Click on the image above to view more pictures from the event.
As promised, organizers put on quite the spectacle on Saturday when the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was officially announced. Tens of thousands of people reportedly turned out for an F1 demonstration on the streets of the gulf emirate that featured all the big-name drivers, including Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. No big surprise that Ferrari sent both its driving aces to the event, but Spyker's absence seems conspicuous. Abu Dhabi crown corporation Mubadala Development is a minority shareholder in both teams.
Follow the jump for the rest of the story plus the official press release.
The demonstration was the largest gathering of F1 cars outside a grand prix – aside from Spyker, Williams was the only team not to participate – and provided a festive backdrop against which the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was announced. Hermann Tilke, the veritable prophet of track design, is working on the circuit that will sit next to Ferrari World on the Yas Island development. The 5.6km circuit will feature three fluid segments: a permanent track with high-speed straights capped by tight corners, a street section and another by the marina, making for a decidedly Monaco-like atmosphere.
In announcing the Abu Dhabi race, Bernie Ecclestone ruled out the possibility of a race in Dubai. The grand prix calendar continues to grow while global races are added faster than European events are cancelled. Bernie, who pockets most of the commercial revenue from each race, says he'd like to see 25 grands prix each year, but he'll settle for "only" twenty. Many of the teams, meanwhile, already feel strained at seventeen races, flying their cars, staff and equipment around the world for each new race Ecclestone sets up.
Thousands celebrate Ecclestone confirmation at F1 showcase on Abu Dhabi streets
Abu Dhabi, February 3, 2007: In front of an elated crowd of tens of thousands of people, Formula One Management today announced that Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, has secured the rights to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix from 2009.
On behalf of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the announcement was made to the public who had gathered to watch the sport's elite at the first-ever Abu Dhabi F1 Festival - featuring the largest gathering of current Formula One drivers and cars ever assembled outside of a Grand Prix.
An official signing ceremony immediately followed at the stunning Emirates Palace Hotel by the Chairman and CEO of Formula One Management, Mr Bernie Ecclestone and the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority (EAA), His Excellency Khaldoon Al Mubarak, in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
"A Formula 1 Grand Prix is one of the world's most prestigious sporting events, in the same category as an Olympic Games or World Cup, and is unrivalled in terms of continuous global resonance. That is why this new partnership is such an exciting one for Abu Dhabi and the entire UAE," said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
"For Abu Dhabi, and indeed the whole of the UAE, the opportunities that are presented by increased international attention and connectivity will deliver very real macroeconomic benefits."
Abu Dhabi, the capital, and largest of the seven Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, will provide an idyllic location for one the world's most popular sport. With over 200 natural islands, offering some of the most untouched beaches in the region, it is fast becoming one of the most sought out destinations in the world.
Formula One Management CEO Bernie Ecclestone commented: "We are delighted to welcome Abu Dhabi into the Formula One family, and look forward to a long and successful partnership. Abu Dhabi's hospitality, the genuine warmth of its people, and ever increasing number of world class facilities, will ensure that its round of the FIA Formula One World Championship is a wonderful addition to the Formula One calendar."
The 2009 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix track is being constructed by ALDAR Properties, one of the UAE's leading property development companies, and designed by renowned Formula 1TM circuit designer Hermann Tilke.
Already under construction, the track is situated on a 2,550 hectare, natural leisure island, Yas Island, situated on the east coast of Abu Dhabi and only minutes away from the expanding Abu Dhabi International Airport.
"Abu Dhabi will bring its own unique culture, landscape and fans to the F1 experience," said HE Khaldoon Al Mubarak. "The track design alone is an indication of the visionary approach we are taking and I am confident we will deliver something truly special," he added.
"Spectators will enjoy high speed action played out on three distinct sections of the 5.6km circuit, including high speed areas ending in tight overtaking turns, a street section and a marina section. Each section of the circuit combines to deliver an unrivalled viewing experience."