Our first impressions from the track at the Yas Marina circuit...
I'm no racing expert - I'll admit that to anyone who'll listen. I can't even drive a car, and my recent attempts to pilot an F1 simulator only provoked lewd hand gestures from the kids in the queue behind me, but the truth is you're unlikely to log onto www.timeoutabudhabi.com expecting in-depth race reports. You're here because you want the alternative view, techies be damned. Who needs Lewis Hamilton's inside leg measurements anyway? Hoping to serve you the best I can, I've already been mooching about.
Yas Marina is nothing if not huge. We're talking just shy of 1700 hectares of development - that's 17 square kilometers to anyone who doesn't speak farmer - only part of which is given over to the track itself. The first thing you see on your way in is Ferrari World, a giant red shell that slopes out of the desert and spirals into a series of roller coaster tracks that rise above it like insect antenna. Beyonce will test its acoustics for the first time tonight, which will be interesting given that the shell is currently little more than a vast metal barn. Perhaps the 7,000-strong audience will act as some kind of living reverb buffer. Lucky them.
Naturally, the track currently looks pristine. It looks as though it were laid yesterday. The real thrill is in imagining the atmosphere once the 41,093 seats are filled (the organising committee announced last week that the weekend is sold out). Plastering myself in factor 50 sun cream (it's nearly November, sure, but the sun outside is pretty fierce, and the area is largely uncovered), I set off for the roof of the media centre, negotiating countless checkpoints as I ascend. A smattering of German comes in handy - security is being handled by a German firm, and while they all speak reasonable English, a danke schon or two doesn't go amiss.
From the top, I have a great view of the track as it enters the side of Yas Hotel. They've been touting this feature loudly - no other F1 facility has a track that actually penetrates a hotel - and, to be fair, it looks pretty amazing. The seasoned sports journalists around me all agree - this place seems pretty special. One fellow from the far East is clutching his cap to his heart and murmuring the words, ‘so pretty', over and over again. I think there's a tear in his eye. I last visited in February, and I'm just thankful it no longer resembles a building site. On the surface, all seems ready to rumble, but we'll hear more about that later in the day. The drivers arrive at 3.