The F1 came to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island for the last race of the season at the weekend. And what a weekend it was. Last year I waxed lyrical about how fantastic the facility was and how much of a good time I had with my friends. Could it have been better? I had my doubts, but yet again Yas Island and the F1 delivered a superlative few days of fun.
We cruised down late on Saturday afternoon and arrived at the circuit just in time to see an action packed qualifying. I realised that while I have some allegiances to Red Bull and Ferrari, I am in fact an unabashed McLaren fan. It was great to see both Button and Hamilton go well for good grid positions on race day. After this was done, we headed across the road to the very funky Y-Bar at the Yas Rotana. There we had some relaxing outdoor drinks before heading down to watch Linkin Park at the Yas Arena.
I have some vague knowledge of Linkin Park and I spent a comfortable 90 minutes watching them rock out. Of course the odd recognizable tune made me leap about (especially New Divide from the Transformers movie). Any Linkin Park fans would have enjoyed it, they played with a lot of passion especially Rob Bourdon on drums:
The following day we got down to the circuit about 1pm. Plenty of time to have an explore and check out what was going on during the day. The first thing that I noticed was that there were plenty of lessons that had been learned from the previous year. A couple of examples -
1. Booze Tents – they now all have a “beer garden” a welcome relief from the turbo AC inside the tents and a great way to enjoy the autumnal Abu Dhabi sun
2. The food – far better than the over priced rubbish that was being served last year (in fact they actually ran out at one point the previous year)
3. Entertainment – lots of it and now not just at the central fan zone
The parking and buses after the concerts continued to be beyond reproach and the people looking after the Silverstone circuit in the UK could do well to visti Abu Dhabi.
We had a stroll down the far zone making sure to take advantage of the photo cuts outs. Here is yours truly getting my dream as a Ferrari driver coming true:
Then we noticed a rather large queue forming. Like any good British citizen it was just to much temptation and I had to join the back of it. One of my friends checked out what was happening, it turned out that Rubens Barrichello was about to show up for a 15 minute autograph session. There was no chance that I would get one at the back of queue so opted to grab a photo instead:
After we had a play on the Porsche stand in the various models they had on show, a BMX demo was just about to start. So going with the flow we stuck around for 20 minutes and watched the guys pull off their tricks. The ending was a back flip jump which I managed to press the power off button on my camera instead of the “take photo” button. Instead you will have to settle for “serious air with tyre grab” picture:
It was soon time for the race so we hurried back to our seats for the anthem, Etihad fly by and the procession lap. It was the most wide open F1 championship in history and there was a palpable atmosphere of excitement in the grandstand. This was amplified after the nasty crash involving Schumacher and Liuzzi. Once the safety car left the track, the pit stop strategy kept the crowd guessing, but ultimately it was a very well driven race led by Vettel with everyone else following in a neat procession. I can now understand why the McLaren bosses are asking for a track change at Abu Dhabi to allow for more passing opportunities. This is the view Lewis had of Vettel for the first half of the race:
Still well done to Vettel – the youngest F1 world champion in history. I was glad to have been there to witness it and the tears he had afterwards were touching. My fellow F1 spectators all agreed it had been a good race and a fitting end to an exciting season:
Once we had taken the obligatory trackside photos we headed straight over to the concert venue. Once there we relaxed and listend to DJ Bliss play a fun commercial R&B set prior to the legend, Prince, came out to play.
When it was announced that Prince was going to play after the race I was surprised. He certainly does not tour often and I grew up listening to his extensive catalogue. Was I excited? Oh yes! He also did not disappoint. Small edit: Sadly Youtube have removed my 57 second clip of Prince singing Little Red Corvette.
It was all rather bewildering. He played a decent amount of his classic hits – but not content with that we got treated to some intense guitar solos and some amazing vocal performances by the backing singer. I do wonder if Prince was getting a bonus for each time he mentioned “Abu Dhabi” as he started doing it so much he turned it into a song! Which was fun.
Then there were the encores. Notice I say encores as there were at least three. The second one I thought was just great, he invited people to come up on stage to dance. I thought it might be just a couple but there was easily fifty or sixty people partying with the man himself, it was quite a sight. Then there was a really nice bit of improv. Nicole Scherzinger (girlfriend of Lewis Hamilton and Pussycat Dolls member) ended up getting on a podium alongside Prince and singing with him. The big screens cut to Lewis Hamilton who had his phone out videoing his girlfriend sing with the Pop legend, this was greeted with a cheer and a warm round of applause from audience. I guess even superstars can get a little awestruck.
Here Prince sings with Nicole:
We all left tired but on a huge high. Everything had been above the hugh expectation level that last year had set. I noticed that there were a lot of “real” F1 fans in attendance compared to last year. Without fail I could hear them saying that this was the best F1 race for the fans on the circuit. High praise indeed and who am I to argue? I have only ever been to Silverstone and Abu Dhabi blows it out of the water.