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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Abu Dhabi GP: Early spectators get the party started with a well-placed brunch

Formula One fans settle in for a little brunching as the action starts to heat up on track

Inside the Bridge Gallery for brunch. Simon Wilgress-Pipe / The National
Inside the Bridge Gallery for brunch. Simon Wilgress-Pipe / The National

Venues to watch sporting events don’t come much more comfortable than the Bridge Gallery at the Yas Hotel - slap bang in the middle of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit.

With a near panoramic view of the action, a live broadcast of the practice laps on a six-by-eight metre screen and a brunch in progress, few of the early spectators for one of the UAE’s premier events are hankering after a change of scene.

A crowded room was never in doubt - last season, the 21 races that make up the Formula One calendar pulled in an average 390 million television viewers worldwide making it one of the most-watched sporting series of the year.

The Yas Hotel. Simon Wilgress-Pipe / The National
The Yas Hotel. Simon Wilgress-Pipe / The National

Anyone who’s ever been near a pit lane will be familiar with the howl of engines, screaming tyres, and the perspiration from drivers, pit crews, and race bosses alike.

On Friday, the roar of engines was audible to early arrivers at 10am. Officials were out in force in suitably grimy overalls, headphones on, keeping an eye on proceedings.

The neatly turned out group taking brunch at one of the first public hospitality events of the weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit are well cushioned from Formula One’s grittier elements though.

Predictably the crowd, kept entertained by an energetic DJ during the breaks in the action, comprise a wide range of UAE society - and few have come dressed in clothing they’d be comfortable doing the XDubai Spartan Race in.

Don’t mistake them for lightweights, though – many of the assembled crew digging into the meticulously laid out fayre have a long day ahead of them.

Like a five-day Test cricket match, you’ve got time to fit other things into your schedule if you’re committed to the three days of a lollapalooza in Abu Dhabi.

So first thing on the agenda for many of today’s revellers is the brunch (of which there are several across the site), then they’ll be watching the competitors’ early practice laps, and finally they’ll be off to check out Canadian hiphop musician The Weeknd at the du Arena, who’s bagged the coveted Friday evening slot.

Simon Wilgress-Pipe / The National
Simon Wilgress-Pipe / The National

The same is happening all over the Yas Marina Circuit.

Abu Dhabi Hill, a similar venue to Henman Hill at Wimbledon, has crowds of people taking it easy on a grass verge overlooking a section of track, and a cool breeze is keeping everyone happy.

On Abu Dhabil Hill. Simon Wilgress-Pipe / The National
On Abu Dhabil Hill. Simon Wilgress-Pipe / The National

The marina itself, with the course snaking around it, is similarly well occupied by the kind of boats and yachts that could rival ocean-going liners in their size.

Difficult to imagine the whole area was all sand a mere dozen years ago.

There's only one thing for everyone who's here for the duration to do though - stay cool and see what happens.

Lewis Hamilton might already have the championship in the bag, but no one here sees that as a reason not to stick around and enjoy the party on Yas Island.

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Read more:

F1 brunches to get revved up about ahead of the big race

Five tips on how to enjoy the race weekend