Will evolution in the sport be better than revolution?
In a way, it seems right the F1 World Championship arrives at the final round of the 2009 season with both the drivers' and constructors titles settled.india Updated: Nov 01, 2009 01:41 IST
In a way, it seems right the F1 World Championship arrives at the final round of the 2009 season with both the drivers' and constructors titles settled.
The inaugural Abu Dhabi GP is as much about creating a show business 'wow' factor as it is about racing.
The competitive element in this race will be no less strong as in Brazil two weeks ago or in Australia when the season started in March.
In the past few months we've enjoyed some great racing, but it is most noticable that the older tracks still deliver the best racing. Think of the great battles we saw at Spa and Monza, the action at Suzuka and amid the puddles and peeling paintwork at Interlagos. These are tracks with action in their DNA.
Abu Dhabi is revolutionary in that for the first time the track is at the core of a leisure complex. The start straight runs under the lobby of the 500 bedroom Yas Hotel whose outer walls feature an amazing LED 'Grid-Shell' panel, programmed to change colour, generating light shows over the course of the weekend.
Will it be spectacular? Absolutely yes.
Will it redefine the sporting spectacle? Probably.
Will it add anything to motor racing in the long term? Possibly not.
It depends on how good the track will be for racing. A little over a decade ago you may remember the excitement when Sepang hosted the first Malaysian GP and the shining track was regarded as the last word in modern cool. Thankfully, it has matured into a great driver's track too, always delivering drama and a worthy winner.
The same cannot be said about the dry, dusty Istanbul Otodrom, or the European GP in Valencia. It has all the excitement of a container park, as well as grandstands situated only on the straights, out of sight of any possible action.
It is notable the spectators vote with their feet on these venues and with time they may be replaced with something better. However there is also a real risk that some of the great Grands Prix may disappear.
The collapse of finances to back the reconstruction of Donington Park in UK has placed the British GP in jeopardy. Unless a deal is struck with Silverstone, the race may not happen in 2010.
The Italian GP at Monza and the Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps also face threats. Local residents are complaining to the European Commission about the noise and disruption.
All the more reason why the FIA needs a firm hand in control. Jean Todt, who will replace Max Mosley, will provide that leadership.
His management credentials in winning Le Mans, the Paris-Dakar Rally-Raid and the World Rally Championship for Peugeot, before cementing the team that gave Michael Schumacher his titles, are impeccable. Todt is his own man and will change the FIA into a stronger body by evolution, rather than the revolution Ari Vatanen promised.
(Steve Slater is a race commentator on STAR Sports' coverage of the Formula One)