Abu Dhabi wants F1 testing
Abu Dhabi is the latest Persian Gulf circuit interested in hosting Formula One preseason testing next year, looking to take advantage of concerns from teams about the disruptions caused by the cold and wet conditions in Spain.
Richard Cregan, the chief executive officer of Yas Marina Circuit, told The Associated Press on Wednesday he had been approached by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management company about the circuit's availability.
"There is an interest to do preseason testing outside of Europe which would be of interest to us," Cregan said.
"It seems particularly related to the new engine where they obviously want to test the new engine configurations in harsh conditions," he said. "That would work well for us. Our track is very consistent at that time of the year because of the stable weather."
Abu Dhabi, which has held testing for Pirelli tires and young driver testing, joins Bahrain and possibly Qatar in wanting to host preseason testing. While teams would be attracted by the stable weather, they would face logistical challenges since most of their facilities are in Europe.
Zayed Alzayani, the chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, said this year that he would like to see Bahrain return to the season-opening slot currently held by Australia. That would make it a prime candidate for preseason testing.
"It's really a discussion between us and Bernie and where we see the calendar and where it fits," Alzayani said. "It's good to start the season. It gives us more chance to have teams here longer, more anticipation, more unknowns about how cars react to new tires, regulations."
Qatar, meanwhile, has also reportedly offered to host preseason testing. The country's Losail circuit hosts the season-opening MotoGP race but organizers have been keen to attract F1.
The challenge for any of the Persian Gulf destinations is the distance required for teams to travel.
Spain, despite its weather problems that saw teams confined to the paddock for long periods, has been attractive because of its proximity to the teams' operations. That allowed them to shuttle parts and staff back and forth as they make adjustments to their cars.
"There are logistic challenges to it," Cregan said. "I'm sure the teams are trying to evaluate that at the moment for what is best for the outcome, which is having a reliable car for the start of the season." Alzayani said some of those problems could be addressed if Bahrain is able to win back the opening race.
It lost that slot to Australia in 2011 when the race was postponed after the Arab Spring-inspired uprising hit the country. The 2012 race and this year's race went off without incident partly due to the tight security that surrounded the track.
"The only problem teams have is cost of coming here and going back to Europe," Alzayani said. "One of the advantages of having the first race is they can come do a last testing session here and leave most equipment here until race weekend. This was the plan in 2011."