Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Formula One fashion: a veteran's style guide to surviving the F1 Grand Prix weekend

From why you need to bring headphones to the faux pas to avoid, here's what you need to know about getting dressed for the races – wherever you're sitting

The finale of Formula One season is nearly upon us, when the world’s fastest drivers and their ­super-charged vehicles descend on Abu Dhabi for an ear-splitting weekend. With a jam-packed few days of pit walks, practice laps and open-air concerts, it is a tricky one to dress for. Should you don attire for the seated dinner? The boat party? Urging on a favourite driver? Dancing the night away?

As a veteran of more F1 weekends than I care to mention, here are a few survival tips for the biggest aspects of the weekend.

Fans watch the races from Abu Dhabi Hill and the Main Grandstand at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Courtesy Yas Marina Circuit
Make sure you're appropriately dressed for wherever you're watching the race. Courtesy Yas Marina Circuit

If you’re sitting in the South Upper Row

Take ear defenders. As one of the best spots to watch the action, the noise levels will be thrilling, but deafening, so protecting your ears is critical. The orange foam earplugs work, but look hideous. Up your game by donning the new Dr Dre headphones, or those sparkly numbers from Dolce & Gabbana, over the top. It doesn’t matter that they are not connected to anything.

In terms of what to wear, the stands are quite steep, so think midi length rather than short, and trainers rather than sandals, as getting to your seat may involve some clambering.

What to don for the boat parties

Of these there will be plenty. Yachts worth millions will be lined up around the track and are the place to be seen, so forget about watching the race. The more valuable the boat, the more likely you’ll be asked to remove your shoes before boarding, so forget boots that lace to the knee, or mules that leave dents, too. Ladies, pick an outfit that works barefoot (no cocktail dress), and gents, please wear shoes that don’t need socks and leave the suit at home for the day. If the yacht is big enough to have several decks (it will be), the connecting staircases will be narrow and steep, so forget anything that needs to be held up or held on, like big hats or maxi dresses. Two hands are needed to traverse a boat with grace. No one wants to be the amateur who fell down the stairs, or worse, overboard. Oh, and get a pedicure.

For those watching from Abu Dhabi Hill

Ear plugs are a must, but make them fashion, like these bedazzled ones from the Dolce & Gabbana autumn / winter 2018-2019 show. Getty Images
Ear plugs are a must, but make them fashion, like these bedazzled ones from the Dolce & Gabbana autumn / winter 2018-2019 show. Getty Images

I did this one year in shorts and trainers, and it was perfect. This is literally a hillock covered in grass, so forget everything you’ve read about ease of wedges on grass, because this slope will ruin your ankles. Also, the food stalls and toilets are a long, long walk away. Seating is non-­existent (bring blankets, but frankly, who has that kind of patience?) so factor grass stains into your look. Which rules out white, unless you want to appear as though you play cricket for a living. Petrolheads should bring a small radio to better follow the race, and don’t forget sunscreen and ear defenders. Have I mentioned the cars are really loud?

A little piece of advice for Amber Lounge

Well, lah-di-da, don’t you have it easy? Forget the petrol fumes and toilet queues, Amber Lounge is all about linen tablecloths and thick carpets. Protected from the hoi polloi far below by floor-to-ceiling windows, this is the place for your best frocks and suits. One fly in the ointment, however, is if you want to pop outside to catch the race, the seats are pitched at a terrifying angle, so best stick to kitten heels. unless you enjoy vertigo. Also, after the muffled grandeur indoors, the track noise will blow you off your feet. Yes, it really is that loud.

And last, but by no means least, the After-Race Concerts

In all honesty, this is the reason most of us attend F1 (sorry, Lewis). Getting to these from the track will involve either a lengthy wait for the shuttle bus or a long walk. Several thousand people will be leaving Yas Marina Circuit at the same time, so unless standing in a queue for hours is your idea of fun, you’ll most likely end up walking between the venues and it’s a pretty long way. Once inside, the food trucks and toilets are away from where the magic happens so, again, be ready to walk. Comfortable shoes, then, are paramount to enjoying the evening. If you needed another reason to wear earplugs for the races, here it is. Without them you will likely not be able to hear the music; only the painful whine of people complaining their feet hurt.

Updated: November 27, 2019 10:43 AM

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