The Formula One lollapalooza descended on Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit in earnest today ahead of Sunday's season finale.
A fleet of 600 lorries brought crate after crate into the compound, all containing a series of vital components of each team’s race cars, ready to be assembled by the 400 personnel on site ahead of the action.
As an army of 70 forklift trucks delivered the booty down to each constructor’s alotted slot down in the pit lane, the scene resembled a series of Meccano set being unloaded, albeit ones that would cost you hundreds of millions of dirhams should you have the inclination and exchequer to own one.
The smell of chemical cleaners and degreasers hung heavily around the circuit as engineers got to work on the unpacking, carefully taking each piece of the delicate machinery from its case and assigning it to one of the dozens of racks and benches set up in advance. Each team was working to a variety of high-tempo dance tunes blaring out from speakers installed for this very purpose, creating a cacophony of noise that resembled a particularly industrious - and busy - nightclub.
Those doing the unpacking all agree this is the fun part of the operation, before the serious business of racing begins and shaving milliseconds off lap times becomes vitally important. The scene looks chaotic at first, but it’s anything but - the teams perform these same manoeuvres around the world most weeks during the season. The old cliche pertaining to an outfit being a well-oiled operation is entirely apposite here.
Extreme care is needed at all times. Unlike the Middle East’s beloved army of 4x4s, Formula One cars are notoriously delicate beasts, prone to collapse at the slightest provocation, and they are no less fragile when they arrive in pieces before each race.
A group of Red Bull technicians who were cleaning wheel rims said this was one of the most relaxed parts of the process for them.
"We're right at the start, so we just have to make sure everything is ready for when management arrive. It's the most relaxed we're going to be all week," said one.
The names and faces of the drivers already adorned each of the roof fronts above the pits, with organisers careful to have set aside the placements at random.
While everything is being unloaded, the pit lane is a tricky place to navigate. The forklifts coming and going might be the slowest moving vehicles ever to grace the circuit, but those working in and around the environs have to make sure they give them a clear route. Everyone is dressed in mandatory high-viz clothing and heavy footwear.
Some of the boxed gear arrived at Abu Dhabi International Airport earlier this week on one of seven chartered flights, with each plane carrying 100 tonnes in total. It’s not all air freight though - Khalifa Port handled 336 containers, each weighing 1,000 tonnes.
Technicians weren’t the only ones at work. Making sure everything is ready were a team of dedicated cleaners, painters, gardeners and circuit technicians performing their duties across the track, grandstands, car parks and landscaped areas.
The figures surrounding what needs to be done to ensure everything is perfect are mind-boggling - for example, painters will work around the clock to apply a fresh coat of gloss to the 5.5km track, using 4,500 litres of "Yas blue" paint, 720 litres of ivory, and 1,440 litres each of red and white.
Cleaners equipped with high-pressure hoses will ensure the circuit's 228 canopies are as spotless as possible, a feat that will involve nearly 7,000 people, ahead of Friday's first day of practice.
And the gardeners will install more than 1,750 different kinds of foliage, along with 886 palms and 529 potted plants, all of which will go some way to mitigating the strong smell of fuel and exhaust fumes around the circuit.
Similarly, an extensive team of public relations officials are already in place, keeping early media arrivals abreast of what’s happening, as well as site administrative staff ensuring everything is running on schedule.
This year, some 70,000 fans are expected to attend over the three days, starting with Friday's first practice, at least 70 per cent of whom will be coming in from abroad, which is a challenging logistical problem for organisers. It's impossible to stop Yas Island from becoming gridlocked during Grant Prix weekend, but efforts are made to keep disruption to a minimum.
Pyrotechnics are a key part of the finale of any Grand Prix, and two of Yas' own technical staff were at work on a boom that would shower confetti at the required moment.
"You have to keep your wits about you when you're doing this," one said. "No one will thank you if a load of paper comes flying out at the wrong moment."
It’s all thirsty work. Estimates suggest the teams alone will consume 30,000 litres of drinks over the race weekend.
And all this before the drivers start to arrive later this week, ready to be billeted in one of the 18 villas set up directly outside the circuit, opposite the pits. If you believe the technicians, they have already missed half the fun.