Dubai's bid to attract the cream of F1 to its national circuit appears to be bearing fruit, with strong suggestions that it will host not one, but two, pre-season tests in 2014.
The rumour doing the rounds at the Hungaroring
is that Jerez will assume its traditional spot as the venue for the first test of the new season, but that the teams will then head for the Gulf region rather than Barcelona, with the remaining three-day sessions set for the Dubai Autodrome in a bid to ensure warm and dry weather.
While Barcelona can provide both, it is also prone to wet conditions and, with new engine and powertrain combinations to be sorted ahead of the opening round, the teams are keen to find more predictable elements.
While Bahrain had been mooted as a potential host for the third and final test, particularly with speculation that Sakhir may replace Melbourne as the opening round of the championship, Dubai has made no secret of its desire to add F1 to a growing motorsport roster. The Autodrome, which opened in 2004, has already hosted rounds of the now defunct GP2 Asia Series, and would provide a 'neutral' venue to prevent teams from getting to grips with the Bahrain International Circuit
ahead of the season.
When the teams met to discuss revisions to the testing regulations during the Canadian Grand Prix, moving pre-season activities to the Gulf region was put forward as a suggestion, although the 5.39km Dubai circuit – part of the MotorCity development - was not necessarily thought of as a frontrunner.
General manager Richard Birch, however, confirmed last month that he would be happy to see F1 heading his way.
“Of course we would welcome the opportunity to host F1 testing at our venue,” he was quoted by the venue's official website, “We have the facilities and Dubai has all the infrastructure required for a week of testing. At this stage, it is merely talk and speculation as the final decision is not in our hands but, if asked in an official capacity, then we will certainly embrace the project.”
Kamui Kobayashi hold the lap record for the venue's Grand Prix configuration – which holds a current FIA Grade 1 circuit license – having set a 1min 41.220secs benchmark during his 2008 GP2 Asia campaign.