When Mohammed ben Sulayem says Abu Dhabi's inaugural Grand Prix will be unlike anything seen, you take notice.
F1 circuit wins Sulayem's approval
ABU DHABI // He is the most experienced driver in the country. So when Mohammed ben Sulayem says Abu Dhabi's inaugural Grand Prix will be unlike anything seen, you take notice. The full specifications of the Yas Marina Circuit were revealed on Tuesday night, with organisers promising to make it one of the most distinctive races on the 2009 Formula One calendar.
In an interview with The National, Mr Sulayem - the 14-time Middle East Rally champion - said the circuit would be the envy of the motor-racing world and give fans an unparalleled view of one of the greatest sports on earth. He said the race would be spectacular for the city and the country, the drivers and the fans. Sulayem won the Middle East Rally Championship a record number of times between 1986 and 2002 and is now the president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE.
In his role as the UAE's representative of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the world motorsport governing body, he continues to play a key role in ensuring the smooth organisation of next year's race. And, if he gets his wish, he will get the chance to play an even more hands-on role in the development of the circuit. He spoke about exactly who this race would benefit and why.
"I am not just saying this because it is my country, I am saying it because it is true - it will be one of the best. They did not jump into it, and it came at the right time. "I believe that it will be the best thing that has ever happened here. The weather in November will be far better than October and it will be the most enjoyable race in the near future of F1, certainly. "It will be the biggest event in this city ever. There is no doubt about it. We are talking the biggest teams in the world, all the people coming, more than US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) in television rights, heads of states coming, live coverage going out to the whole world, a good city, a nice place and all the hospitality there is here.
"After one great race, people will want to come to Abu Dhabi even more. This will be the biggest sport or economic event here ever. In a way, it doesn't matter how many people it brings, it will get so much attention." "First of all, Turn One will be interesting as you join it immediately from the start grid, so drivers will be trying their best to get into position.
"But when you come round that straight again, the pit lane is there. When you exit the pit lane, you do so through a tunnel near the start grid. It is also a point, between Turns One and Three, where there is 15 metres of elevation, so you are going uphill. "So at one point, some drivers will be underground and others will be on the top so they can't see each other. It is very smart from a safety aspect.
"When you see another car beside you when you come from the pit lane, you get distracted, that is human. But here, you are not watching it, you are not racing beside each other. "You know there will be someone there when you exit because the radios will tell you, but it will be more of a surprise. "Turn One is a very obvious good overtaking place, and so is Turn Nine. The last very good overtaking place is Turn Thirteen, but it is clear there are many good places to overtake, so it should be very exciting for everyone.
"At one point, they will be going around 320km/h and then having to come right back down again to go into Turn Ten. Imagine how hard that is going to be on the brakes. It is going to be very, very difficult. "You are going to get a lot of manoeuvres, there will be a lot of different strategies from the teams to work out what to do and how to get an advantage from there. "We also have a pretty wide track, from 10m to 16m, so there will be room to get past people.
"About a year ago, it was still half on a street circuit but I believe this is the better option. It is much better now because you have the possibility of using it all year round. "Street circuits need to be cleaned and monitored and the tarmac needs changing. At traffic lights, imagine how many oil spots there are where the cars stop. It is very dangerous, and removing that is also very hard. When you have a blank sheet it is much easier to do what you want and when you have the right people around you, you do it right and you do it well.
"The Ferrari driver Kimi Raikonnen, I know, is particularly looking forward to it." "There is nothing worse than being there in the grandstand and, every minute and a half, you just see 'vroom, vroom' as the cars go past. "But here in Abu Dhabi you will be able to see them as they come towards you, you will be looking at them as they go past and you can follow them when they are going on. That is the real excitement, [it] will be really different from other circuits.
"I am not saying it will be the new Monaco, but I can see a lot of Monaco and other street circuits in this. To see the cars going through the hotel will be interesting for everybody, not just the drivers. "The stands have been designed so well, you will see at least 30 per cent of the race from each seat. There are big open spaces where the cars will slow so you can see them better." @Body-SubheadNew:Good for Mohammed ben Sulayem?
"I was the first Arab to do the first lap on the [F1] track in Bahrain. It is my home territory here so it goes without saying that I want to do it first here too. "I would love to race in this city sometime. As soon as it was announced, I knew I would want to. "As Michael Schumacher, a close friend, told me when he heard about this: 'Either I retired too early or this came too late'." firstname.lastname@example.org