Contrary to speculation, it now looks unlikely that the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will join this year's most-celebrated newcomer, Singapore, on the list of possible 'after dark' F1 races.
While Australia, Japan, China and Malaysia are still being talked about as potentially running under floodlights in future - despite Sepang's insistence that it will not be going down that route - this week's official unveiling of the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi was accompanied by a fairly stiff dismissal of a similar plan when the venue joins the schedule in 2009.
After the success of last month's Singapore debut, it had been widely touted that Abu Dhabi could follow suit, bringing the race into 'prime time' for European evening television audiences, but Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management CEO Philippe Gurdjian confirmed Bernie Ecclestone's belief that there will be just one night race next season.
"Until today, it is not the objective to make the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a night race," he told the region's Gulf News
during this week's launch of Art in Motion
, an exhibition highlighting the plans for Yas Marina, "Just a few days ago, Bernie Ecclestone said that the 2009 calendar will have one night race and that is Singapore.
"From my point of view, I don't think a night race will be any more conducive in a city like Abu Dhabi. First of all, we have spent a lot of time on how to show to the world the emirate of Abu Dhabi, [so] I would personally like it to be a day race, as that will give us the opportunity to showcase the buildings [and] facilities, and capture the spirit and character of Abu Dhabi and the Yas Marina Circuit. We have spent twelve months doing it."
Gurdjian, former head of the Paul Ricard HTTT facility in southern France, did admit, however, that lighting was being evaluated at the Abu Dhabi circuit, possibly for a future switch to night racing..
"We are working on the concept of lights, but it is difficult to do it," he conceded, "Secondly, we are concentrating more on the aesthetic side of the project. But, yes, we are working on this aspect."
Images from Art in Motion
clearly show the extent of the development at Yas Island, much of which is still far from completion, with just earthworks in progress at present. Abu Dhabi is scheduled to bring the curtain down on he 2009 F1 campaign, giving ADMM and developer Aldar a full year to complete the ambitious resort-cum-circuit. Gurdjian, however, is clearly proud of what has been achieved already - and what the facility will provide when it comes on stream next year.
"When you switch on the TV to watch the race, you will immediately recognise Abu Dhabi," he insisted, "Recently, the race was held at Fuji and you can take [that] circuit and put it anywhere in the world, but one can't say it is the Fuji circuit. That will not be the case with Abu Dhabi. A hotel which spans the track, a marina with a yacht club and grandstands which are 100 per cent completely covered. It is unique.