x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Yas track is ready for anything as race nears

Forecast calls for some rain at the weekend, while strong winds may also kick up the dust, but organisers are prepared for all scenarios.

"We have checklists and the drains are one of the most important," says Faisal al Fahlawi, the business development officer at Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management.

ABU DHABI // A deluge is likely to have been the last thing on the minds of the Formula One teams as they prepare for a Grand Prix in the desert.

But with rain forecast for the weekend, they will have their wet tyres on standby, just in case.

As the cars and drivers arrived yesterday, meteorologists said there was a chance of rain on Friday, when practice is due to start on the 5.5km track.

The weekend is unlikely to be much affected, though. Not only does the chance of rain reduce as Friday goes on, it is less still for Saturday, according to the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology. By Sunday - race day - there are likely to be a few clouds remaining, but rain is unlikely.

However, the centre is predicting that a 15-knot shamal wind will blow down through the Gulf on Friday, possibly blowing up dust on Yas Island. By Saturday, it should have calmed to 12 knots, still enough to keep dust in the air.

Rain or no rain, officials at Yas Marina say the track can handle whatever the elements throw at it.

Faisal al Fahlawi, a business development officer at Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, which runs the track, said the last time it rained, the drainage system worked perfectly. "We have checklists and the drains are one of the most important," he said. "For the last few days, we have been constantly rechecking."

The track itself is the least of their worries. During the last rains, according to Edward Loughrey, the facilities manager, the worst areas were the car parks. He said they had done everything they could to ensure there was no waterlogging.

"During the summer we dug out the soakaways [drains] which usually get clogged and bunged up with sand. Every year, we have to dig them out and rebuild them."

Extra drainage has also been added in the rebuilt Oasis areas, the location of the track's food and beverage outlets. "We've added more drains again, to and around the track," Mr Loughrey said.

There are also new buffer tanks, which hold rainwater and then release slowly to the drains, to stop them becoming overwhelmed. "In the tunnels we have pumps, and they've been fully tested. We put a water tanker in there to flood the pit lane tunnel, to make sure the pumps are working," he said.

Maintenance men have been busy at the track when it has rained in the past, and the media centre has seen some leaks. "There were a couple of minor leaks in the paddock club but they were fixed on the spot. We should be water tight," Mr Loughrey said.

While staff at Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management (ADMM) were rechecking everything yesterday, the first of the teams arrived.

Mr al Fahlawi said the arrival of the teams has created a buzz of activity at the paddock area. One by one, their container trucks were arriving, with equipment that will stay there until the end of next week.

The title will be decided on Sunday, but the teams will continue testing their cars for next season until Friday. Up to 40 tonnes of freight have already arrived by sea, and five Boeing 747 cargo aircraft touched down in Abu Dhabi yesterday with the 24 racing cars.

Team members have already arrived and a large contingent of international media is also inbound.

The biggest potential headache for Mr al Fahlawi will be if deliveries fail to happen smoothly. It would be all too easy, he said, for overzealous security guards to stop a vital shipment. "They might not have the right accreditation. Those are the types of things we expect to happen. Other than that, it's a normal day."

Still, planning has been much easier than last year. "We didn't have a venue," he said. "We were building it and preparing for it at the same time. This year, we have a venue and we know our away around. We know our capability."

 

eharnan@thenational.ae