The 17th and final race of the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship will take place on 1st November with the maiden grand prix at the new Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The whole of the Formula One community is looking forward to sampling the new venue on the calendar, as anticipation builds ahead of the debut of Formula One at the track. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will also be the first time the drivers will have started a race in daylight and finished it after dark.
While the destiny of the drivers’ and constructors’ titles has now been decided, further back in the field much can change. The BMW Sauber F1 Team moved up to seventh in the Constructors’ Championship through Robert Kubica’s second place in Brazil, and can still snatch sixth position from Williams – the British team is currently 2.5 points ahead in the standings – with the right result in Abu Dhabi.
The final race weekend of 2009 will also bring the curtain down on the BMW Sauber F1 Team’s involvement in Formula One. On 29th July BMW announced that it would be pulling out of Formula One at the end of the season, although the Swiss arm of the team under Peter Sauber is still hoping to line up on the grid in 2010.
Robert Kubica: “I have not been to the Abu Dhabi circuit so far. As we do not have a simulator I only know the track from the Internet and from a couple of presentations. The track looks very interesting. The facilities and the buildings around the circuit especially seem to be outstanding. However, before having done the first laps on the track with a Formula One car, it is really difficult to judge the circuit itself. But of course I know this situation from the past. In 2008 both Valencia and Singapore were new on the calendar. Fortunately I consider myself a driver who does not need a lot of track time to be on a good pace straight away. I guess that a lot of cars will be out on the track on Friday in order to understand the track and to learn as much as possible. I am really looking forward to going there. It will be my last race for this team, but I hope very much to see them on the grid again next year.”
Nick Heidfeld: “I’m very pleased to be getting another taste of summer and will be flying out to Abu Dhabi a few days early with my family. I’m really excited about the new circuit. Everyone who’s been there already has described it as an incredible place. I think it’s always great to discover a new track. I haven’t found the lack of a simulator to be a disadvantage at other new circuits, and this way it’s even more exciting when you drive out of the garage for the first time.
“This will be a very special race for all of us in the team. So far I haven’t really had that feeling of saying goodbye. But that will change in Abu Dhabi for sure, and will probably be quite intense. I very much hope that the team is given a place on the grid for 2010 soon.”
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: “We will travel to Abu Dhabi with mixed feelings. The eight points we collected in Brazil have allowed us to move up a place in the Constructors’ Championship, and we will be highly motivated once again at the final race of the season. We are looking forward to racing at the new Formula One venue and can’t wait to experience the atmosphere at the marina circuit.
“However, there will of course also be a fair amount of sadness within the team as we set off for Abu Dhabi. After all, this will be our 70th and final race with the BMW Sauber F1 Team.
“With the exception of our fourth and unfortunately final season, I’m more than satisfied with what we have achieved since 2006. In the first three years after the team was founded, we met – and even exceeded – all the aims we set ourselves. We recorded two podium finishes in our first season on the grid, and in our second season we established ourselves as the third-strongest team in the championship. This was the year in which Robert suffered his horrific crash in Montreal. It felt like an eternity until we finally heard the good news that he was ok. The relief meant we were able to celebrate Nick’s second place in suitable style. It was in Montreal a year later that we enjoyed our greatest success. From the moment that Robert and Nick crossed the finish line in quick succession to record a 1-2 result, there was no stopping us. We remained part of a three-way battle for the title almost until the end of the season. We notched up 11 podium finishes in total in 2008 and our reliability was excellent.
“Of course, the whole team is disappointed that we have been unable to build on this success in 2009, as we had hoped to have a say in the title race. But we have never thrown in the towel, even after BMW announced its withdrawal from Formula One, which shows the strong character of our team. I hope that the successor to the BMW Sauber F1 Team will continue along this successful path in Formula One.”
Willy Rampf, Head of Engineering: “I always find it exciting to compete at a new venue. The circuit in Abu Dhabi has a whole series of predominantly slow and medium-speed corners, but also two very long straights. Since the track is also very wide, we can probably look forward to a lot of overtaking moves.
“Of course, we have carried out the usual simulations, but one significant unknown is how the tyres will respond on the new asphalt. We will only discover the answer to this question during the course of the weekend. The ambient temperatures are sure to play a major role. Although the race is not scheduled to start until 5.00 pm, we can still expect the outside air temperature to be well over 30 degrees Celsius.
“Brazil was the first race in which we’ve been able to fully exploit the potential of the car since the extensive package of modifications were introduced in Singapore, and we’re also expecting to have a strong race in Abu Dhabi. We’ll be pulling out all the stops to finish the season on a positive note.”