The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix poses a challenge for F1 drivers, yes, but the giant space that is the Yas Marina Circuit also possesses its own set of tests for the visitor on such a busy weekend.
This is the eighth year that I’ll be covering the big race weekend, and I am glad to say that with each successive year, I have got smarter, and more able to make the most of the experience.
This is all born out of the insights gleaned from social faux pas, sage advice from those who regularly attend and unexpected discoveries. Like all grand festivals, the key to a great Abu Dhabi F1 weekend relies on a hefty dose of common sense and patience: but to make it easier for you, here are five tips gleaned from nearly a decade reporting trackside.
#1: Go as a group
First and foremost, go to the race with your friends. Plenty of Abu Dhabi cab drivers have warned me that they will be exclusively deployed to Yas Island throughout the weekend, hence the potential dearth of silver vehicles in the city. Therefore, save yourself the time and waiting anguish by booking a mini-van taxi with a group.
#2: Bring comfortable footwear
es, it does seem simple enough, but this is key: each day of the weekend brings its share of sporting activities, family events and partying, and unless you pay a hefty amount to spend the weekend in one of the nearby Yas Island hotels so that you can have a power nap, chances are that you will spend the whole day and night at the Marina. Therefore, bring a big enough bag to carry a second set of evening shoes if you want them. For the day, wear good sports shoes because your daily walks will likely involve varied terrain, ranging from pavement and soft grass to steep stairs.
#3: Carry cash
The organisers have informed me that there will be plenty of ATM machines across the site. I urge you to use them early and collect your daily allotted budget – the queue for cash payment at food outlets is almost half of those paying with plastic.
#4: Hear Guns N’ Roses or Sam Smith before their shows.
Many artists rehearse on stage before their big show, and, if you’re lucky, you may get to hear them. You need to be crafty about this. You will require a ticket to the northern stand, which is the closest to the du Arena. Within that area, there is small bit of space that gives you a clear view of grass field that is the du Arena. Between midday and late afternoon, you will see the stage being used by the After-Race Concert artists for their technical rehearsals, which also means the testing of the venue’s mammoth video screens. Last year, I heard Pink putting her voice through its paces at about 4.30pm, and then I knew we were in for a killer concert later in the day.
#5: Be patient and remember you are not the only one who wants to get home
My last piece of advice is for those going home after the evening concerts: be patient. If you want to go home or to the toilet, chances are about 10,000 other people have the same idea at that same time. So, whether you are coming home by driving, or in a taxi, there is virtually no way to avoid a queue. Go with the flow.
Now, this is where your mobile phone charger and headphones are useful. With plenty of juice left in your phone, this is the ample time to listen to The National's smooth jazz or '90s rock playlists on Apple Music. If you're too tired to wait in line, then hang back at The Village at du Arena and chill with a hot beverage. If that option is also galling, it's best to leave the concert at the halfway mark, at 10.15pm, to catch your cab with relatively minimal fuss. By then, you would have sampled a respectable selection of six songs.
But most importantly, enjoy the weekend. Follow these simple tips and you are guaranteed to have a blast. Best thing of all, you will be constantly surrounded by thousands of international visitors who will marvel at the great weather we have month-after-month, here in the UAE. Their infectious enthusiasm serves as annual reminder to be grateful for this beautiful and safe city that we call home.
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