German Sebastian Vettel, of Ferrari, corners during the practice session on Yas Marina Circuit on Friday. Getty Images
German Sebastian Vettel, of Ferrari, corners during the practice session on Yas Marina Circuit on Friday. Getty Images

Formula One making tracks on the circuit and on stage in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // The talking and anticipation ended and the action began on Friday as the Formula One cars made their first appearance of the weekend at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The action did not disappoint as the spectators at Yas Marina Circuit were treated to the first glimpses of what promises to be a weekend-long duel for honours between the Mercedes-GP drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton has clinched his third drivers’ world title ahead of the final round of the 2015 season but he is eager to honour the UAE’s impending 44th National Day celebrations next week by winning his 44th race to coincide with the festivities.

The Briton started well by setting the fastest time in first practice but it was Rosberg, who has won the past two races, who topped the times under the lights in the evening practice session, with a best time of one minute, 41.983 seconds.

The Mercedes pair will be the favourites on Saturday when the excitement is further ratcheted up with qualifying, which takes place at 5pm, and will decide the starting order for Sunday’s 55-lap race.

One driver who was enjoying the Abu Dhabi experience was Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.

“Yeah, it is always a good time here. Good climate, good atmosphere and fans are great and looking forward to the weekend,” said the Australian.

Away from the track, F1 entertainment was well under way, with Latin pop sensation Enrique Iglesias wowing crowds at the du Arena on Friday night.

The 39-year-old Spanish heartthrob served up a high-adrenaline set packed with popular tunes drawn from his two-decade career.

Kicking off with uptempo banger I’m A Freak, the party atmosphere was soon in full swing.

“Abu Dhabi, raise your hands up in the air,” he cried. And we did.

Next came stomping anthem I Like How it Feels. For the post-race crowd, turns out it felt pretty good.

Iglesias marked a smart booking by promoters Flash. His songbook of evergreen international hits proved a good fit with this casual crowd of petrolheads, families and generally curious ears.

Performing backed by eight-piece band, Iglesias enthusiastically bounced around the stage clad in a red t-shirt and baseball cap.

The after-race concerts continue on Saturday with Florence and The Machine, and the festivities wrap up on Sunday with a performance from reformed Britpop icons Blur.

Elsehwere, Beats on The Beach boasted its own star power on Friday night. The Lagoon Beach at the Corniche was packed with hip-hop fans to see the genre’s star of the moment, J Cole. The American made his return to the capital after appearing in the same event back in 2012.

He was joined on the bill by Lebanese crooner Wael Kfoury, Emirati singer Omar Marzouqi and Trey “Ace” Smith - the DJ son of actor Will Smith.

Beats on The Beach is set to conclude on Saturday with performances by UK dance stalwarts Faithless, Emirati songtress Arwa, American hip-hop group Far East Movement and Lebanese rapper Malika.

For details on the after-race concerts and Beats on The Beach go to

The specs

Engine: four-litre V6 and 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo

Transmission: six-speed and 10-speed

Power: 271 and 409 horsepower

Torque: 385 and 650Nm

Price: from Dh229,900 to Dh355,000

Most Read
Top Videos

Checking In

Travel updates and inspiration from the past week

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      Checking In