As the sun set on Yas Marina Circuit a ferocious motorsport showdown was under way, but it wasn’t on the track.
Set for a podium position, 13-year-old Yashish Manohar was beating four professional Formula 2 drivers in a virtual E-sports challenge.
But on the penultimate lap, a rival turned into the Dubai-based driver and he spun out of control, eventually finishing a respectable sixth.
"It's difficult to go against such talented people but at the same time, finishing ahead of some of [the Formula 2 drivers] was a great achievement for me," Yashish told The National, dressed waist up in Ferrari merchandise.
The teenager hopes to one day compete for real on Yas Marina Circuit, eventually winning the Formula One drivers’ championship. For now, Yashish is cutting his teeth on the Dubai Go Karting circuit with great success.
"I’d love to be racing in Formula One one day, but if that doesn’t happen I’d love to be a formula one engineer and work around the paddock,” he said.
Yashish has been racing Go Karts for six months, testing circuits in America, Georgia and India. Last week he won his first race at Dubai Kartdrome and he’s placed on the podium four times.
Coming to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is an opportunity to see first hand what he can achieve.
“Seeing the drivers in action makes me more inspired, the drivers put in a lot of work and you can see them pushing so hard just to gain one position or try not to lose a position,” he said, adding, “even if its for last place or second last place, it looks like they work so hard for it and it inspires me to work hard for what I want."
Yashish was able to meet his heroes first hand on Friday during the pit lane walk, snatching a selfie with Sauber driver Charles Leclerc, leaving him in what he says was a state of shock. He also met the full rack of F1 royalty, including Sebastian Vettel, his favourite driver.
He added a collection of autographs to his prized Ferrari hat and replica Ferrari race suit, which he proudly pulled out of his racing red Ferrari bag, pulling up against him to look like his hero, minus the crash helmet.
But motorsport success doesn’t come without support from his parents, particularly his father Manohar Raju, who works in human resources in Dubai and has accompanied him to the Grand Prix.
“He is very passionate about racing and I don’t mind him pursing that particular option, let him do his best and let him go as far as he can and I’m happy to support him in any way,” he said.
Coming to the Grand Prix means missing two days at Jumeirah English Speaking School, but Yashish knows his work is cut out for him.
“I promise my parents I would work hard in school, but I begged them to let me miss school for this weekend, so I can come here and enjoy what I love,” he says.
It seems his father needs no convincing, labelling his son's name in The National's notebook as "budding F1 driver."