When you've got 45,000 adrenaline-loving petrolheads descending on your city, there is only one thing to do: party. And this weekend, as the Formula 1 juggernaut rolls into town, Abu Dhabi will enjoy a social scene like nothing it's experienced before.
Thought last year's F1 was good? This time around, as well as parties across the city's top nightspots, from Etoiles to Pearls & Caviar, there are formal red-carpet balls, the sheer exuberance of a residency from Beirut's ultra-hip Skybar and performers ranging from the legendary (Prince) to the quirky (Eddie Jordan's band Eddie and the Robbers). In fact, there won't be a quiet moment all weekend, unless it's in Corinne Bailey Rae's intimate set at the Longitude Bar.
What has made a difference this year, says Mike Fairburn, the director of marketing and planning at Flash, is being able to learn from the gaps in last year's event and fill them this time round. "Obviously, we were pretty inventive last year on Yas, but when the races finished and the concerts finished there wasn't that kind of big party to go to. After we'd finished the concerts and wrapped up you'd find yourself sitting in a hotel bar listening to someone's iPhone."
Flash has certainly found some superb ways to plug that hole - where else, for example, would you get the chance to attend a 2,000-capacity night at Skybar being entertained live by Prince, Kelis, Basement Jaxx, Tineh Tempah and Rudy? But they're not the only ones. The more enterprising event organisers of the UAE have also realised that there's high-profile fun to be had at the grand prix, which is why this year, as well as the official concerts, Beats on the Beach, the corporate entertainment and of course the super-exclusive Amber Lounge, there are yacht parties, two balls, a restaurant launch and countless private events to entertain the more well-heeled race-goers. (By well-heeled, we mean Manolos at the very least).
And while you might expect squabbling and rivalry as each event tries to attract the biggest celebrities, it all seems quite amicable because this year there are plenty of personalities to go around and, say most of the organisers, the more parties there are, the more people are attracted to the event. "If you look at Monaco, it's the fun and the parties and the entertainment around the F1 that make it what it is," says James Magee, the director of Global Events Management, which is organising The Ball with Flash. "Why do the celebrities come? Why do the artists come? They come because it's a great place to hang out and be seen. In fact, I think there should be more going on - I think there should be tons of stuff. Some people are going to like the Amber Lounge, some are going to like Beverley Knight. There are parties on boats, there's Cipriani opening at the Yacht Club. The more celebrities, the more artists they can bring to town, the more people they entertain - and word of mouth is the most powerful tool in the world."
Skybar at Flash Forum, November 11-14
The first big event of the weekend marks the arrival of the Beirut institution Skybar at Yas Island's brand-new entertainment venue the Flash Forum. Anyone who has been to the Skybar Beirut will know just how hard these people can party, and Thursday night sees Sean Paul, Ferry Corsten, Adam Clay and Fatman Scoop providing the live music, as well as Skybar's own DJs. From Friday onwards, this is going to be the go-to after-party. "When you've just watched Kanye West or Linkin Park or Prince and it's only 10.30 at night, I don't know about you, but you want a choice, right?" says Flash's Mike Fairburn. "What you've got here, with the Skybar, is away you go, 11pm till 5am, great service, great DJs, great live shows, great dancers, so people don't have to rush to get a taxi back to Dubai, or sit in a hotel."
The big news, though, is that the party on Friday will see not only the advertised Basement Jaxx, Kelis, Tineh Tempah and Rudy, but also a just-announced guest performance by Prince - that's two days ahead of the giant concert on the 14th. If there are any tickets left (unlikely), this is a once-in-a-lifetime party to be at. "I honestly believe it'll be a knock-out night every night," says Lane.
Visit www.thinkflash.ae for ticket information.
The Chequered Flag Ball, November 12
Hosted by Eddie Jordan, this is billed by Tammy Urwin, the director of Urban Events, which organises the ball, as "the only way to start your grand prix weekend." Like last year's Chequered Flag, it's an intimate affair, at the InterContinental Hotel (there are just 500 tickets, of which all but about 10 have been sold at the time of writing) and deliberately so: it's about creating an easy, intimate atmosphere, says Urwin. "We keep it at an intimate number because we want people to mingle with the stars. There's no cordoning off of celebrities, everybody's there to have a really good party." And freebie-hunters looking for an invitation will find no spoils here, she says. "We do get a certain number of calls, but we don't give tickets away to this event." Tickets are Dh2,000, which covers all the food, drink and entertainment, which includes the soul singer Beverley Knight (wearing a dress by the local designers Meher & Riddhima), the former Blue member Antony Costa singing from his swing repertoire, and Eddie Jordan's own band Eddie & The Robbers. There is, of course, a charity auction, for the children's cancer charity ClicSargent. As for racing credentials, it says something that last year's hosts David Coulthard and Martin Brundle, as well as Jean Alessi, are returning, while Knight is, says Urwin, "a huge petrolhead". The after-party sees the Beirut club Eight relocate from its Souk Qaryat al Beri location to provide some danceworthy tunes.
Visit www.chequeredflagball.com for tickets.
The Ball, November 13
Another celebrity magnet, last year's Ball saw guests rubbing shoulders with Janet Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Neve Campbell and Liv Tyler, among others, and this year's edition seems likely to be just as starry. For 2010 The Ball, which takes place at the Palm Terrace of Yas Hotel, has associated itself with the model Natalia Vodianova's Naked Heart Foundation, a children's charity that aims to provide a safe space for children to play in, so Vodianova and the UK Harper's Bazaar editor, Lucy Yeomans, will be turning up, along with their celebrity friends (who we hear may include Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford). All of the Yas performers are also confirmed, says James Magee, the director of the event company behind The Ball, and the entertainment for the night includes the singers Leona Lewis, Sarah McLachlan and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, as well as a charity auction. "We're expecting some outrageous costumes," says Magee. "It's a glamorous affair and everyone gets to wear their best bib and tucker." It might wind up earlier than you'd expect, because of the big race the next day, but the big pull for this ball is the calibre of the celebs in "relaxed" mode.
"They're just enjoying themselves," says Magee. "They don't get to do it very often. What they love about the UAE is they can walk around, go to the beach, they can feel relaxed. Last year a lot of them were sitting around the pool at the Shangri-La on the Friday and the Saturday daytime before the ball, so they really did have a fabulous time. Jeremy Irons was brilliant; he walked round all night talking to people and the girls were on the dance floor all night. There were no prima donnas."
Visit www.theball-abudhabi.com for tickets.
Amber Lounge, November 12 and 14
A Formula One institution, the Amber Lounge provides the grand prix after-parties around the world in its own custom-built venue. In Abu Dhabi, the Hilton beach is the spot on which the founder Sonia Irvine, the sister of the driver Eddie Irvine, has chosen to locate the lounge two years running, this time with the newly launched Amber Lounge Dining. That will be good, but no one comes for the food: it's the stomping tunes, the celebrity clientele and the glamorous dressing that really attracts the party crowd.
The best night is, of course, the Sunday night because with Abu Dhabi ending the F1 season, the drivers really will be able to kick back and have some fun.
They're known for joining the resident DJ JackE (of the legendary St Tropez club Les Caves du Roy) at the decks to spin a few tunes of their own. Sunday is almost sold out, though, with only Jeroboam tickets left, at Dh15,000, plus a few individual passes. If you're lucky enough to get in, the dress code is ultraglam - and categorically no trainers.
Visit www.amber-lounge.com for tickets.
Mamemo yachts, November 12-14
Not all the parties go on into the small hours: there are plenty of sleek yachts in the Yas Marina playing host to private parties during the race days. Companies such as Mamemo have chartered yachts and brought in top chefs for the weekend, whether for invitation-only events, such as the Ferrari party, which is on one of Mamemo's yachts, or for public events accessible to those with the budget - weekend tickets at Mamemo, for example, cost Dh19,500 for all three days, including all food and beverages.
The price is justified, though: the yachts have, says the company's creative and managing director Sam Katiela, been chartered from members of the UAE's royal families, so the level of luxury is exceptional.
Katiela won't reveal too much - he's keeping especially quiet on celebrities ("I can't mention any of the celebrities on Ferrari but in our boat you have high net-worth individuals"), though his events usually attract royals and the company's yacht in Monaco earlier this year was host to Kate Moss and Jon Bon Jovi, among others - and he's not, he says, in the business of one-upmanship. "We don't want to be better; we want to be different - it's not about competing as to who has the best-quality caviar."
What his yachts will have are food by a Michelin-starred chef flown in from Germany, a live satellite connection to the race on plasma screens, and to the official commentator, one of the best race views to be had in the venue and pre and post-concert parties. It is, officially, sold out, but if you're important enough you might just swing one of the 20 tickets kept aside for VVIPs.
Visit www.mamemo.tv for details.
Cipriani's launch party, November 12-14
This is the under-the-radar one to watch. The launch of the venerable Italian restaurant, a glitterati destination in all its locations in both its Cipriani form and as Harry's Bar, will take place at the Yas Yacht Club, where among the venues revealed will be a Japanese restaurant, cigar lounge, Allure nightclub and a private yacht club. Friday night sees New York's Mario Larrea on the decks (Dh150 entry), Saturday will be Erick Morillo (Dh200) and Sunday's event is an after-party at Allure - though the clipboards will be out in force at the door. But it's Thursday's VVIP soft launch that everyone seems to be talking about. Suffice it to say, if you didn't know about it, you're definitely not invited.
And that, dear readers, is what makes a party hot. For Cipriani tickets for November 12-14, call +971 (0)50 596 9543 or e-mail email@example.com
We've got our hands on three pairs of Skybar tickets, worth Dh1,000 a pair, for November 11, courtesy of Flash. For a chance to win, SMS your name to 3660 before midday tomorrow. Winners will be picked at random and contacted before November 10.