Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner has boldly stated that the welcome received by teams in Abu Dhabi when the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) staged its inaugural grand prix at the weekend 'reminded him a lot of Silverstone' – as the circuit and its facilities drew glowing and almost unanimous praise from the F1 community.
Construction of the spectacular, Hermann Tilke-designed Yas Marina street circuit on Yas Island began after the race was confirmed as an addition to the 2009 calendar back in early 2007 – and the progress made between then and last weekend was quite simply staggering, as our picture gallery demonstrated [see separate story – click here
]. As the cars sped beneath the sleek, 5* Yas Hotel and twilight descended on the emirate, it was clear that all concerned were mightily impressed with what had been accomplished.
“I think it is unbelievable really,” enthused Horner, “what the country has done to build a venue such as this. The bar has been raised by the introduction of several venues, Singapore included, then we come here and Bernie [Ecclestone] has been winding us up for the past 18 months saying 'wait until we get to Abu Dhabi'. It is quite mind-blowing really, and the circuit is a quality circuit as well, not just a pretty background – both drivers have really enjoyed it. We have been fantastically well looked after. It reminds me a lot of Silverstone.”
“Just a stunning facility,” echoed Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn. “I think it is a massive credit to the people here and to Bernie. I know we give Bernie a hard time sometimes, but he still creates races and encourages people to build facilities like this.
“It is a very interesting track and a great racing circuit, with quite interesting combinations and quite challenging from a racing perspective. The pit-lane is controversial, but sometimes I think we are getting a bit sanitised in F1, so a bit of extra challenge for the drivers is not necessarily such a bad thing. I think it is just fantastic.”
The pit-lane exit, indeed, certainly 'raised some eyebrows to start with', acknowledged acting Renault F1 team principal Bob Bell, but happily it did not raise any issues in either qualifying or during the race – and neither did the dust levels or lighting, with the grand prix becoming the first in the official history of the top flight to begin in daytime and end at dusk.
“As everyone I'm sure would agree, it is an absolutely fantastic facility,” Bell went on, “and it is a wonderful opportunity for the teams to showcase themselves at a facility like this. We have been well-and-truly looked after and hosted well. That side of it is all fantastic too. I think it is great for the sport to be on show and operating at new locations throughout the world, and I think overall it is a great thing to be here.”
“It is a magnificent place,” concurred BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen, “[with] outstanding facilities. I cannot image that this will be topped anywhere else in the world. [There are] very good working conditions for the teams and it is an interesting track, especially the pit-lane exit, which is very special. I think it is really great, and I hope this can establish itself as the signature event in the coming years.”