Abu Dhabi preview with Toyota's Jens Marquardt
Panasonic Toyota Racing reaches the end of a successful season with a trip to the United Arab Emirates for the first-ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held on the new Yas Marina Circuit. Team Manager Jens Marquardt previews this weekend's event.
What are the first steps you take when preparing for a new circuit in terms of logistics?
"The first thing is to try to get as much information as possible beforehand, so either you approach the circuit directly or, more often than not, they are proactive in letting us know what their status is. With Suzuka for example, the changes were made to the pit facilities. So they sent us the drawings, information about their plans and an invitation to go there on a recce to take photos, ask questions, make requests and understand what the situation is on the ground. It is useful to give our input about what we require from electricity and network connections, all that sort of thing."
If you could have three wishes for any new venue in terms of facilities, what would they be?
"The first would be enough space to work and store everything comfortably, especially thinking ahead to next year when there will be more teams. Another priority would be to have facilities as similar as possible from track to track so we don't need to continually change or adapt our equipment. Finally, good transport infrastructure is essential because otherwise it can be a real inconvenience for the team."
What about Abu Dhabi in particular?
"In the case of Abu Dhabi, it is a completely new venue so the situation is different to Suzuka because we had no existing information. We were invited to visit after the Bahrain Grand Prix and were shown what was available at that time and what was planned. They listened to our input and discussed issues like access as well as pit or office installations. Abu Dhabi is a slightly different case because Richard Cregan and Andy Beaven are working on the project so obviously we have great contact due to their time with Toyota. Also, those two guys have a lot of expertise from a team's perspective so they know exactly what is required."
How about logistics away from the track?
"After we look at the circuit itself, the next task is to understand the logistical situation in terms of what hotels exist, which airport is most suitable and how to transport people around when they are there. We look at whether there are any regulations covering foreigners driving hire cars and if it is more appropriate to use buses; we make a decision based on the most convenient, efficient and cost-effective solution. This is actually quite a lot of work in long-term preparation so it takes place between six months and a year in advance."
How are the logistics in terms of getting people to the venue in Abu Dhabi?
"I would say everything looks good in terms of logistics in Abu Dhabi. Our hotel is located between the airport, the city and the track so we should have decent transportation in that respect and driving should be no problem. We had a small concern in terms of immigration and access to Yas Island, which normally requires a permit, but this has been sorted out with FOM (Formula One Management) and the government so it should be quite easy for the team."
How do you decide which hotels to book?
"More or less it is a compromise between cost, location and comfort. We have some standards that we like to provide to the team and at the same time we have a certain budget that we allocate for every event so we need to find the best fit. For Abu Dhabi we went as far as looking at the possibility of staying in Dubai and commuting every day, in case the hotels proved more suitable, but in reality it was not really viable. The transfer time is long and there is the possibility for sand storms or accidents on the roads so in the end we chose a hotel in Abu Dhabi itself. Our philosophy is that we get better quality of work from people if they have appropriate accommodation at a suitable distance from the track. If you have a long day of work then spending another hour or so transferring to the hotel is quite a burden."
Does the evening start time cause any complications or changes to routine?
"The good thing is it is the last race of the season so the delayed starting time is not really an issue logistically or in terms of pack-up, unlike the night race in Singapore which also affected the back-to-back Grand Prix in Japan. That was quite a logistic problem on Sunday because we had the late race and then still had to have our freight ready by the normal time, so around 4am on Monday morning. It was demanding on the guys to get it all arranged in time but in Abu Dhabi this won't be a problem. It is the last race so there is no hurry to get the equipment to the next venue and our flights are on Monday night so there's plenty of time."
How did the cars get from Brazil to Abu Dhabi?
"The cars went direct from Brazil to Abu Dhabi via the FOM air freight. They arrived at the end of last week and were stored in Abu Dhabi before our guys got there to start work on Monday morning."
What are your impressions generally of the Yas Marina Circuit?
"It is extreme. When I was down there in April to do a recce they were already working all the time available in a day, although obviously not at the hottest time because it is impossible. What we have seen of the updates since then is incredible; something I have never seen before with a Formula 1 track. The marina they are building, which the track runs around, the hotel with the bridge across - they have invested a lot in the whole venue and it is certainly something different. They have really made an effort for the teams to have everything exactly how we want it so hopefully for us it will be the easiest new event for a long time."