Timeframe: Looking through the rear-view mirror at Abu Dhabi’s first Grand Prix

The inaugural race in the capital was won by German driver Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull's German driver Sebastian Vettel crosses the finish line of the Yas Marina Circuit on November 1, 2009 in Abu Dhabi. Photo: AFP
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It was 14 years ago when Formula One finally made its way to the UAE capital and it has stayed ever since.

The inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix dazzled visiting fans and residents alike as the high-tech cars driven by some of the world's top F1 drivers whizzed around the all-new Yas Marina Circuit.

The race was the last of the 2009 season and capped off an incredible year for British team Brawn GP, with its British driver Jenson Button becoming world champion despite finishing third in the Abu Dhabi event.

He finished behind Red Bull Racing’s Marc Webber, who placed second, and Sebastian Vettel from Germany, who won the race.

British driver Lewis Hamilton had qualified in first place but had to retire after 18 laps of the first day-night race due to a break failure. Hamilton led the race, which started at 5pm, as the sun set, with the race ending under the Yas Marina Circuit floodlights.

Formula One fans in the city had waited for two years for the race after the first announcement that the event would be coming to Abu Dhabi occurred in early 2007.

The purpose-built circuit is on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, which has since become a tourist centre with a sprawling shopping mall, waterpark, golf course and several theme parks.

The after-race concerts also established a long-running tradition for the city as it continues to host some of the biggest names in music.

In its first year, performers who took part were pop star Beyonce, funk band Jamiroquai, American rock band Kings of Leon and a race-day performance from rock and roll giants Aerosmith.

Updated: November 24, 2023, 6:02 PM