Working Wonders: How Yas Marina Circuit boss gears up for F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

General Manager Hesham Al Jenaibi is overseeing preparations for Yas Island's biggest sporting event held this weekend

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The Formula One season culminates with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend and, as drivers and celebrities flock to Yas Island, Hesham Al Jenaibi’s work goes into overdrive.

As the general manager of Yas Marina Circuit, Al Jenaibi will welcome tens of thousands to the island, from drivers to A-listers and music fans preparing to rock at the Foo Fighters' concert.

Here, the Emirati racing fan tells The National about how he has prepared for another record year, having welcomed 160,000 to last year’s event.

What makes the Abu Dhabi F1 so special?

My first year was back in 2012, so this will be my 12th Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.

What I really enjoy about this event is seeing the global fanbase that we welcome to Abu Dhabi every year, with more international fans coming every year.

This is a true testament to how Abu Dhabi comes together to make this event a success so that's what makes this weekend so special to me.

Are you an F1 fan yourself and do you have a favourite driver?

I am a racing fan, but as all the teams are our guests, I can’t pick one for this weekend – it’s like asking who your favourite child is, you can’t choose one.

My personal favourite place to watch the race is from West Grandstand, as you can see the start-finish line as well as a panoramic view of the circuit.

It's a really unique place to be on F1 weekend, although, the obvious choice would have to be from the top of the Paddock Club overlooking the Pitlane.

We are looking forward to having the teams and the F1 community back in our paddock.

What are some of your most memorable moments over previous F1 weekends?

It’s been incredible to see the growth of the event year-on-year and how much it’s changed.

With the increase in popularity of the sport in recent years, we’ve found massive increases and build-up in footfall and traffic at the venue, which need anticipating and managing.

Last year on race day, we managed to move close to 40,000 people between 2.30pm and 5pm around Yas Island on approximately 80 buses without issue.

That’s a lot of people moving in a short timeframe, so that for me is a standout memory and source of pride.

There was one year when I met some of my former classmates, several years after we last spoke and what a place to meet again.

That's what's really special about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend is that our venue is a meeting place for people from around the globe.

What was your favourite aftershow concert?

Our busy schedule means many of the concerts blend together each year.

As a fan, however, Beyonce's show always stands out due to the significance of her performance at the first edition of the event in 2009.

While all the world-class performers offer something different across the four nights to our diverse audiences.

I think the one that everyone is looking forward to is Foo Fighters on Sunday night. That will be a nice way to end the weekend.

What might surprise people about your role?

It’s definitely how hands-on we are with logistics. You’re thinking about the overall venue but also small things that need to be fixed and how we can solve these, meaning I’m involved with people across all levels of the business.

I often find myself sitting with our junior members and even our student volunteers to work together on this.

Have you tried racing on the track yourself? How do you compare to the professionals?

I've tested out a number of our driving experiences many times, including the Yas 3000, which is as close as it gets to driving an F1 car around the circuit.

Unfortunately, I cannot compare my speed to that of the F1 drivers racing this weekend - their ability to make high-speed turns and overtakes is truly impressive once you take a test drive around the circuit.

What can fans expect this weekend?

For our fans coming from around the world, the journey from the new terminal will be a much easier experience.

Our Yas All In experience, which provides complimentary access to one of Yas Island’s adventure parks as well as Louvre Abu Dhabi and Qasr Al Watan, will offer our international fan base a number of incredible experiences for this year’s event.

Around the grounds here at Yas Marina Circuit and Etihad Park, our Oasis areas have grown and there will be a lot to look forward to, with new hospitality experiences and new grandstands introduced this year.

Yas Marina Circuit will also be open for longer hours so we are looking forward to welcoming our fans to the region’s biggest weekend this year for our milestone event.

Updated: November 23, 2023, 3:00 AM