ABU DHABI // The engines will not roar into action until tomorrow's first practice session, but Formula One fans holding passes for the full race weekend can get a look at the fastest cars in the world this afternoon during a public pit-lane walk at Yas Marina Circuit.
The majority of the cars, race teams and equipment arrived yesterday from different ports around the world ahead of Sunday's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Five Boeing 747 cargo planes arrived from Brazil, where the penultimate race was held last weekend.
Hundreds of media representatives are expected to cover the race, and most have now passed through one of the UAE's five international passenger airports. They will collect their accreditation this morning and Abu Dhabi will inevitably be filling newspaper, radio and television slots around the globe within hours.
"With a logistical event such as Formula One, there are many deadlines to meet to ensure everything is covered and runs according to plan," Richard Cregan, the chief executive of Yas Marina, said.
"With the combined support and expertise of Abu Dhabi Police, Customs, ADAC [Abu Dhabi Airport Company], the TRA [Telecommunications Regulatory Authority] and a range of other stakeholders, we are working hard to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible, with what is set to be a climactic weekend."
For the first time in the 60-year history of the sport, with only one race to go, four drivers can still potentially be crowned world champion. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso leads the way, with the Red Bull-Renault duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel close behind and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren-Mercedes further back still, but in contention.
"I have been following Formula One for 25 years and I can honestly say I do not remember a season-ending race ever having been so climactic," said Peter Rae, the head of communications at Yas Marina.
"There is just huge excitement everywhere you look. When the transporters began unloading the cars direct from the 747s yesterday the feeling of excitement was palpable."
The drivers and teams are settling into their UAE surroundings, and Hamilton was at the Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi yesterday for a promotional event for Bridgestone, who are ending their 14-year link with F1 after Sunday's race.
The 25-year-old was in good spirits as he struggled to sign his name in Japanese on a Bridgestone placard.
"It is my second time in Abu Dhabi and I am staying in a wonderful hotel, the people are very welcoming and the [Yas Marina Circuit] track is incredible," the Briton said. He spent his time on Tuesday relaxing playing golf, but today will not be such a light schedule for the 2008 champion and his rivals. In addition to meeting their fans for autograph sessions, they will also face the media for the first time since the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday. Hamilton is the outsider for the title, trailing championship leader Alonso by 24 points, with Webber eight adrift and Vettel 15 behind.
"From our point of view, the season has gone perfectly," Rae said. "When, earlier this week, we announced we had around 200 tickets left, we figured they would sell in maybe 36 to 48 hours, but they all went within 24. And they are the slightly more expensive tickets too, so that really shows the excitement and interest people are showing in attending this race."
With so much at stake, every driver of every team will have to be at his very best, and that means being able to focus solely on the task at hand and not have logistical issues to worry about.
"We have been working hard to ensure that the transition from Brazil to Abu Dhabi is as seamless as possible for all the teams," Cregan said.
"Our aim is to provide the infrastructure so that the teams can set up their equipment and be ready to race as soon as they touch ground."
Gerard O'Reilly, the race team co-ordinator for Red Bull Racing, commended the capital on its organisation. Around 50 of the Red Bull team's 550 staff have made the trip to Abu Dhabi for this weekend's showpiece.
"Yas Marina Circuit's logistics team has done a great job. We have been able to set up quickly and efficiently," O'Reilly said. "Coming to Abu Dhabi is a highlight of our year."