With the summer break behind us, the drivers have been back on the track, and with only 5 races to go in the season, this year’s Formula 1 championship is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested battles on the sporting calendar.
The fight between the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers of Britain’s Lewis Hamilton and Germany’s Sebastian Vettel is growing, with Hamilton taking the lead in the points for the first time this season in Monza, Italy, and extending it further in Singapore. But with only 28 points between them, we could have a repeat of last season with the winner not clear until the last race!
And this is just one of the reasons why the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi has become so iconic on the calendar.
Now I could spout facts and figures to convince you, like Vettel has never lost a championship that he has led at any point in the season, or that Hamilton is on a roll with the record for most pole positions by any driver in history, or even that the upcoming races between now and Abu Dhabi suit the drivers and teams almost evenly, but what we all hope it all comes down to is that the weekend of the 24th to the 26th of November will provide one of the biggest and best events this year!
Built in 2009 during the Bernie Eccelstone era of Formula 1, when the championship was entering into new areas of the world, the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the first race to operate in the twilight hours, utilising powerful lighting to seamlessly transition between the day and night. Famous track designer Hermann Tilke was tasked with the layout, creating a circuit to rival Monaco and Singapore’s waterfront design, and allowing the paddock (and lucky others) the ability to watch or retire to their luxury yachts.
Spectators are almost guaranteed fantastic views, with Yas Marina Circuit being the first race to also have every grandstand fully covered, protecting those seated from the desert sun. Those lucky enough to have Paddock Club passes, will notice even the teams get luxury with state of the art garages including air conditioning. And for a rare few paddock members each year, the experience goes to new heights, literally, with the solar powered Sun Tower, a 60 metre tall viewing platform with unbridled views over the entire track.
And on-track, the design continues to impress every year, with the high octane action shown off in long straights, tight corners including a hairpin perfect for overtaking, and even a twisty street circuit style section. And with the iconic 5 star, 499-room Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel straddling the track, enthusiasts can stay as close to the action as possible!
To make a full holiday in Abu Dhabi out of the grand prix instead of just a weekend of petrol infused excitement (or if you are trying to convince your other half that going is a great idea), Yas Island also holds two theme parks. Ferrari World celebrates the most accomplished team in the Formula 1 with go-karts, bumper cars, and roller coasters including the fastest in the world. Yas Waterworld allows visitors to cool off in the desert heat and is fun for the whole family. Incorporating water slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, and so much more, it is the perfect escape from the sun for those off-track antics.
Set to open in 2018, Yas Island gets its third theme park, Warner Bros. World. Families with kids will love the cinematic themed park with rides, shows, and characters that will entertain young and old alike.
During race weekend, the atmosphere is electric and Abu Dhabi turns it up a notch. Matching Singapore and Monaco in the glitz and glamour stakes, the events that coincide with the grand prix are spectacular and decadent, with elite guests and royalty often attending. The hotels and private yachts host parties and exclusives where guests have the chance to meet drivers, team bosses and owners, and a who’s-who of celebrities in spectacular surroundings.
For those looking to be in the thick of the action all weekend, the Yas Viceroy hotel at the track is the place to be, but there are many other fantastic options close by that will also give you the best of both worlds for the weekend or longer. The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort and the Park Hyatt Hotel & Villas both give visitors a beach escape, being situated on a 9 mile stretch of pristine blue coastline, while still being close to Yas Marina Circuit. Those looking to experience the culture of the area may be better suited to a city break in the heart of Abu Dhabi, staying at the Etihad Towers or the opulent Emirates Palace.
Sponsors such as Etihad Airways (who have been the title sponsor of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since its inception) make the trip from the UK a breeze with 5 direct flights daily and a 5 flights per week service from Edinburgh.
Wherever you decide to stay, the question becomes… are you going to be there when the fireworks go off!