ABU DHABI // Holiday crowds took the chance to get up close and personal yesterday with a range of entertainment linked to next weekend'
some got to lift a replica F1 trophy, while others had their picture taken with a racing car.
There was also a chance to get a taste of the 5.5km Yas Marina Circuit through the racing simulator.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso will battle it out at the real circuit next weekend. Other fans were offered the opportunity to master pit skills byrapidly changing F1 car wheels.
"I was here last year and I really enjoyed it," Mena Ibrahim from Egypt said. He brought his two-year-old daughter, Jumani, to the Fan Zone, which will be open every day for the next eight days.
Professional sand sculptor, Raymond Wirick, was back for a second year and was working on this year's challenge to make a copy of Abu Dhabi Police's F1 car.
"The sand is a lot better this year," he said. He was measuring up the police's F1 car and planned to finish the life-size sculpture over the next eight days."I will fudge a few places like the axle,"Mr Wiricksaid. Some of the car's features could not be made from sand but would find ways to trick the viewer from the distance he said.
Parents could put their children on a small driving course while teenagers' driving skills were tested on a computer game where theyhad to answer their phone while driving on a virtual track.
Ahmed Khan said once he got his driving licence, he would make sure he had a hands-free kit.
"It's not so easy to get the phone out of the pocket when you need two hands on the wheel," the 16-year-old Pakistani said.
Drivers on the simulator, which had a steering wheel and pedals, were asked to write a text message while they tried to drive the car around the course.
Later, hundreds of people sat out under the stars to watch a short-film competition final that signalled the start of the annual Yasalam festival.
The Tropfest final saw 16 short films premièred to the public on the beach. A panel of 10 judges, which included Emirati animator and chairman of Lammtara Mohammed Saeed Harib, were there to pick the winner.