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A chat with Richard Cregan about Abu Dhabi
A chat with Richard Cregan about Abu Dhabi
Posted By:   |  30 Jun 2009   |  5:14 pm GMT  |  21 comments

The new Yas Marina Island circuit at Abu Dhabi is taking shape, ahead of its first Grand Prix on November 1st, the season finale.

Today the organisers launched a video game which offers fans the chance to drive a virtual lap of the circuit.

At Silverstone I sat down for a few minutes to chat with Richard Cregan, who is CEO of the project and responsible for bringing it in on time and to the highest F1 standards. We met in the new Ferrari motorhome, on the top floor. Aldar Properties, the company which is building the new track, has taken it for the season as a place to host its guests.

The massive undertaking of building the circuit is a new challenge for Richard, who for many years was the team manager of Toyota in sportscars and more recently Formula 1. A easy-going Dubliner, Richard is one of those guys about whom no-one in the paddock has a bad word to say, which is pretty rare. So he will be quite an asset for his employers when F1 comes to town. He understands how F1 works and will make sure that the teams fit in effortlessly to the circuit. When he was offered the Abu Dhabi job late last year he couldn’t turn it down.

Listening to Richard it is hard not to think of the contrast with poor old Simon Gillett at Donington who is fighting against all the financial odds to get his circuit revamped to host a race next year. Richard currently has 14,500 people working on his project, a rise of 2,500 for the summer months when, he tells me, efficiency drops off in the sweltering temperatures of 48 degrees! I can relate to that, I’m struggling to prevent my efficiency dropping off in the current UK heatwave and I’m not having to carry a hod around..

Picture 40
“We can now see that we’ve got a track, ” he said gleefully. “Our inspection by Charlie (Whiting of the FIA) is on August 1st and it has to be ready for then.”

The scale of the track is what makes it different, and the imagination which has gone into the design. It passes underneath a hotel, the pit exit is a tunnel, for example. The track has a waterfront stretch which passes a deep water harbour, like Monaco, which has 148 berths, for yachts up to 160 metres in length. Like Monaco the boats should provide a stunning backdrop.

“It’s going to put Abu Dhabi on the international map, for motor sports and tourism, it’s part of a very big picture, a tool to activate that and a centre of excellence for motorsports, ” says Cregan.

The F1 Circuit and the Grand Prix are only part of the story. The Yas Island will include the first Ferrari theme park, a Warner Bros theme park, a golf course and other attractions. But widening the view out further from there, the development project includes Sa’adiyat Island, which will be a centre for culture and education, al Reem Island, which will be the financial hub. Abu Dhabi is setting the ground for the future.

We were talking on the Sunday morning, barely 48 hours after FOTA had announced it breakaway from the FIA. I asked Richard whether this made him nervous, given Ferrari’s involvement in Abu Dhabi, both through the theme park and the Mubadala sponsorship of the team,
“We will wait and see, like everyone else, ” he said, “The Ferrari deal is not going to influence our situation.”

Since then a peace deal has been struck, of course, but then thrown into some doubt again by FIA president Max Mosley. It’s gone very quiet on that front since Sunday. The Abu Dhabi deal is with F1 management, so they will be hosting the F1 world championship, come what may.

Jenson Button has visited the track and he will have been delighted to hear that the expected temperature for race day on November 1st is 41 degrees, which will suit his Brawn car and the way it uses the tyres.

But he may well have it all wrapped up by then.

I’m really looking forward to going to this track. It’s timely because F1 is undergoing a debate about its own values and priorities in this FIA vs FOTA struggle and one of the hot topics is the extent to which new venues replace the classic circuits. I’ve always been of the belief that a mix of the classic tracks like Spa and Monza with exciting new venues that really add something is what is called for. F1 must innovate, but not at the expense of its heritage.

Looks like Abu Dhabi is going to be an asset to the championship. Can’t wait to see it in the flesh.

To drive the virtual circuit go to: www.yasmarinacircuit.com/experience

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There are alot of mis-guided comments here regarding the middle-east. If anyone has ever been the middle-east or the Bahrain GP will know that these people are in love with motorsport. Big time.

“Welcome to the home of motorsport in the middle-east”

Something along the lines of the greeting at the BIC. Will Abu Dhabi be a rival to that title 😉

F1 has hit big in Bahrain and the middle-east, and please understand, when I mean big, I mean big! Only one place have I seen enthusiasm to rival the Arabs for F1, and of course thats Britain ;-).

Just another point, Turkey is used for F1 only I believe.

the BIC is a hugley busy track. They love motorsport and they love F1.

If you have never been to such countries then you have no right to judge, and going by some of the comments, alot of have not.


James, as i’m now living in abu dhabi, they loooooove speed here.. there are sooo many petrol heads here it’s crazy.. even the girls in the office i work at have M5’s and AMGs.. it’s unreal! hahah!! trust me, F1 here will be PERFECT!


I tried the Abu Dhabi virtual circuit and was surprised to see so many trees in the run off areas!!! 🙂


It looks a fantastic facility. However, once year one is out the way will it pull in the crowds?

I’ve read elsewhere today that the Japanese GP could be in doubt from next year onwards (certainly Fuji). Any gain made by the addition of Abu Dhabi will be more than lost by the departure of the Japanese GP, a classic in the European mode but held in Asia.

I agree with another blogger there would certainly be room for two GPs in Britain at present. Both could sell out at 100000. However, look at the attendance figures in 1993 when Britain last staged two GPs. Donington had 30000 on race day, Silverstone had about 60000. Okay British drivers were not doing so well that year. I would be very nervous if I was a Spanish promoter, though. When Alonso retires attendances will fall of the cliff. Why were they ever rewarded with two GPs?


Yep….another white elephant erected in the desert at stupendous cost and purely for the vanity and macho of the local tribal leaders.

That’s the way Bernie boy ! Keep the richest 1% per cent of the world population on your string and paying the
( staggeringly expensive ) piper !

The real fans in their ordinary millions in Europe, North and South America who know and love the history and legens of F1 like the backs of their hands? Stuff them, they’re of no value to FOM/CVC !

yeah…that’s the way to do it Bernie boy !


OK, so I’m not allowed to say that then. I guess there’s just no room for morality in F1.

alex hofstetter

Beautiful facility. What will the attendance be? 20,000 like Turkey?


With Korea next year and India the year after confimed, and very strong rumours of the Rome GP, perhaps Bernie has his fingers in 1 too many pies.

Especially as the teams say they think 19 or 20 races is the absolute maximum, and yet the teams want a return to the US and Canada.

Something is going to have to give, I just hope it isn’t another one of the ‘classic’ tracks.

Gary Davidson

I agree with your comment about the calendar having a blend of classic tracks and new venues.

Do you know when the provisional calendar is going to be announced? I’m sure it’s been towards the end of June the last few years, so it’s a bit late it seems.

I’ve heard Bernie has been speaking to officials in Argentina about a street race in Mar del Plata from 2010.


Is it really necessary to replace Brazil with a new circuit as the final race of the season?

Interlagos is such a classic deciding ground for championship shootouts. The last 4 championships have been clinched there, it’s been a terrific atmosphere. Another ‘change’ F1 didn’t need in my view.


41C in Novermber? I really hope not – should be mid 30’s but humidity might still be quite high.


Wow what a circuit… and a Ferrari Theme Park & Warner Bros Studio to top it all off!

Even better news the deal is with F1 Management! 🙂


Yeah James, I heard somewhere a few months ago that due to ‘the current economic situation’ that they were putting the Ferrari Theme Park plans on hold for a while?


“Jenson Button has visited the track and he will have been delighted to hear that the expected temperature for race day on November 1st is 41 degrees, which will suit his Brawn car and the way it uses the tyres.”
Remember at the start of the season when it was too hot, the air was too thin and the downforce very much less which made the tyres run hard with little grip. Ridiculous it sounded but true!


This might be a bit off-topic, but what about Great Britain having two Grandprix, Silverstone and Donnington? The current and most probably future World Champion is British, most teams are based in England, the fans are there, surely enough of them to fill the grand stands of two races. Everybody picks on Max for his rule changes, but it is the greed of Bernies bankers that really ruin the sport, it is part of a tradition, a heritage, on just about return on investment…



Bernie is notoriously flinty about pushing for better and better facilities but to whose advantage apart from paddock insiders and the sparse spectators that show up at these God-forsaken Far-East venues (where the ambition and ego of the local royals and their willingness to thrown lorry-loads at Bernie is the deciding factor in staging a GP)?

I agree there should be new tracks added to the mix but TOO MUCH ALREADY!!!


Unlike places such as China, Singapore, and even Malaysia, I think there’s a market for F1 in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. There’s plenty of oil money to go around and expensive tastes. So F1 should suit them very well.

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