Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - A Review
Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix
If you are an F1 fan (like me) then you may have already travelled to some of the better known and more established formula 1 circuits like Monaco, Spa, Silverstone etc. The atmosphere at any of these circuits is amazing and definitely something to be experienced.
However, in the last few years some new circuits have come on to the Formula 1 calendar, including the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which had it's inaugural race in 2009, as the last Grand Prix of the Season.
There was a lot of fanfare surrounding the new circuit on Yas Island, not only in the Emirate itself, but also around the world of Formula 1 fans. Firstly there was always the question of whether the circuit would be ready in time, and then whether the track would live up to the great tradition that is Formula 1.
Abu Dhabi F1 GP - Ferrari
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - The Set Up
So, having been to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in both 2009 and 2010 I can give you some details about how it runs.
Firstly, the tickets. You can buy tickets for either 2 days or 3 days. 2 day tickets get you into the circuit for Saturday practice and Qualifying and the Race on Sunday. 3 day tickets, contrary to their name, get you into the circuit for 4 days, starting on the Thursday. Now if you are a real Formula 1 fan then you will want to get these tickets and I will tell you more about these shortly.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is more of a whole festival of activity and along with the races, the tickets to the grand prix also give you access to a bunch of concerts that are held at Yas Island on each night of the practice and race. Some of the previous acts have included Kings of Leon, Depeche Mode, Muse, Britney Spears, Paul McCartney and Kanye West so they tend to attract pretty big names. The concerts are held right near the circuit and there are quite a few hotels located in the same area so it is easy to get to them.
Abu Dhabi F1 Track Walk Pictures
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Thursday
So, as I mentioned before, the 3 day tickets to the Formula 1 at Abu Dhabi actually get you access for 4 days. The first day you can get in is the Thursday and for me this is actually the BEST day to go!
On Thursday they hold the pit lane walk. Basically you gain access to the pit lane where you can see the mechanics preparing the cars or practising tyre changes etc. You get right in to the heart and soul of the Grand Prix.
In 2009, on the first day of the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, I made sure I was one of the first people at the circuit! In fact I was so early (along with about 8 other people) that the people on the gates did not know where we should go in. We basically kept wandering from gate to gate until someone let us in and we were able to walk up to the Yas Island Hotel (where we were not supposed to be!). Once we were there we hung around outside waiting for someone to tell us where to go next. In that time we saw Mark Webber and David exit and enter the hotel, and managed to get pictures with them (see right). We also saw Alonso and Vettel doing a track walk which was a great start to the day.
but the main part of the day was to get into the pit lane. After the success of the pit lane walk in 2009 , it was much busier in 2010 but still you were right in the heart of it. In 2010 they did not let you take videos but they did let you take photos.
The pit lane walk lasts for a couple of hours and they also have autograph sessions with the drivers over the first few days. You need to get hold of a detailed program to see which drivers are doing their autograph sessions when, but most of the drivers take part so if you pick your spot and make sure to join the queue early then you could get the autograph of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso or whoever your favourite Formula 1 star is.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - The Pits!
Photos from The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Getting to the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held at Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island. This is on the Dubai side of Abu Dhabi so you could stay either in Abu Dhabi or Dubai (although Abu Dhabi is obviously a bit closer).
You can buy a car park pass if you buy a minimum number of tickets (I think 3 right now) and these car parks are not far from the circuit, but you still need a short shuttle bus trip to reach them. There are also 2 park and ride facilities available, one in Abu Dhabi and one about 15 minutes nearer Dubai than the circuit. The park and rides are very well organised with clean and efficient shuttle buses and it is probably just as easy to use these than to actually park at the circuit. The Dubai side park and ride is about an hour and a quarter from Dubai (depending which end of Dubai you are staying in). If staying in Dubai try and stay at the Marina end of town for closer access.
You can also take a taxi to the race and taxis are relatively cheap, especially if you share the cost. The taxi will drop you off at the circuit.
There are quite a few hotels that are located within walking distance of he circuit itself, just search for Yas Island hotels - the Crowne Plaza and the Radisson are two such hotels.
Short Video of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Practice Session
Yas Marina Circuit and Surrounds
The circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is pretty amazing - although it was only jsut finished in time for the first race in 2009, it is a stunning setting, particularly with the race being at dusk with the Yas Island Hotel being lit in different colours. The facilities are second to none and as in the Middle East, always very clean.
Sometimes the staff are lacking a little bit in knowledge but I think this will be improved in the years to come and the locals in particular are very keen to get this right and are very enthusiastic abuot having the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.
Another thing that you might want to try out, right next to the circuit, is Ferrari World, a theme park with the fastest rollercoaster in the world. Not being a rollercoaster fan, I haven't tried it, but I hear that it is amazing.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Conclusion
So, in conclusion, I would say that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is definitely one that you should put on your list to go to. Yu can combine it with a beach holiday for all the family, it is easy to get to, the weather should be great and you get great access to the drivers and the pits. Added to all that you get to see some great concerts after the days racing or practice to make it one amazing event.
Definitely a thumbs up!