x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Indian stars out in force at F1

Indians are still just waking up exhausted after a week of Diwali, Navaratri and Dusshera celebrations only to prepare for another round of festivities for Eid.

The past few weeks have been saturated with colour, sound and display. Indians are still just waking up exhausted after a week of Diwali, Navaratri and Dusshera celebrations only to prepare for another round of festivities that Eid has brought along this week.

Amid all this eating (and there was a lot of it), greeting and merrymaking, my friends found our social schedules creaking under the burden of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It may only be the second year that car tires were screeching around Yas Island, but to most of us, it was already an Abu Dhabi tradition that one was obliged to attend. If anything, it was for bragging rights. History would be made in the country, and if you've lived here long enough, you know you have the kind of access that fans from around the world envy.

And so began another weekend - squashed between Diwali and Eid - that saw me and my friends make the trek to Yas Island. There was celebrity spotting to do, concerts to take in and for the more nerdy among us, we would compare race notes (and biographies of impressive yachts parked in the Yas Marina).

And then there was Force India. The Formula One motor racing team was a fairly new contender on the tracks. But ever since principal owner, Vijay Mallya, an Indian tycoon of the Kingfisher brand fame had bought the Spyker F1 team in 2007 and renamed it, motor racing had officially entered the Indian conciousness.

Word on the tracks was that Adrian Sutil, one of the team's race drivers was a super nice guy. His Indian fans said they couldn't wait to see him in New Delhi next year, where India will see its inaugural grand prix. Then there was Adrian's big boss, the man who is known as the party mogul. Mallya's foray into sports isn't just with the Force India team. He also owns the hugely successful cricket team, Royal Challengers, Bangalore, which is part of the Indian Premier League. Mallya, along with his son Siddharth, were spotted at the races. Then there was his really hard-to-miss yacht, the 311-foot Indian Empress. It was a thing of beauty. And from what I heard, the envy of many boat owners parked at the Marina.

Even Bollywood couldn't resist. The Khan brothers - Salman, Sohail and Arbaaz - friends of Sutil, would represent their family at the F1 races. Sohail was spotted at the Naked Heart Charity Ball on Saturday at the Yas Hotel. And Sophie Choudhry, a former MTV VJ-turned-pop-singer had followed the circuit from Monaco to Melbourne and descended on Abu Dhabi to cheer Force India as well.

When asked about what she thought of all the cars flying around Yas, she said: "This has been a cracker of a race."

Was it ever!