - that honour falling to Brazil two weeks later.

Cregan dismissed the suggestion that not being the final race is a step down for the track.

"Whether we're the last race or the penultimate race I do not see it raising any issues for us," he said.

"Last year was a great race in the sense it was the race for the championship, but as an event we're establishing ourselves as a great event.

"The grand prix in Abu Dhabi is seen as one of those events that you have to go to and see it, and that is down to the hard work that the UAE and Abu Dhabi have done to promote the event on a world level."

 

gcaygill@thenational.ae