x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Yas Viceroy fires up for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix main event

The Yas Viceroy hotel will serve more than 1,000 oysters and use more than 5,000 tea towels during its busiest weekend of the year.

A chef prepares the kitchen of the Noodle Box restaurant before dinner at the Yas Viceroy Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National
A chef prepares the kitchen of the Noodle Box restaurant before dinner at the Yas Viceroy Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Preparations for the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix are gearing up at the Yas Viceroy hotel, where drivers and their teams will stay along with a host of VIPs this weekend.

The operators of the 499 rooms and suites at the hotel, which has a bird’s-eye view over Yas Marina Circuit, have been preparing for it ever since last year’s GP finished.

“If it was up to me, I’d have F1 here 365 days a year,” says Niazy Youssef, assistant front office manager in charge of a team that includes valets and concierges.

“I am a big fan and for me the highlight is the noise of the cars on the track. It’s just a nice atmosphere to be among all this action.”

Niazy is the man who has to deal with every little detail his VIP guests require, even when those requests are somewhat challenging.

“One guest from Kuwait told us he wanted to go to Dubai Marina in two hours, by helicopter,” he says.

“Usually it takes us 48 hours of planning and permission to get this kind of request but we managed it within two hours.”

Since F1 came to Abu Dhabi, Niazy has heard all kinds of requests, even guests who wanted to bring their own food, which is prohibited at the Viceroy.

About half of the guests have been coming since the first GP in 2009.

Niazy says their requests, mostly for the same room and special personal touches or dietary requirements, are handled on an individual basis as the team gets to know its guests on a first-name basis, something he said is key to the hotel’s success.

“We have around 2,000 visitors just coming to the hotel each day to use things like the restaurants,” he says.

Renaugh Jagadisan, executive housekeeper, said this gets down to even the smallest details.

For example, staff leave a thistle in the room of the Scottish former F1 driver who stays with them.

Renaugh admits it is a vital time for the team, who have all been in training for the past four months and more.

“Around 600 million viewers are watching us so it’s something that makes me proud,” she says. “Just being part of the event is a very special time.”

The hotel almost never sleeps on the GP weekend, says executive chef Michel Jost.

“It’s four days of parties,” Michel says. “There’s the likes of SkyBar here, the people on the yachts are all having parties there and generally when people are here, they want to have a good time.”

He says room service staff remain on their toes between the hours of 1am and 5am as the festivities continue well into the early hours.

Over the course of the weekend, there will be a huge amount of work in keeping the guests fed and content.

The kitchens will get through more than 5,000 tea towels a day and at least 1,000 dishwasher cycles.

There will be about 900 litres of freshly squeezed orange juice served.

Up to four tonnes of food will be served a day at the 20 daily buffets, including 900 to 1,000 oysters.

More than 350 waiting staff will serve food prepared by more than 150 chefs, some of whom are being brought in from Dubai establishments for the event’s duration.

With room-only rates starting at about Dh6,300 and going up to Dh48,000 for a suite, the hotel’s guests expect luxury.

“It’s not enough to be ‘wow’, to be perfect even,” Michel says. “We need to be inspiring.”

Deliveries will start arriving en mass on Wednesday to ensure everything is freshly produced.

Michel is confident the weekend’s planning since last year will ensure everything runs smoothly.

“F1 is 95 per cent planning, 5 per cent delivery.”