x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Crowds get in on the action by the beach

For hundreds of F1 fans, the best place to watch the action on Yas Island last night was next to the water on the Corniche.

ABU DHABI // For hundreds of F1 fans, the best place to watch the action on Yas Island last night was next to the water on the Corniche. Hundreds of people who were not able or willing to get a seat in one of the track grandstands took to beanbag chairs in front of massive television screens at the F1 FanZone on Abu Dhabi's public beach. They started to claim their spots more than two hours before the race began.

Javier Cardona, 45, from Colombia, had been in the capital all week seeking entry to the race. "I couldn't find tickets," he said. "I arrived a week ago and tried to find, but they were really expensive - like US$1,400 (Dh5,140)." Sitting in front of the screen, waiting for the race to begin, Mr Cardona did not seem to mind, though. "Abu Dhabi's been pretty nice. Everything has been well organised and there were a lot of events to enjoy. Things to photograph, food and music around. Yas Island looks incredible."

An F1 fan all his life, he tries to watch every Grand Prix, he said. "Formula One has magic. It's not the race, it's all around the race," he said. "It's the competition, the emotion, the environment." As well as watching the Grand Prix, fans could pit their skills against one another racing model cars around miniature tracks, play pit-crew by changing tyres and refuelling a Ferrari, and admire the art of Jala Luqman, who produced a life-size recreation of an F1 car called The Speed Demon, from digital images and scrap metal.

Tryggvi Thrainsson, 34, from Iceland, enjoyed driving in an F1 simulator. "It was fantastic," he said. "How can I describe it? It feels like you're there." Heather Lovegrove and Louise Sanders, both 27, from Birmingham, in the UK, said they were stunned by how well everything appeared to have been organised. "It's very exciting. Even the entertainment afterwards has been really cool," said Ms Lovegrove.

Ms Sanders said: "I've never been to anything for Formula One, I've only seen it on television, it's a pure fluke that we were here, but we're glad we came." @Email:jgerson@thenational.ae