A1 Grand Prix is an exciting new winter season motorsport category. Announced in April 2004 by Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum of the Dubai royal family, it pits nation against nation, with drivers driving for their nations of birth. A weekend would consisted of practice, qualifying, and two races, the short sprint race and the longer feature race. Against all odds and defying critics who would smile if the series failed to make it off the ground, it made it to its first Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, United Kingdom on the 25th of September, and started spectactularely, with a double win for Team Brazil. The 11 race series- after the cancelation of the Brazil round due to the track not meeting standards- excited motorsport fans across the globe, with Team France proving to be far and away the quickest team, and winning the championship in the penultimate meeting in the USA.
However, there were criticisms and concerns over how the series would manage financially, and this was started by Maktoum funding the majority of the series with his own money. Critics were delighted to hear that the series had lost $212 million in its first year, and excitedly scurried off to write articles about this. Running a 25 nation series with mostly his own money alone costed Maktoum, but fans were pleased to here that a debt managing program involving the Nomura Group with assist the series for futures seasons.
The series, while exciting on the track, done itself little favours with dealing with critics. With the Sentul round being postponed and put forward 4 weeks after the death of the Prime Minister of Dubai, and the Laguna Seca (USA) round almost being cancelled due to heavy rain in the area, doom criers were loaded with ammunition to use against the series. Three teams- Russia, Japan and India failed to finish the first season due to financial concerns. Merchandising and marketing was near non existant, some important television markets were being ignored (Canada), and the official website left a bit to be desired. While a new series will certainly have growing pains, A1 needed to react quickly to rumours of discontent, and should have been quicker to react to concerns, rather than allow pit stop problems and television coverage problems to continue well into the series. Sparse crowds at some races were pointed at the lack of publicity, meaning less fans saw their heroes in action. Some criticised the drivers in the series and stated that you need personalities to push the series forward- however, others argued that when the series is big enough, this would not be of a concern to fans.
However, A1 is looking forward to its second season, beginning in front of a packed crowd at Zandvoort in Holland on the 1st of October 2006, and ending where it begun its first series at Brands Hatch on the 29th of October. Should it iron out its few faults on the track, and look seriously into its merchandising and publicity, there is no reason why it cannot grow. More teams are expected to join for series two. While critics will complain over any "problem" falling at A1's feet, there is no doubt A1 is here to give fans nation versus nation and national pride.
A1 Grand Prix is an exciting new series.
A1 starts is second season on the 1st of October in Holland.