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30 Oct 2009 09:41
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone hailed Abu Dhabi’s floodlit new circuit as the best ever on Thursday.
“What they’ve done is unbelievable,” the Briton, who celebrated his 79th birthday on Wednesday, told Reuters at a circuit that cost well over $1-billion to build according to some estimates.
The Yas Marina track is part of a $40-billion development of the emirate’s Yas Island, which also includes a Ferrari World theme park.
“It was April 2006 that I sat with the crown prince and at that time we didn’t start to discuss about a race,” said Ecclestone.
“During dinner we came up with the idea that maybe we should have a race here. It’s magic what they’ve done.
“I never thought it would be finished like this,” he added.
“I thought bits and pieces would be done.
“I’ll be happy if someone does the same.”
Formula One drivers were equally impressed.
McLaren’s 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton called the facilities “mind-blowing” while BMW-Sauber’s German driver Nick Heidfeld said the circuit lived up to expectations.
“We heard so much about it before coming here,” he told reporters.
“All the people who had been here before said it’s unbelievable, it’s fantastic, it’s huge, so in coming here you knew what to expect.
“It’s definitely very well done, but most importantly for me, tomorrow I will see if the circuit is good or not.”
Abu Dhabi makes its debut on the calendar with Sunday’s season-ender, the sport’s first race that starts in daylight and ends after nightfall.
It follows other lavish tracks in Singapore, Bahrain, China and Turkey—with South Korea due to make its first appearance next season—and comes at a time when some of the sport’s traditional European venues are in danger of disappearing.
“It’s a bit like Silverstone really when you think about it,” said Ecclestone ironically, comparing his palatial surroundings to the former World War Two airfield that hosted the first championship race in Britain in 1950.
While Abu Dhabi is likely to be a fixture for years to come, Britain’s grand prix looks uncertain with Ecclestone confirming that Donington Park’s plans to host the 2010 race were dead after they failed to raise the necessary funds.
“There’s no Donington. They missed the deadline which we kept extending for them,” he said. “It’s unfortunate for them, to be honest with you. It was the credit crunch that caused them to be in trouble because their intentions were good for sure.”
Ecclestone hoped for a new deal with Silverstone and Heidfeld warned that the sport must not turn its back on the older circuits.
“It looks like the future of Formula One is where the money is,” said the German.
“I hope that, as it is a world championship, we will go to many different countries. I’m also happy to see more races, I think 20 race for me would not be a problem if we go to new and different venues.
“But definitely, from a driver’s view, we have to stay in England for example ... I think there must be a race in Britain, most of the teams are based there and it’s where the home of motorsport is.”—Reuters
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