x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Chequered Flag ball: the glitz and the glamour of F1

The Abu Dhabi Chequered Flag Ball offers a chance to rub shoulders and maybe even break bread with some top celebrities, including Leona Lewis.

Leona Lewis performs at the Brit Awards in London in 2008. Yui Mok / PA
Leona Lewis performs at the Brit Awards in London in 2008. Yui Mok / PA

As well as the superstar drivers, the Abu Dhabi race brings a large cavalcade of stars taking part in the Abu Dhabi Chequered Flag Ball.

The event provides the rare opportunity for the public to rub shoulders – and perhaps share a meal – with celebrities. Providing they are willing to shell out Dh2,000 for a ticket.

Celebrities set to arrive include the British pop star Leona Lewis, the Saudi singer Mohammed Abdo, the Bollywood actress Chitrangda Singh and the 2003 English Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson.

The musical entertainment will be provided by the soul singer Jocelyn Brown (see our interview, left) and the F1 commentator and owner of the Jordan racing team Eddie Jordan with his backing band The Robbers.

Undoubtedly, however, the biggest name on the attendee list is Lewis (she is not performing at the event).

The Grammy Award nominee is happy to admit she is ignorant about motor sport. No matter, as her friend, the former F1 champion and McLaren No 1 Lewis Hamilton, will surely fill her in. “He is the only driver I know and he’s mentioned to me how amazing the track is in Abu Dhabi,” she says. “It should be a fun new experience.”

Her trip to Abu Dhabi marks a welcome respite from the heavy promotional schedule of her latest album Glassheart, which came out last month.

Lewis says the album took longer than expected due to some last-minute tinkering. “I’m really old-school in many ways but I just wanted it all to be perfect,” she explains.

“I would rather wait a little longer for it to be right than force the -issue.” The moody first single Trouble, co-written with Emili Sandé, speaks of the disillusion of a former relationship.

Lewis admits meeting Trouble’s success – it reached No 2 on the British charts – with mixed feelings.

“There is bittersweet running throughout the song and the album but it’s real – and to me that’s what music is about,” she says.

“People such as Eva Cassidy and Tracy Chapman have both had an influence on me and my work. They’re singer-songwriters that I really look up to and admire and [they] sing from the heart.”

While not promising a future UAE tour, Lewis is excited to meet her fans and strike up new friendships at the event. “Let’s see,” she says. “Right now I’m looking forward to coming out there and having a chance to mingle with some of my fans at what’s going to be a really fabulous event. I can’t wait.”

• The Abu Dhabi Chequered Flag Ball is at the St Regis on Saadiyat Island tomorrow from 7.30pm to 3am. Tickets start from Dh2,000, which includes a welcome reception and four-course dinner. For more details go www.chequeredflagball.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae