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F1 promoter predicts strong turnout for Abu Dhabi GP

Max Verstappen celebrates victory at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix DPPI/Panoramic via Reuters
Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates victory at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He sealed his third F1 title in Qatar last month
  • Season finale ‘will go ahead’
  • Cancellations since Israel-Gaza war
  • 160,000 people attended in 2022

The promoter of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is predicting strong attendance for this month’s race despite the continuing conflict in Israel and Gaza.

Several events in the UAE and across the Middle East have been cancelled or postponed because of the war, but Formula One’s governing body has dismissed speculation that the final race of the season could be called off.

Last year the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix drew an audience of 160,000 spectators across the race weekend, up by 7,000 on the previous year. A similar number is expected this year, according to Ethara, which promotes the Abu Dhabi race.

“Our events this year in 2023 have been very healthy and that hasn’t changed,” Brint Jackson, chief venues officer at Ethara, said. “Things are looking good for the events we have scheduled for the rest of the year.”

Ethara also promotes after-race concerts and other sporting, music, cultural and entertainment events. Its UAE venues include the Etihad Arena, Etihad Park, Yas Marina Circuit and Yas Conference Centre.

Jackson said “most of the concerts” at its venues had been postponed and rearranged for later dates.

“We’re trying to show sensitivities with certain marketings, but for the most part we are still plugging along here in Abu Dhabi,” he added.

American stand-up comedian Jo Koy was scheduled to perform at the Etihad Arena last month, but his show has been postponed until May 26 next year.

In Dubai, property giants Emaar and Nakheel have called off all community events, while the 2023 Meta Film Fest has been “cancelled due to global situation and challenges”.

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith has also postponed her Middle East book tour.

Formula One has been a centrepiece of the Gulf’s sporting calendar since Bahrain hosted the region’s first Grand Prix in 2004. The 2023 season started in Bahrain on March 5, followed by the Saudi Arabian race in Jeddah on March 19.

Max Verstappen won his third F1 title at the Qatar Grand Prix, on October 8. The season finale will take place on November 26 at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

Ethara, which has offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Riyadh, announced a joint venture with arena developer Oak View Group in September. Oak View runs five arenas in the US and is developing more sites in the US, UK, Canada and Brazil.