The 2014 Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be the biggest yet after organisers announced an increase in capacity at the Yas Marina Circuit to 60,000 for the season-ending race.
Last year’s race saw 55,000 descend on Yas Island, but that figure is set to be beaten this November with the Abu Dhabi hill expanded by 3,000 fans while their will be an extra 1,500 tickets available for the Paddock Club.
Among other initiatives announced this morning include a new ‘GP Parks Package’ which will give ticket holders access to all four days of the event and entry to either Ferrari World or Yas Waterworld.
For the first time, motorsport fans will also be able to purchase Friday-only Grandstand tickets.
Tickets for the race weekend, which will take place from November 20 to 23 and form the final race of the 2014 F1 season went on sale today online at www.yasmarinacircuit.com and through the Yas Marina Circuit Call Centre (800 927) as well as through all Etihad Shops and www.ticketmaster.ae.
Prices have been frozen at 2013 levels for 2014 with the early bird discount, available until May 31, increased to 30 per cent.
For overseas visitors Etihad Airways is also offering a number of all-inclusive packages, consisting of grandstand tickets, flights, hotel accommodation and more, which can be booked on the Etihad Airways website (www.etihad.com) and retail outlets.
Al Tareq Al Ameri, CEO at Yas Marina Circuit, said: “Every year we strive to make this showpiece event better and offer more to the fans. We are constantly responding to what people want and this year we’re launching even more ticketing options and specially-created packages that really mean there is something for everyone.
“With an expected capacity crowd of 60,000, more fun activities for fans and double points for the final race – which means more exciting on-track action than ever – the atmosphere promises to be tremendous.”
The 2013 race was won by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who clinched the world title at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The 2014 edition – the last race of the season – is sure to provide added drama after it was announced in the off-season that double points would be on offer for the winning driver.
The overhaul in Formula 1 technical regulations for the 2014 season was supposed to be the dawning of a new era.
There was talk of the grid being turned on its head, of a litany of different race winners at least in the opening Grands Prix of the season.
A new era has certainly dawned in F1, but not as the sport’s hierarchy might have envisaged.
Where, until a few races ago, Red Bull were the dominant force in the sport, Mercedes have simply slotted into that position.
There had been suggestions in winter testing that other Mercedes-powered cars such as Williams, McLaren and Force India would get close to race wins.
In truth, they’ve barely had the factory Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in their sights in the two races to date. The dominance had been apparent with Rosberg’s win in Australia, the German greeted with the chequered flag 25 seconds ahead of his closest rival.
Hamilton’s win in Sepang merely accentuated that fact. Within a lap, he was already two seconds clear, two laps later that lead was doubled.
Worryingly for the kingmakers of the sport and Mercedes’ rivals, there was even a point when he was lapping one-and-a-half seconds quicker a lap than anyone else.
His winning margin of 17 seconds could have been notably higher in truth had Mercedes not turned down his engine and his race engineer Pete Bonnington not politely told him to slow down as an engine conservation measure – remember, drivers are allowed just five engines to span the 19-race season in 2014.
There is just one week to go until the next race in Bahrain and it is hard to see how any team can get close to the Mercedes, with Hamilton boasting pole position, the fastest lap and the race win in Malaysia.
Are there any chinks in their armour? On the surface, no. The issues with rear tyre wear that have habitually been a problem since Mercedes bought the Brawn GP team have not emerged with any great alarm so far this season.
Initially, the heat in Malaysia, where on-track temperatures hit the 50-degree mark, hinted at potential issues in that area. Rosberg complained over the race radio that his rears were overheating early on, but that was as much down to the fact that he was pushing to the limit to keep Sebastian Vettel at bay than any great issue with the Pirelli rubber.
As for reliability, there were no apparent problems for Mercedes in Malaysia as there had been two weeks previously in Australia.
And suggestions that fuel consumption might be an issue also dissipated significantly, Hamilton using less of the 100kg fuel allowance per race than any other driver on the grid.
So what does this mean for F1 in 2014?
Well, unlike in Vettel’s period of dominance where Mark Webber was clearly second best, there should be a titanic tussle within Mercedes between their two drivers, who have been given the green light to race by the team’s hierarchy.
Mercedes’ Toto Wolff overstated the point when he said: “Red Bull are still the benchmark.”
No one truly believes that, but the defending champions with supposedly a pig of a car have twice been on the podium this season, although admittedly Daniel Ricciardo’s second place was rescinded in Australia for flouting the fuel-consumption rules.
For the good of the championship, Red Bull need to up their pace further still having apparently sorted out their reliability gremlins, otherwise the first Mercedes one-two for nearly six decades will become too regular a recurrence.
Britain's Lewis Hamilton broke an eight-month win drought and roared into the Formula One title race with a commanding victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton streaked away from pole position and was never pressured as he led a Mercedes one-two with Nico Rosberg which confirmed the German marque's dominance in the new Formula One era.
Four-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel was powerless to catch Rosberg in his Red Bull and he finished third, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso fourth and Nico Hulkenberg fifth for Force India.
The win was sweet for Hamilton, who has not topped the podium since Hungary last July and retired early at the season-opener in Australia, setting back his bid for a second world title.
Rain had badly disrupted qualifying but Malaysia's notorious downpours were largely absent as Hamilton took the chequered flag 17 seconds ahead of Rosberg.
Afterwards, he paid tribute to the victims of the mysterious MH370 plane disappearance, which cast a shadow over the race and was blamed for poor ticket sales with the Sepang circuit only about half-full.
"Incredible, incredible," Hamilton said of the win. "I just feel so grateful particularly after such a tragedy three weeks ago. I would like to dedicate it to those people and their families."
After a sombre minute's silence for the MH370 missing, Hamilton got away smoothly from pole as his team-mate Rosberg squeezed inside Vettel and into second position on the starting straight.
Behind the leaders, McLaren's Kevin Magnussen clipped Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen's right rear tyre, leaving him with a flat, and Pastor Maldonado crashed with Jules Bianchi. Hamilton was streaking away in front and he had a 5.2-second lead by lap nine, with Rosberg nearly four seconds ahead of Vettel in third and Daniel Ricciardo fourth in the second Red Bull.
Williams' Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, who was warned over the radio to stop attacking his team-mate, moved up a place when Magnussen had to come in for a stop-go penalty for his collision with Raikkonen.
Hamilton pitted after lap 15 and rejoined behind Force India's Hulkenberg, who had yet to make his first stop, and he quickly regained the lead with an eight-second advantage over Rosberg.
Mercedes' relaxed instructions to Hamilton were "just keep doing what you're doing" as the former world champion extended to a 10-second lead by halfway and with Rosberg comfortably ahead of Vettel.
As rain started falling on parts of the track, the two leaders were the last to come in for their second pit stops and Hamilton regained with a healthy 12-second lead.
Red Bull reported trouble with Ricciardo's fuel sensor but then disaster struck the Australian as after his third pit stop, he drove off with a loose front left wheel and had to go back to the garage.
It got worse for Ricciardo, disqualified from second place for a fuel sensor issue in Melbourne, when his front wing came loose and he had to return to the pits again, finally rejoining in 16th.
And the officials compounded the misery of the troubled Australian when they pulled him in for a 10-second stop-go penalty for the unsafe pit stop release. He retired before the finish.
Behind the top five, Jenson Button was sixth for McLaren and Massa finished seventh, ahead of Bottas despite team instructions ordering him to let his team-mate pass.
Several drivers wore helmet stickers reading "Pray for MH370" and the Malay-language "Doa Untuk MH370" after 239 people were presumed killed in the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.