F1: ‘Huge effort’ to stage safe Abu Dhabi GP, Lewis Hamilton availability in the balance

The Yas Marina Circuit is set to host the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which will bring the curtain down on an eventful and challenging 2020 Formula One season.

The COVID-19 pandemic had put the entire season in jeopardy but 17 races managed to make it on the calendar to complete a full campaign.

Saif Al Noaimi, the acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, spoke of the immense efforts that have gone into ensuring the season finale goes forward in the United Arab Emirates capital.

“It definitely was a huge effort from many different stakeholders, first of all to plan a safe event and right now to execute that. Our focus from the beginning has been health and safety. Looking after the personnel involved,” Al Noaimi said during a virtual press conference on Monday.

Al Noaimi said Abu Dhabi’s reaction to the pandemic was crucial and the success of major events since is testament to that.

“We’re fortunate in Abu Dhabi to have a very good response to the pandemic and we’re fortunate that we have the ability to host such events. We’ve seen the likes of the IPL and UFC Fight Island and Fight Island 2.0 being delivered successfully and in a safe manner.”

The planning that went into the organisation of the Abu Dhabi GP was extensive but Al Noaimi believes they benefited from being in constant contact with F1 and the FIA while taking lessons learnt from other Grand Prix on board.

“We immediately started speaking with Formula One management as well the FIA and other promoters involved in similar scenarios. Being the 17th round of the season, we got to benefit from the lessons learnt from the 16 Grand Prix before us. We kept on adapting and enhancing our plans as we got closer to the event.”

Lewis Hamilton May Miss Finale

Having Tested positive for COVID-19 on December 1, a day after winning the Bahrain GP, Lewis Hamilton was absent for the Sakhir GP and may miss the final race in Abu Dhabi as well.

Al Noaimi said the FIA would ultimately determine the Englishman’s availability.

“There is a specific protocol set by FIA which determines whether the driver is fit to attend the following the event and if he is fit to travel. So that’s something that still has not been confirmed, and we are waiting a decision on his situation.”

Hamilton who would need to produce a negative result and have sufficient time to arrive in the UAE, isolate for a day and at least participate in qualifying to be able to race on Sunday.

Failing that, F1 fans may be treated to a second opportunity for George Russell in Hamilton’s seat. The young Williams driver impressed at the Sakhir GP where he looked set for a maiden win before a pit-crew blunder saw him finish ninth after qualifying second.

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