Abu Dhabi F1: the Yas Marina Circuit is full of excitement and tension ahead of the race

From Ivanka Trump to Martin Garrix, the exclusive paddock site hosted a number of celebrities

F1 driver George Russell in the Paddock at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit. Getty Images

Like a finely tuned engine, the energy at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday ramps up naturally each hour leading to the 5pm race.

That means if you are on the starting grid and want to get some non-racing work done, you need to come to the circuit early.

With only the hardcore fans around and a few bleary-eyed racing officials entering the paddock at 10am, McLaren Formula One driver George Russell decides to show off his fashion chops.

Arriving immaculately dressed in a suit and shades, trailed by black-suited companions wearing trilby hats and carrying umbrellas on a sunny day, it seems like Russell is signaling his intention to be the next James Bond if all this racing malarkey doesn’t work out.

As it turns out, it was the wrong film franchise.

As Russell’s Instagram points out, it is a part of a campaign promoting The King’s Man, the third instalment of The King’s Men spy film series, out on December 22.

For Red Bull Racing reserve driver Alex Albon, it was also a chance to do some networking. He is spotted strolling around the circuit deep in conversation with the green-tracksuited mob of the Aston Martin team.

However, by 1pm, the VIP set started arriving.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of former US president Donald Trump, strolls in with an Emirati official.

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix (far left) at Yas Marina Circuit. Photo: Saeed Saeed / The National

While Trump emits a laid-back and graceful vibe, Dutch DJ Martin Garrix is all energy. He does several rounds of the paddock in what resembles some kind of exercise regimen.

After all, the past 24 hours have been eventful for the DJ in that he signed up to perform in front of up to 40,000 people at Etihad Park– a veritable last minute replacement for Foo Fighters.

Watching all this glittering action sanguinely are the officials in their respective team cabanas. They have seen this all before thanks to the 23 races across four continents.

Early afternoon is the time for lunch and the menu on offer is as varied as the competing teams.

After indulging in plates of pasta with pesto sauce on Saturday, the red-tracksuited Ferrari team are digging into an assortment of noodles and egg sandwiches.

Noodles and sandwiches on the Ferrari team menu. Saeed Saeed / The National

Their counterparts at McLaren are also spotted getting their carbs on with plates of macaroni.

The Mercedes team keep it relatively healthy with Formula E World Championship title holder Nyck de Vries seen eating a healthy salad.

By 4pm that excitement made way for growing tension as the F1 teams make final preparations for the race.

All huddle behind closed doors in their respective garages and cabanas for strategy sessions, as the crowds begin making their way to their exclusive suites.

Moko from Senegal is known for attending every F1 race since 1979. Photo: Saeed Saeed / The National

Watching all this unfold is Moko, the unofficial mascot for the Formula One.

Draped in a multicoloured West African kaftan accessorised with shiny bangles and rings, the Senegalese is famous for not missing a single Formula One race since in 1979.

“Feel the change the atmosphere? Now we are getting to the exciting moment," he says. "The entertainment is done and now are we entering the serious business of the action.”

Moko says the Abu Dhabi F1 has always retained a charm and glamour of its own.

“From all the races, this has the feeling of a five-star hotel and end of school feeling,” he says. “But with today being the season decider, this race will be all about what is happening on the track, which is the way it should be.”

Moko is not surprised that Formula One has become a global powerhouse over the past four decades.

“It has drama, excitement, danger and lots of vanity,” he says.

“Not many sports have that. For a driver, each race is like dancing with partner you love, only if you make the wrong steps your partner can kill you. Each country is a new song and each circuit is a new rhythm.”

Updated: December 13th 2021, 6:02 AM