Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2023: F1 fans revel in sights and sounds of pitlane

From South America to South Africa, fans descend on Yas Marina Circuit for traditional behind-the-scenes walk

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Formula One fans of all ages and nationalities are in Abu Dhabi for Formula One's season finale.

Ahead of Sunday's grand prix, Yas Marina Circuit welcomed petrolheads for the traditional public pitlane walk.

With the day’s limited programme reserved for practice sessions, visitors are given the opportunity to see the glimmering cars and team garages upfront as part of the walk.

Fans accessed the area during the afternoon and made their way through the garages of all 10 teams.

Popular sides such as Mercedes and Ferrari garnered the most attention and selfies, while small groups gathered around the spaces of F1 minnows such as Alfa Romeo and Haas.

Michael Mansour was found peering over the barriers of the latter team, who are on track to finish bottom of the Constructor Standings this season.

“It can be an amazing and lonely experience supporting this team,” he tells The National. “But this is what supporting the underdog is all about, right? It is about being with the team during the good times and the bad times, although this year it was mostly bad.”

The Dubai resident has been following the American side for three years. As someone who works in sales, Mansour says there is a lot to love about Haas.

“At the end of the day, Formula One is also about the people, from the drivers to the mechanics and team principles,” he says. “Each team is a family and each member has their own personalities and stories and this is what draws many of us to support our team.”

For Mexican couple Sonia and Jose Perez, the chance to see compatriot, Red Bull's Sergio Perez, race in their home city lured them to their first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“I have only been living in the UAE, here in Abu Dhabi, for a year and a half and already I can see how this is such an international city,” Sonia says. “The Mexican community here is actually quite strong and already I have been hearing so many Mexican accents in the pitlane and the stands.

“I don’t need to ask them who they are here for, we are with Sergio Perez all the way.”

South African couple Arendane and Refilwe Mauda came to Abu Dhabi from Johannesburg as neutral spectators.

“We actually went to the first grand prix of the season in Bahrain so we thought it would be great to see the last one,” says Arendane.

As for the joys of the pitlane walk, Refilwe says it is hard to explain to those unfamiliar with the sport.

“I love everything about it like hearing the engine roaring and even the sound of the drills,” she says.

“I think fans love it because we often see the races on television and so to see these cars right in front of you, you realise how amazing they are and how loud they can be.”

The Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix continues with further practice rounds on Friday, followed by the qualifying session on Saturday and Sunday's race.

Updated: November 23, 2023, 2:26 PM