Ecclestone to announce Abu Dhabi race

UPDATE #6 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement – see Hot News page. With this announcement, which existing F1 race will get the axe in 2009? And when South Korea, India and Singapore get their races, what other existing races will get the axe?

01/30/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. A source close to the negotiations has confirmed that Abu Dhabi will stage its inaugural grand prix probably in 2009.

"Yes, it is going to happen," the unnamed person told the Gulf News, while other sources said the race could even happen next year if a circuit can be built in time.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will reportedly unleash the news at a press conference this weekend, when the Middle Eastern emirate hosts a 'F1 festival' involving most teams and many leading drivers.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are the latest prominent names to confirm their participation at the event, and it is suggested that seven time world champion Michael Schumacher might also show his face.

The Gulf News wrote: "Bernie Ecclestone refused to (comment) but insisted the media attend a press conference on Saturday."

It is understood that the unique location chosen for the permanent F1 circuit is a man-made island.

The unnamed source said those negotiating with Ecclestone about the Abu Dhabi grand prix were not "bullsh**ters, middlemen (or) dreamers".

"The presence of decision-makers made this happen. You need to carve a straight path to Ecclestone," he added.

01/23/07 (GMM) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will announce next weekend that Abu Dhabi has signed a deal to host a grand prix from 2009.

The official announcement will take place in the oil-rich Middle Eastern emirate as Abu Dhabi hosts an unique demonstration involving the cars of all eleven teams, according to the British broadsheet The Guardian.

"All the teams have been advised that this is a curtain-raiser to the announcement of the new race," the authoritative journalist Alan Henry wrote.

Contrary to earlier reports, it is understood that the Abu Dhabi grand prix will be run on a purpose-built circuit designed by Hermann Tilke rather than on a downtown street layout.

Abu Dhabi is already heavily involved in F1 as a co-owner and sponsor of the Ferrari squad and the location of a future Ferrari theme park.

Ecclestone's Abu Dhabi deal might also have included negotiations with organizers of the Bahrain race, as it is believed that Bahrain has an exclusive agreement for the region's only grand prix.

"We have been asked to send a car and to attend a black-tie dinner," McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh confirmed.

01/21/07 (GMM) Abu Dhabi has confirmed reports that a formula one event will be held in the Middle Eastern emirate early next month.

Amid speculation that an actual grand prix could be held there as early as 2009, the 'Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority' (ADTA) announced that cars belonging to most if not all of the sport's eleven teams will be shipped to downtown Abu Dhabi for the official 'Formula One Festival' on February 3.

World champion Fernando Alonso and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone – and many other drivers and F1 personalities – are tipped to attend, with a special 4km street circuit to be laid out along Abu Dhabi's city waterfront.

"(We are) proud to host what will be the largest gathering of F1 cars and drivers ever assembled outside of a grand prix event," said ADTA chairman Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nayham. (See their website)

01/18/07 Abu Dhabi may be announcing a Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2009 a little earlier than people think. We understand that plans are being laid for an event on February 1 at which an announcement could be made, with the teams having been asked to supply a car to give the event a little extra zing. We hear that World Champion Fernando Alonso may also be present, along with other drivers. For the moment, however, there remains no official word on developments in the Middle East but there continue to be rumors of new races coming in Singapore, Valencia, Moscow and New Delhi. There is also little doubt that F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone is reminding each of the ambitious new projects that there are others in the running for events.

01/18/07 (GMM) The Middle Eastern emirate of Abu Dhabi is reportedly preparing to launch a bid for a formula one race. Abu Dhabi is already heavily involved with the world of grand prix racing, as a part-owner and sponsor of Ferrari and the scene of a future Ferrari theme park. According to the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, it could also host a 5.4 kilometer Monaco-style street race as early as 2009. Although Bahrain is understood to have an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone to host the region's only grand prix, Abu Dhabi is apparently planning to build a full formula one circuit on Yas island.

01/17/07 The word on the street is that Abu Dhabi is going to build a Formula 1 standard race track as part of the Ferrari theme park development that is under construction at the moment. Ferrari World will be located on Yas Island, one of the largest natural islands in Abu Dhabi. This is being developed into what the locals hope will be a prestigious world-class leisure destination, with beaches, entertainment, shopping, hotels, residences, golfing, equestrian facilities and Ferrari World. There will be two marinas and facilities for yachts, plus a polo field and upscale residences. The 6000-acre development will have 20 miles of beach front and will be linked to the mainland by a 10-lane highway which will go to the new Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The local ruling family, which owns five percent of Ferrari, may want to see a Grand Prix in the country before long but they must wait a while as Bahrain has an exclusive deal for a race in the Gulf in the immediate future.

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