x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

F1 island is ready for next show

Yas Island was just track and hotels for last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This year it has Ferrari World, a golf course and more.

The 1.1km Yas tunnel, which opened this month, has shaved more than 15 minutes off the average journey to Yas Island. Improved signposting has also made life easier for motorists.
The 1.1km Yas tunnel, which opened this month, has shaved more than 15 minutes off the average journey to Yas Island. Improved signposting has also made life easier for motorists.

ABU DHABI // Visitors who return to Abu Dhabi for the grand prix a fortnight from now will see much has changed on Yas Island since last year.

A year ago, little was open beyond the track and the hotels next to it. This time the island will boast Ferrari World and a golf course.

Not only that, getting around is much easier, thanks to improved signposting and a new tunnel that takes visitors from the mainland straight to the hotels.

"All those who visited the F1 last year will have a lot more to see on Yas Island," said Talal al Dhiyebi, director of planning and infrastructure at Aldar, the island's master developer.

"And every time they come back they will see more progress on the island."

A year ago, the shell of Ferrari World was in place. Now, it is ready - although the official opening has been postponed until Thursday as a mark of respect following the death of Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Ras al Khaimah.

Mr al Dhiyebi expects the park to be a major tourist attraction.

"I am sure there will be a lot of people coming from all over the world to witness it," he said.

The golf course, Yas Links, opened in March.

The drag racing strip at the Marina Circuit was completed the same month, and is now open to the public.

By the time the world's top drivers take to the 5.5km F1 circuit on November 14, visitors will also be able to use the new go-kart track.

There have also been some changes to facilities at the track, according to Richard Cregan, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management.

"We've decided to increase the size of the F1 village at the back of the main grandstand," he said. There are now three "oasis" areas, where food and drink will be served. All will be ready on race day.

Also at the Marina, the yacht club is now ready. "We have now completed all internal works and the tenants have started to fit it out," Mr al Dhiyebi said. It too will be open by the time the grand prix starts.

Much of the improvement since last year has been to the infrastructure around the attractions.

What was a confusing sprawl of roads has now been properly signposted, and a road tunnel between the E10 motorway and the southern tip of the island opened this month. It allows visitors to bypass the Saadiyat Island motorway, shaving more than 15 minutes off the average journey.

"Last year, we completed the main shell and structure of the tunnel," Mr al Dhiyebi said.

Between the roads, Aldar has made room for railway lines.

"We've allowed for the corridors for both the metro and the tram. We already have a sunken plaza at the six hotels for a light rail transport station," he said.

These links are some way off yet - the metro is still in its planning stages.

However, there is Yas Leisure Drive, a loop around all the attractions on the southern half of the island.

"If you are going to any of the major destinations on Yas Island, all you need to do is follow the Yas Leisure Drive signs and exit where you want to go to, which will be clearly signposted," Mr al Dhiyebi said.

And that, as far as roads go, should be that.

Aldar believes all the island's roads are now in place, ready for the developments that will spring up between them, and no major roadworks will be needed for the next 15 years.