95dcacf85fa58210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q4Grand Prix is the fast track to a better future85dcacf85fa58210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____Grand Prix is the fast track to a better futureAnd whoever takes the chequered flag at the end of the race, we already know who the winners are: Abu Dhabi, its people and the wider UAE.<p>At around 5pm today five red lights will be illuminated one by one above the starting grid at the Yas Marina race circuit. A few seconds later all five lights will be extinguished and the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be under way. And whoever takes the chequered flag at the end of the race, we already know who the winners are: Abu Dhabi, its people and the wider UAE.
First, consider the Yas Island venue itself. When the Man from the BBC (a media organisation in which British understatement is a way of life and hyperbole is frowned upon) describes it as "quite staggering, eye-popping, mind-boggling - Formula 1 has never seen anything like this and probably won't see anything like this again", then you know you're witnessing something special. Formula 1 sets high standards. Abu Dhabi has surpassed them.</p>
<p>This, however, is about much more than a motor-racing track. With the greatest respect to motorsport fans and petrolheads in general, Formula 1 is a minority sport. It is jaw-droppingly expensive to participate in, and barely less expensive to follow. The grand-prix cavalcade suddenly descends on a city every two weeks during the season, and just as suddenly it is gone, leaving little behind except a faint whiff of high-octane fuel and burnt rubber. The danger of this disconnect was all the greater in Abu Dhabi because the race takes place on a newly developed island that is still distinct from the city itself. The triumph of the organisers has been to bridge that distance. For the past two weeks, on the newly refurbished and extended Abu Dhabi Corniche, the F1 Fanzone has attracted race followers and the uninitiated alike, while the Yasalam festival of events has included live music, movies and exhibitions of Arabic culture - all free. Emiratis and expatriates from the vast kaleidoscope of nations that comprise the residents of this country have mingled with an ease that is all too rare.</p>
<p>Yes, the Corniche and its beach would have been improved and upgraded, eventually. Yes, the magnificent new Sheikh Khalifa Expressway from Shahama to Abu Dhabi city, crossing Yas Island and Saadiyat Island, would have been completed, eventually. Yes, the capital's hotels would have increased in number and would have been graded according to an internationally accepted classification standard, eventually. Yes, the transport expertise required to move thousands of people simultaneously around the city with only an occasional hiccup would have been acquired, eventually. Yes, many of the lucrative business deals completed over grand-prix hospitality in the past few days would have gone ahead, eventually (although research by the financial group ING indicates that an F1 host country earns a return of more than 500 per cent on its investment, partly through the establishment of long-term business relationships - and 500 per cent is a very big "eventually"). The point is that all these developments have been accelerated, positively turbo-charged, by the requirements of the Formula 1 Grand Prix.</p>
<p>So whether you watch today's race on a giant screen on the Corniche, or you are one of the lucky ones with a prime view from a Yas Marina grandstand, enjoy it - along with the benefits it will continue to bring for decades to come.</p>