Abu Dhabi - Formula Ones second desert stop 03 Feb 2007
The ink on the contract was hardly dry - making Abu Dhabi the latest entrant to the Grand Prix family - when Formula One racing gave the country its first taste of what is heading its way in 2009 with a fantastic street demonstration on Saturday.
Nine teams were running their cars on a specially-constructed course that stretched from the fabulous Emirates Palace Hotel down to the Marina, complete with donut area, where the VIP guests on the grandstand could enjoy watching the drivers spin their machines - with lots of smoke, rubber odour and, of course, ear-splitting noise.
Thousands of fans lined the streets for the public event, cheering each passing car and waving frantically when world champion Fernando Alonso came by. It seems Abu Dhabi has already given itself to the thrills of Formula One racing.
But, as Bernie Ecclestone pointed out, the demonstration was only an appetiser for the real thing. Now comes the preparation of the track for 2009 - and what a track it will be! Built on Yas Island - a man-made island of around 6000 acres, five minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport and 20 minutes from the city centre - it will form part of a sophisticated tourist development, including three golf courses, a polo field and a Ferrari theme park.
The track itself will be 5.6 kilometres long. Divided into a 3 kilometre permanent circuit for the public and a 2.6 kilometre city layout exclusively for Formula One racing, it will combine the benefits of a high-speed track and a street circuit.
We are fortunate to have gained a lot of experience over the past years. That has put us in the position to build the best race track possible - it will be a new generation of circuit, commented Ecclestone.
We are delighted to bring Formula One to Abu Dhabi. It was a mutual decision to have a second race in this economically fast-growing region and I have no doubts that Bahrain and Abu Dhabi can coexist perfectly. There are five countries waiting at the moment to have a race and we have decided to come here - this should speak for itself.
New Formula One host HE Khaldoon Al Mubarak explained: When we started to negotiate five months ago there was nothing more than a handshake to seal the deal - and only today was it that we really signed. We were willing to go for it so there was no need for more. It was a gentlemens agreement. Then it took another five months to work out a contract.
And where will the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix fit into the Formula One schedule? We will see this race very likely at the end of the season, explained Ecclestone. I first was thinking of July, but was told that it might be a little too hot then!
And as for questions of whether the Formula One calendar may become a little too intense, Ecclestone added: I personally would prefer a 25 race calendar, but lets be serious, I could settle for 20!
For further details, see the official Abu Dhabi Grand Prix site at