Fasten your seat belts for the best-ever season-ending Formula One Etihad Airways Grand Prix 2022, promises Saif Al Noaimi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management.
Despite the drivers and constructors’ titles being decided, he is confident of wheel-to-wheel racing and nail-biting moments during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which finished in a controversial fashion last year, and saw unprecedented demand for tickets in this edition.
With all eyes on Red Bull’s reigning champion Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, the rivalry seems to be getting intense over the past few races. At the US Grand Prix, Verstappen and Hamilton fought till the end in a close finish and at Sao Paulo, both of them collided during an overtaking attempt.
And this weekend, Verstappen has more reason to be aggressive as he will be chasing his record 15th win.
“The drivers and constructors have been decided but the championship is otherwise still very much alive. And we saw it,” Al Noaimi said during an interview.
“The US Grand Prix was probably one of the most exciting races of the season. We saw Max Verstappen pushing all the way until the last lap. Even though he’s crowned the drivers champion, and they pretty much had the constructors’ championship in their back, it didn’t stop him and Lewis Hamilton competing at that high level until the last lap. We’re still in for a very exciting race in Abu Dhabi. And there’s also still a lot at stake.”
Battle is on among top six drivers. Behind champ Verstappen (429 points) is Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (290) and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez (290), followed by Mercedes pair of George Russell (265) and Hamilton (240), and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz (234). In constructors’ category, Red Bull led with 719 points, with a tight fight between Ferrari (524) and Mercedes (505) for the second spot.
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“There’s still close battles for second place in both drivers and constructors. And in fact, in constructors, fourth place up for grabs. I expect teams to battle it out on the track all the way until the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”
The unprecedented demand for tickets of the season climax race led to creation of an additional grandstand and new hospitality products.
“We’ve sold out earlier than ever. And that includes the additional grandstand and additional hospitality. So, we’ve sold way more than we ever have in previous years.”
Asked about the reason for this exceptional demand for tickets, Al Noaimi said there were several factors involved. “We had an unprecedented race last year. The season finale, and championship gets decided, both drivers and constructors, on the last lap. And we saw an increase in wheel-to-wheel racing. The track modifications, which we completed before the Grand Prix last year, have proven a success. We saw 33 overtakes on the track. So, it was overall, a very exciting race last year.”
He noted that there has been an increase in the number of international visitors coming to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “Last year, we saw around 70 per cent of the attendees coming from outside the country, and this year, we’re seeing similar numbers. So, the sport is in a great place.”
And there is the ever-popular Yasalam After-Race Concerts, several events on Yas Marina, and a range of entertainment, dining and hospitality options on Yas Island to look forward to.
“This is definitely going to be the biggest grand prix for us. I mean, in terms of Yas Island and Yas Marina Circuit. We are expecting record numbers coming into Yas Marina Circuit. We’re ready for it.”