Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

The Formula One is inspiring future generations to take up motorsports

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is more than just a race – it is fostering the racing car drivers of the future in the UAE

The UAE’s circuit is regarded by most racers to be the best in the world. Clive Mason / Getty
The UAE’s circuit is regarded by most racers to be the best in the world. Clive Mason / Getty

The Formula One, which has taken over Abu Dhabi over the past few days, represents the pinnacle of sporting achievement: a gruelling test of stamina, skill and endurance for the drivers being put through their paces. Dreams are made and broken on the aquamarine track, which bends, pivots and snakes around Yas Island and has become a symbol of the city’s aspirations to be an international player, part of a global conversation on sporting excellence. The season finale took place tonight as dusk fell over the track and the whole of the island lit up in neon, to a pulsating soundtrack.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has become such a solid fixture on the UAE’s sporting calendar, it is sometimes easy to forget it is less than a decade old. From the moment the track was first opened in 2009, it attracted international attention, not least because the entire island was dedicated to motorsport when it opened. Much has followed since then, from residential developments to shopping venues and theme parks; it has become an integral part of the landscape and the F1 is now an unmissable event-packed weekend, even for those who do not follow the sport.

For fans, however, the circuit, with its numerous turns, is regarded by many to be the best in the world and the avalanche of celebrities who descend on the island, from Hollywood stars to singers, mix and mingle with tourists and motorsport enthusiasts alike. Aside from the glitz and glamour, hosting the F1 has done much more than that: it has imbued a love and knowledge of the sport, which goes far beyond mere spectacle. It has already begun fostering the homegrown sportsmen and women of tomorrow, among them Emirati sisters Amna Al Qubaisi, 17, and Hamda, 14, who are rising stars on the international karting scene, with their sights firmly set on reaching the F1 one day. Competing against some of the world’s best drivers at the Italian Karting Championship in July, the two schoolgirls made it to 16th and 12th places respectively. They were the only female racers among 34 drivers taking part in the competition, and Amna will soon make history as the first Arab woman to compete in Formula 4 at next season of the sport. It is unlikely they will be exceptional for long. A family day held at the track last Friday, with ticketholders invited to bring up to four children under 12 for free, will encourage a younger generation to find out more about the sport and perhaps take it up themselves – meaning one day it won’t just be the track garnering attention worldwide.

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