From the music to the celebrities and late-night parties, this year’s Abu Dhabi F1 provided plenty to talk about. We round-up some of the memorable highlights
Abu Dhabi GP: Top moments from this year's F1 weekend
Calvin up in lights
Calvin Harris’s brisk 85-minute set to open the After-Race concerts at du Arena on Thursday was so chock-full of radio staples (This is What You Came For and Sweet Nothing among many) that you understood why he was the highest-paid DJ for the past four years. Looks like of lot of that cash was used on the light show which was filled with lasers, fire and smoke, all choreographed to match every bass drop. Which is just as well as Harris’s stage presence was virtually non-existent with only a couple of shout-outs to remind us he was actually there.
Tinie Tempah’s late show
Good things come to those who wait. A particularly long wait if you’re at Mad on Yas Island for its Formula 1 shows – it wasn’t until a few minutes before 3am that Brit chart-topper Tinie Tempah bounced onto the venue’s makeshift stage. The UK rapper put on consummate if whistle-stop PA set, dusting off his signature song Pass Out for an energetic airing that certainly woke up everyone in Mad. The mini-musical journey moved chronologically from there on, and with it, into TT’s clubbier direction, via 2010 Swedish House Mafia collaboration Miami 2 Ibiza. And after shouting out to all and sundry, he departed with last year’s single Girls Like, although sadly without any in-person cameo from its guest star, Swedish singer Zara Larsson. A short reminder why Tinie has become such an A-list name, then, but with a moniker like his, should we have expected anything else?
Mumford and Sons, a test of endurance
The Banjo-toting Mumford and Sons were somewhat the wild card among this year’s headline acts, reminiscent conceptually, if not musically, of 2013’s (successful) off-the-wall decision to invite industrial-electro grind merchants Depeche Mode to close proceedings at the annual pop and petrol party. Perhaps then it was a wise decision to drop possibly their best-known track, Little Lion Man, within minutes of coming onstage, and that served the required “pulling in a potentially unfamiliar crowd” purpose. The set ran on with a warm double bass filling the arena, and bursts of banjo and violin to keep feet moving. That said, as one unfamiliar track fed into another, there was a definite lull as the audience became more concerned with chatting and checking their phones than the mildly obscure folk-rock unfolding before them. The band pulled it back at the end of the set as they pulled the “other one everyone knew,” on this occasion I Will Wait, but the strain had shown a little as the mid-section of their set mostly lost all around.
J Cole in fine form
American star rapper J Cole answered the call to be Kendrick Lamar’s replacement when the hip-hop star of the moment pulled out of Friday’s After-Race concert two weeks ago. Perhaps sensing some of the disappointment at Lamar’s absence, and with the F1 du Arena concert being his biggest UAE show yet, the 32-year-old was in fierce form when he took to the stage after 9.30pm. It also helped that Cole returned to Abu Dhabi on the back of last year’s career-best album, 4 Your Eyez Only. While Cole is consistent as a live performer, his brooding and introspective set can sometimes verge on two-dimensional. With his vocal takes rarely erring from soft-spoken to guttural shouts, you would hope he would add a few new elements to his technique to add more colour. That said, that is a small price to pay if it means watching a sea of youngsters singing along to his stirring and motivational odes.
The sky was Pink
It takes a special kind of performer to make an arena feel intimate, and that’s what Pink achieved with her superb Race Day concert on Sunday. The American pop star was equal-parts classy and homie-next door as she delivered a hit-laden set encompassing her two-decade career. Backed by her seven-piece band and a troupe of dancers, she stomped onto the stage with a feisty rendition of Let’s Get the Party Started. The rock vibe continued with U + Ur Hand, which featured a sky-high hair metal chorus tailor-made for a mammoth venue such as the du Arena, and the rollicking Trouble. She saved the best for last with her soaring (literally) take on So What where she glided around the venue on cables like a pop super-hero.
A mother and daughter-day for Ella Eyre
A lot of being a successful young pop star comes down to having supportive parents. Such is the case with UK singer Ella Eyre who acknowledged her mother’s hand in her career by bringing her along to the Abu Dhabi F1. Since her mum is a big F1 fan, Eyre couldn’t have given her a better F1 experience than on the weekend, with plush hospitality, hanging out with the likes of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and chatting with the F1 drivers as Eyre performed at the exclusive F1 after-party at Amber Lounge on Sunday, at Yas Links golf club. Nice one, Ella.
Martha Stewart makes cameo appearance
Who says you have to know anything about motor racing if you are coming to the Abu Dhabi F1? American television lifestyle guru Martha Stewart didn’t even pretend to feign interest in the racing when she visited the Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday. The 76-year-old instead enjoyed the surroundings and mingled with officials and fans at the Paddock Club. “I am very happy to be here,” said Stewart. “I don’t know too much about the Formula 1, but I am looking forward to it and the weather here is absolutely gorgeous.” She was whisked away from the circuit after 90 minutes.
Liam Cunningham more fan than fantasy TV star
Liam Cunningham kept it classy and low-key throughout his stay at the Abu Dhabi F1. The Irish thespian, who stars in Games of Thrones, is a renowned petrolhead and came to the race on his own accord. A wise choice too. Without the publicity exercises that sometimes come with being an official guest at the Abu Dhabi F1, the 56-year-old was free to walk around the Paddock on his own with a small backpack and large camera. With his blue fedora and brown shirt and jeans, he could have easily passed as a press photographer.
A mutual music appreciation society
There was a collegiate feel among the artists, big and small, who performed as part of the Abu Dhabi F1 weekend. Friendships were further cemented and new experiences shared as musicians went out to see each other’s shows. The busiest act among them all was Tinie Tempah, who as well as performing at Mad on Yas Island on Friday, performed another set on Saturday at a private boat party run by Exclusive Yachts before returning to Mad to hang out with fellow rapper Ty Dolla Sign. At least that made sense. Because on that night our favourite rustic rockers Mumford and Sons blew off some steam after their du Arena show to an ear-bending set by techno pioneer Carl Cox at the Beyond the Track club night at du Forum. Cox had a such a great time performing that evening, he also visited the nearby Amber Lounge in the wee hours of the morning to hang out with Ella Eyre and a slew of F1 fans, in addition to performing a short impromptu set for partygoers.