x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

No ticket needed to join F1 revelry on the Corniche

If you do not have a ticket for the Grand Prix, a good second-best vantage point for watching the race is the F1 FanZone on the Corniche.

Above, members of the Ferrari Owners Club UAE gather yesterday morning before setting off in a convoy to the Yas Marina Circuit.
Above, members of the Ferrari Owners Club UAE gather yesterday morning before setting off in a convoy to the Yas Marina Circuit.

If you do not have a ticket for the Grand Prix, a good second-best vantage point for watching the race is the F1 FanZone on the Corniche. And it has one very big advantage: It is free. Thousands of fans gathered at the beachside attraction yesterday to watch the action on giant screens. Gary Simpson, a 52-year-old civil engineer from England, said he was at the Corniche because he did not have a ticket to Yas Island.

He said he would like to come back to the beach throughout the race weekend, especially the Grand Prix tomorrow. "I'd definitely come and watch it from here, if I can get away from work. "The facility looks impressive, really," he said. "I am not a big fan of Formula One but I take an interest." Salem al Kaabi, a 40-year-old Emirati who works for Injazat, has a ticket to the race. He came to the FanZone so his children could see it and "spend the evening at the Corniche".

"I would not take the children to the circuit. My brother just called and told me he had to plug his ear because the noise of the engines was so loud," he said. "Also, tickets for children [cost] the same as adult ones." He said FanZone would promote Formula One by giving those who cannot make it to Yas Island a chance to see the races and experience the excitement. That option should have been available to even more people, he said.

"They should have done the same in Al Ain and also the other emirates. It should have been across the country, because this would make Formula One more popular." Houssam Mahmoud, a 35-year-old English teacher from Egypt, came to Abu Dhabi with two friends for the race. He said he was in Al Wahda Mall and decided to come to the Corniche to watch practice. Mr Mahmoud said he and his friends had tickets and would attend tomorrow's race.

"We also heard there would be Ragheb Alama [the Lebanese singer] singing tonight. We are mostly interested to see the latest cars and the different kinds of them, and to see the skills of the drivers." Moataz Fanous, a 34-year-old Palestinian lawyer, enjoyed the festive atmosphere at the FanZone. "I am here because it is great to see the people of the world in Abu Dhabi. I will watch it from here every day," he said.

Other fans took in the action in hotel bars yesterday, eyes fixed on televisions. Hemingway's bar at the Hilton Hotel is in partnership with the McLaren team. It has a special décor for the race, with chequered flags and white-painted tyres. British fan Brian Sherras, a 52-year-old who works in the construction sector, does not have tickets to the race. He was leafing through a pile of racing magazines as he asked for the practice commentary on the bar's television to be turned up.

"I travel a lot all over the world on business, and when I can route my way around I try to see the race," he said. "I look for a place with a big buzz." Three friends at the bar were getting into Grand Prix fever. One of them, Nouvriet Boutros, a 43-year-old chief strategy officer from the US, has VIP access because her husband works for Ferrari. "It was mind-boggling that [not long] ago, it was all dirt," she said.

"Then last Saturday, we were on the track and it just blew my mind. Amazing how Abu Dhabi gets things done, there's no place like it in the world for this kind of thing." mkwong@thenational.ae hhassan@thenational.ae