ABU DHABI // Nadia Hussain's son, Murtaza, 9, wanted to sit in the West Grandstand for this year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and his mother did not want to disappoint him. So she arrived at Marina Mall at 2pm yesterday to make sure she was standing near the front of the queue when tickets for the race went on sale exclusively to UAE residents two hours later.
"I wanted to go to the West Grandstand because my son wants to see the start and finish," said Ms Hussain, 31, from Pakistan, who will be go to the race with Murtaza, her daughter, Unsia, 13, and husband Syed. "Last year, it was not possible because I came late. You can see again there is a long queue." Ms Hussain bought four of thousands of seats sold in the country yesterday as residents flocked to two ticket booths at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi and Dubai Mall and others ordered by phone at 800 YAS (927).
At both malls, four queues stretched around the stand half an hour before tickets went on sale. At Marina Mall, both Emiratis and expatriates, some still in their work clothes, with the occasional fan wearing a Ferrari baseball cap, queued to secure their spots. Ms Hussain and others who had shown up early were able to select their seats with staff so they just had to pay for their tickets. Ms Hussain said she was glad for the six-hour head start afforded to residents that helped her secure her seats in a front row of the West Grandstand.
As fans looked ahead to the second Formula 1 Grand Prix to be hosted by Abu Dhabi, expectations for the event, hailed as a huge success last year, were high. "Nobody really knew what would happen last year but, this year, everybody had an experience from the last year, and I think expectation is quite high," said Daniel Kraemer, 44, from Germany. Like many people yesterday, Mr Kraemer, the managing director of a design company, was insistent that his preferred seat was the best spot to view the action on November 14.
"I want to ensure that I get in this area," Mr Kraemer said of the North Grandstand, as he bought two tickets. "I will see the cars the longest there." In Dubai, Sarah Vince, 40, from England, said she had begun queuing for her tickets at midday. "I just love Formula 1," she said. "I wanted to make sure that I got my front row seats, and I did so I'm very happy." Ms Vince, who bought five grandstand tickets for her family and friends, had her first taste of racing action at Yas Marina last year. "It was fantastic. The circuit is amazing, the hotel is beautifully lit up at night - just wonderful."
Prices for seats this year have been made uniform at Dh2,000 (US$540) with a 20 per cent early bird discount making the price Dh1,600. It means some seats are more expensive than last year but less so in other parts of the circuit. Last year, fans paid Dh2,500 for three days in the main grandstand. The cheapest three-day ticket, for the support pit, cost Dh1,600. Most people interviewed yesterday said their choice of seat would not be affected by the price. "I think they are all pretty good seats," said Sarah Hextall, 32, an English teacher from Britain.
Steve Ashby said the speed and the circuit were a draw that he did not want to miss out on this year. "We missed it last year and that's why we got here early this time," he said. Rushil Kotwal, 22, an Indian print worker, was buying three tickets for himself and friends. He said: "I wanted to go last year but I couldn't get tickets as they sold out. I have never seen it live." Khalid al Suwaidi, 31, said he was hoping for seats in the main grandstand.