As the Formula One Grand Prix prepares to hurtle back onto Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, we report on what the drivers are thinking and where the party’s at.
Get your earplugs ready – the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is just days away and the anticipation among the UAE’s Formula One enthusiasts and music lovers is starting to get frenzied. Returning to Yas Island for the fourth time, the race weekend begins with practice rounds on Friday November 1, followed by practice and qualifying events on Saturday and culminating in the Grand Prix on Sunday 3. Here in the emirates, the event isn’t just about the action on the tracks – the celebrity-studded after-parties and four nights of concerts by huge international acts are just as big a draw. Feeling revved up at the mere thought of it all? Read on for our compact guide to the UAE capital’s big weekend.
On the track
Kicking off with a full day of practice sessions on Friday 1, the world’s best F1 drivers will re-familiarise themselves with the Yas Island circuit, continuing into Saturday 2, which will also see the qualifying sessions take place. Sunday is the third, final and most important day on the three-day calendar, when the big race is held. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who is on track to become this year’s F1 champion, currently holds the lap record for Abu Dhabi, which he set during the city’s inaugural race in 2009, logging a time of one minute, 40.279 seconds. ‘In just three years, the race has grown to be one of the highlights of the season,’ says Austrian Vettel, who notes that he has ‘special memories’ of the circuit after two consecutive wins in 2009 and 2010. He also enjoys the change from day to night during the race, a sentiment echoed by fellow Red Bull driver Mark Webber: ‘I like the twilight element to the race – starting in the day and finishing at night,’ says the Australian. ‘For the track itself, you need good traction – there are slow and twisty corners – as well as a good top speed.’
Elsewhere, British team Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton reveals he is also looking forward to getting back to the capital. ‘The facilities in Abu Dhabi are absolutely fantastic – probably the best of any circuit in the world. I’ve always enjoyed the Yas Marina circuit, I took pole here in 2009 and led until I had to retire, finished second in 2010 and won it in 2011 – that’s a pretty good record,’ he explains. ‘It’s a track where you can really push the car, which is what I most enjoy. There are a wide variety of corners – I love the fast sweeps in the first sector – and it’s incredibly satisfying to hook together a good sector through the tricky Marina section of the lap.’
To find out what Jenson Button, Kimi Räikkönen and Nico Rosberg are looking forward to at this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, visit www.timeoutdubai.com
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