Formula 1 comes to the desert
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Finally, they brought the Formula 1 to the desert. YAS Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is the newest venue added to the Formula 1 fixture.
The first-ever Formula 1 race in Abu Dhabi kick-started on October 30 and culminated with the final race of the season on Sunday.
Built in three years the circuit is magnificent and played host to the first-ever twilight F1 race. With a new race time of 5 pm, the race started in daylight and ended at night.
The circuit can accommodate up to 50,000 F1 fans from permanent covered grandstands, each having breath-taking views of strategic stretches of the 5.5 km track. The YAS Marina Circuit boasts of the only motorsport venue to have permanent covered grandstand and VIP facilities.
There were too many compelling reasons to be a part of the experience of the first- ever F1 race in the United Arab Emirates -- the brand new spectacular circuit, the experience of the race itself and the heavy duty line-up of entertainment acts.
The race was followed by concerts each day by the likes of Beyonce Knowles, Jamiroquai, Kings of Leon and Aerosmith. Wonder why the event was so hard to resist? Personally, I wanted to see Kings of Leon live; the qualifying race was the added bonus :-)
Image: The YAS Marina in Abu Dhabi, the newest venue on the Formula 1 circuit.
Photographs: Abhijit Masih
You need to see Formula 1 live!
An hour's drive away from Dubai, the highway was unusually busy with F1 gear clad drivers. A sense of the perfect management and organisation could be had by the signboards leading cars to the massive parking lots outside Abu Dhabi. These were park and ride points, from where you could hop on to feeder buses to the circuit.
The 20 minute bus ride to the circuit was like a Big Bus tour of the YAS island where the circuit has been built. The first view of the circuit is dominated by the YAS hotel and its unique structure, which stands bang in the middle of the circuit.
We caught the last stages of the qualifier. You need to see Formula 1 live, to really experience the thrill and the rush of an adventure sport. The noise is deafening, which I realised soon after refusing the ear plugs being offered at the entrance.
The view from the West Grandstand was fabulous and right in front of the hairpin bend at the end of the straight stretch.
You could witness the drivers bring the cars to nearly a halt from speeds of over 300 km per hour at this turn.
Even though this was the qualifier, the stands were quite full.
The starting line up for Sunday's race was decided by 6 pm. We had a couple of hours to kill before the concert, which was the main reason for us driving up to Abu Dhabi. The concert arena was a short distance away from the main circuit. Even though there were shuttle buses, walking was the unanimous decision of the majority.
The newly built concert arena is huge and boasts of a covered permanent stage area.
Suddenly Abu Dhabi has a new venue for outdoor concerts. It might be a boon for Dubai residents who would not have drive all the way into Abu Dhabi for all future fixtures.
The wait of an hour-and-a-half was overcome by queuing up at the beverage counter and listening to DJ Bliss, who has been opening for all the acts.
Image: The view from the West Grandstand was fabulous.
A rocking sporting weekend
As an ardent 70s and 80s rock music fan, Kings of Leon deserve to be included in the list of my favourite long haired rockers. The three Followill brothers and their cousin Mathew come across as unassuming musicians who love what they do.
The band was on stage sharp at 8 pm and went straight into their first song. "Didn't know you guys would know our songs, leave alone knowing us" they declared and just made them that much more adorable.
The singers of Revelry and Sex on Fire, performed a one-and-a half hour setlist which included their popular hits and mixed it up with some old favourites as well. The crowd went up in unison when the band performed Use Somebody.
This was the Kings's first gig in the Middle East, but the mixed nationality audience was sure glad they had come all this way. The concert was over by 9.30 pm. A perfect end to an awesome sporting weekend.
Image: The sport and entertainment extravaganza in Abu Dhabi may rewrite the F1 game