Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 October, 2009, 12:00am

I love the Brazilian Grand Prix. Forget that it could be the race that decides the title, as it has the past couple of seasons. It's just a track that is the antithesis of modern Formula One racing. By that I mean it's an old, ragged, seat-of-the-pants circuit that fans love, but you suspect some drivers really don't fancy.

For a start, it's one of the few anti-clockwise tracks on the calendar. As a result, our multimillion-dollar salaried heroes get neck ache because the corners 'go the wrong way'. This is almost as pathetic as goalkeepers who can't kick with both feet. We are told these men are as hard as iron, spend all their time in the winter training, so why would looking the other way at a corner cause so much discombobulation?

The ramshackle track is nothing like the current herd of computer-designed super circuits. Some of the best tracks arrive by accident, like the old airfield that is Silverstone. Sao Paulo may be old, bumpy and peeling at the edges, but it's exhilarating - especially when it rains. When it pours, certain corners resemble car parks.

There is rarely a procession, and sometimes it can shred your nerves. Ask any fan of Lewis Hamilton after the chaotic rain-sodden last few laps of last season at Interlagos. That was fairly sedate compared with the 2003 race which was stopped early and it took several days to decide Giancarlo Fisichella was the winner.

It's also quite refreshing to see the teams out of their comfort zone. Not only is it a fly-away race to the only event on the continent, but it is also something of a security challenge. To put it politely, there's always a chance of coming away from the weekend with a Rolex missing after an experience of the country's crime problem.

All of which will be a world away from the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi. It is the ultimate planned track, and how exciting the race is will depend on whether the championship is still up for grabs. Having lived in the United Arab Emirates, I can vouch for how important this race is for this particular emirate.

Oil money flows in Abu Dhabi and, unlike up the road in Dubai, the credit crunch has not hurt them. What the ruling sheikh of Abu Dhabi wants, he gets. That's why there are branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums being built there, as well as campuses of major universities.

It shows something of the cachet of F1 that Abu Dhabi was desperate to get a race. Middle Eastern males are some of the biggest petrol heads going and they have the money to indulge. There were huge crowds at the Formula One demonstrations held there, and the ruling family was more than happy to splash the cash to get the recognition a race brings.

They also had to pull out all the stops to get the track ready in time. The circuit has only just been passed by the FIA. They will be grateful that, unlike Donington in the UK, there are no pesky planning hurdles to overcome, no finances to raise. Money has been no object, and it's just as well.

Tens of thousands of South Asian labourers have toiled in the baking heat both day and night to get the Yas Marina Circuit somewhere near ready for the end of the season. Not just the track and the stands, but the hotels and the marina and the entire infrastructure. In most places in the world it couldn't have happened, but the combination of cheap labour and unlimited piles of cash can move mountains, literally, in some cases.

Not everything will be ready for the big day - but the important stuff will be in place. The ruling family will not want to lose face in front of the world. Whether it can provide the thrilling action that its less flush and flash Brazilian predecessor did remains to be seen. I'm not sure the good folk of Abu Dhabi will care.

Although the United Arab Emirates is overwhelmingly populated by expatriates, the locals are exceedingly tribal. Dubai may have its indoor ski slope but the Dubai Autodrome has only managed to host GP2 races.

Abu Dhabi is about to have its day in the F1 sun. Bragging rights to the capital.