By Shane McGinley
Dubai Autodrome's licence already makes it eligible to host F1 tests
Dubai Autodrome is keen to stage pre-season Formula 1 test races next year, pending a decision by race officials to allow F1 teams to restart in-season testing of cars from 2014.
At a meeting in Montreal earlier this month, during the Canadian Grand Prix, eight of the 11 F1 teams agreed to extend in season testing and the proposal by has been put forward to the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council for final approval.
Scrapped as part of cost cutting measures in 2009, the teams have been lobbying for in-season testing to return and Dubai Autodrome is aiming to be one of the venues to be used during the 2014 season.
“The exact location of the tests has not yet been agreed and will depend on the exact make-up of the 2014 calendar, which has not yet been finalised. Teams have already agreed that there will be three pre-season tests next year, with the first taking place in mid-January at Jerez in Spain. There is also a big push to have the two subsequent tests in the Middle East,” F1 news magazine Autosport reported.
“Of course we would welcome the opportunity to host F1 testing at our venue. We have the facilities and Dubai has all the infrastructure required for a week of testing,” general manager Richard Birch was quoted as saying on Dubai Autodrome’s official website.
“At this stage it is merely talk and speculation as the final decision is not in our hands or even been made as far as we know. But if asked in an official capacity then we will certainly embrace the project,” he added.
Based in the heart of Union Properties’ MotorCity residential development and adjacent to Sports City, Dubai Autodrome has hosted rounds of the GP2 Asia Series rounds of the FIA GT Championship. F1 drivers such as Romain Grosjean, Jean Eric Vergne, Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg have also raced at the facilities in the past.
Earlier this year, FIA F1 race director Charlie Whiting inspected Dubai Autodrome and gave the venue a clean bill of health, renewing the its FIA Grade 1 Circuit Licence making it eligible to host a fully fledged F1 test.
While the official F1 2013 calendar is not expected to be announced until August, it is rumoured Bahrain is likely to host the first Formula One race next year, as early as March 2, a senior figure told The Telegraph newspaper.
Teams are reportedly keen to start testing their cars in mid-January and hold a test race in a warm location before the season starts.
Formula One Teams Association chairman and McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said it was logical to then hold the first race in the Middle East because teams already would be there testing.
“The manufacturers and the teams want to start testing a little earlier,” Whitmarsh said. “The idea of having a test in mid-January, probably in Jerez, logistically is straightforward.
While Dubai Autodrome has been pitched as potential Middle East venue for testing, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit is also seen as a probable location. The Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the second Middle East F1 host and its race usually is one of the last, held in early November.For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.