Thursday, November 17, 2011

Abu Dhabi Experience

Both WDC & WCC Titles are already won and some people have lost interest in the 2011 F1 season so I'm taking a different tack from usual this week.
Instead of writing a regular race review, I have "interviewed" three people that went to Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from different countries. #1 is a "local" from Dubai, #2 is from France and #3 is from the UK. Here are their Abu Dhabi experiences...

Booking Flights and Accomodation
DU: Thankfully I live in Dubai so it was down to driving to the location for each of the days which takes approximately 45 minutes. The one thing that I needed to make sure about was tickets, we went for the full 3-day pass which gave access to the pit walk on the Friday. I have a feeling that the tickets to the Abu Dhabi GP must be the most expensive of the season, we paid just shy of AED2000 ($545) for the Marina Grandstand. 
FR: 480€ for return flights. I had booked 15 days before the event + 680€ with taxes for 6 nights in appart-hotel at AD center, I booked 1 month ago
UK: I didn't have a budget and I booked everything in August

On arrival in Abu Dhabi...
DU: Temperature was wonderful this time around, better than 2009 which I had also attended and was a lot warmer. The best way to describe the weather is as a western summer with temps around the 30 degrees celsius during the day and the 20s in the evening.
The food quality was good but the menu was very limited, you had the option of hotdog, shwarma, burger, falafel, pies and that’s about it really in terms of hot food. There are food stands all over the race venue but they all carried the same menu, you did have additional stands for frozen yogurt,
crepes and ice cream.

FR: I landed in the rain! But it was hot and I was very welcomed by the locals. Plenty of food choices too: Italian, local, Asian, Mexican...and more. 
UK: Locals were friendly and very organised (both at airport and hotel). Temperature was fab (nice and waaarrrmm. Plenty of fast food / snack food stalls around. But variety was very poor - just fatty fast food. You could go out to the nearby hotels for food but that was a little inconvenient.

Race Day
Track Atmosphere
DU: I sat with a few friends from South Africa, had some other friends all scattered across the various stands. The atmosphere was great, you can see when there are new people to F1 around and how they react when they see the cars for the first time. Most of the grand stands seemed rather busy.
The commentary was a mix of both English and Arabic, a good combination to suit the UAE. As with F1 it is hard to hear the commentators when the race is going, but for the race day I was listening to the radio frequency 102.2FM with headphones so I could keep more informed.
FR: There was a mix, the Brits, Locals, Italians, Indians...I was in a hospitality suite above the stands, then to the Paddock Club. The atmosphere was special, really beautiful by differents light around the track, but it remains superficial...lot of people were not there for F1, just for to show their "argent"! Not really was a "Paddock Club mood" :( 
UK: I was with a mixture of all sorts (friends I was with / Brits / Germans / other nationalities / some locals). Great mood and atmosphere

Impressive Cars at 'Twilight' 
DU: Have to say the look of McLaren once the sun had set and the lights were on that awesome paint work, is by far the best-looking car there. 
The race was better than last year as there was some overtaking, but many attempts were reverted in the 2nd DRS zone as drivers were too eager to pass at the first opportunity without considering that there was a 2nd zone where the driver just been overtaken would be passed again. It seems like they did not consider that and possibly the main reason for the negative comments from some of the drivers about overtaking at Yas. 
I found it amazing how Vettel had such bad luck, but my orange McLaren Shirt came to use as they took 1st and 3rd on the day, well done boys!!!!
FR: [Same here] McLaren

Post Race Entertainment
DU: One of the greatest added benefits to the Abu Dhabi F1 weekend is that you get free access to all the concerts that are been held, this time around it was Britney Spears on Friday, Incubus and The Cult on Saturday and Sir Paul McCartney on Sunday. The concert venue is wonderful and within a few hundred meters of the North Grand Stand. I must say the number of staff that they have on hand for crowd control and transportation truly is impressive and allows for a smooth running event. 

Would you recommend the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?
DU: Definitely, there is a lot of talk of it being one of the best organized events on the calendar, sadly I won't be able to confirm that as it is the only event that I have been too. I must say though that it is very well organized, with traffic control and crowd control been great. You hardly feel like you are waiting anywhere for a long time. Also with the added benefits of the concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you can make a great weekend of it.
FR: Yes, I would recommend it because it is a beautiful experience. The place is beautiful but you have to go to the center of Abu Dhabi for more fun and visit, or while Dubai is 1 hour drive from Yas.
UK: Yes, definitely!!!!

Any negatives?
DU: Unfortunately, lack of FanVision was a problem, we had a bad angle to a screen and could only pick it up with binoculars to see what the positions where. Definitely need to get those Kangaroo TV/Fanvision for next time. That’s one way to be completely informed the whole time.
UK: Sadly there was no "track invasion" after the race (unlike at Spa, where fans can pour onto the track)

So there you have it. Abu Dhabi GP is well worth visiting; track facilities are good and well organised and the racing is... well, ....improving. Thanks to the contributors for sharing their experiences and photos. If you would like more information about this event, please leave a comment or tweet @duskyblogF1, @VGSears or @sonia_maalem.
SPECIAL MESSAGE: If in Abu Dhabi next year, some team wants to show my dad and myself in for his 60th birthday, then please tweet @VGSears. 

Photos are by @VGSears.