The inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to be held in just over a year's time has been tipped to deliver a 'fantastic spectacle' and to be 'exclusive and the best', as preparations continue apace for the Middle East's second annual spot on the sport's calendar.
It was officially announced early last year that Abu Dhabi – one of the seven United Arab Emirates – will feature on the Formula 1 schedule from 2009, and following the publication of the calendar it has been confirmed that the race will act as the season finale, on 15 November.
It is a prospect that clearly excites erstwhile F1 stars and team-mates Jean Alesi and Johnny Herbert, both of whom are now competing in the stock car-based Speedcar Series.
“I think it will be an extremely fantastic spectacle – fantastic for F1 and fantastic for the region,” enthused Alesi, who famously and emotionally triumphed in the Canadian Grand Prix for Ferrari in 1995, in an interview with Gulf News
“Grands prix are the image of a country, and when you go worldwide, the whole world is watching you. When you stage a grand prix, you make the best advertisement you can think of for your country and the region.
“It has to be an exclusive event and, the way Abu Dhabi will do it, it will
be exclusive and the best.”
Those sentiments were echoed by former British Grand Prix winner Herbert, who partnered Alesi at Sauber-Petronas a decade ago and believes Abu Dhabi's arrival on the F1 scene will both add another string to the emirate's motorsport bow, for so long dominated by rallying, and pave the way for further grands prix in the flourishing region.
“It just gives another dimension to the stimulation that you as a human can get from watching something different,” the 44-year-old explained. “I'm sure it will be a very nice venue for people to go and see the race and smell it and feel it, and hopefully they'll like it.
“I think motorsport is big here in terms of rallying, and F1 is definitely going to generate more interest. What Abu Dhabi will do is encourage more young drivers to think about F1. I think it's something new, something fresh and hopefully it will be something that will draw the Middle East and Asian region more into F1.”
Departing Red Bull Racing ace David Coulthard – set to hang up his helmet following this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos – quipped 'Wow! I wish I wasn't retiring!' whilst the Yas Island development has clearly received a similarly positive thumbs-up from the sport's ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.