x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

2009: The Abu Dhabi GP

40 years of the UAE: Deep inside the Emirates Palace hotel and amid a thorough fanfare, excitement was swelling.

Deep inside the Emirates Palace hotel and amid a thorough fanfare, excitement was swelling.

The world's motorsport media had descended on the capital for the official unveiling of the much-anticipated Yas Marina Circuit, and as Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, entered the crowded room, a hush fell. Moments later, lights dimmed, curtains fell and the silence was replaced with exhalations of awe.

Glinting in the spotlight was a scaled model of a Formula One circuit that included many unique features, but none more stunning than the shimmering Yas Hotel, which would eventually see F1 cars run underneath it.

Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's venerated supremo, called the project "one of the most exciting tracks I have ever seen".

The inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held on November 1, 2009, was the 17th and final race of that season and it became Formula One's first twilight race. The qualifying session was also raced in daylight and evening because of F1 regulations. The Renault driver Fernando Alonso said that he enjoyed racing on the circuit and that there was always something to do, despite finishing a lowly 14th. It was eventually won by the German driver Sebastian Vettel, but will be better remembered for raising the bar in terms of how a Grand Prix race - an already glitzy affair - should be.

Drivers swooned, Beyonce crooned and Yas Marina revelled in its role of putting Abu Dhabi on the international sporting map.