Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Weekend - all the latest updates on and off the track
The best of the action from Yas Marina Circuit
The grand finale of motorsport's biggest competition is here at last and Abu Dhabi has transformed into the home of Formula One racing and headline concerts.
The race weekend has kicked off with the annual circuit walk and concerts by rapper Post Malone and The Weeknd.
Lewis Hamilton has already won the F1 title, but with Yas Marina Circuit is expected to see the tenth showdown between Hamilton and his Abu Dhabi rival Sebastian Vettel.
Here's the latest news from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday:
Five things to know about concert headliner Sam Smith
Sam Smith performed Saturday night at the du Arena as part of the Abu Dhabi F1 race day concerts. Saeed Saeed has a few facts about the British soul singer.
He has OCD: Sam Smith has often used his social media accounts to detail his struggles from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in order to brush away its stigmas. To aid his recovery, he resorted to hypnotherapy which included filming his habits of turning off every electrical plug at home and checking every tap. This is down to a fear of his house being damaged in home or flood.
He is musically trained: Smith's smooth and dynamic vocals are down to his training in jazz singing. His mentor was the pianist Joanna Eden, whose students also included singers Jamie Cullum and Nerina Pallot.
The Lonely Hour is a breakup album: Smith's big selling 2014 debut album is all about unrequited love. In interviews promoting the album, Smith discussed how all the songs were dedicated to a love interest who just wasn't into him.
He started at the bottom: Before his vocal talents were discovered, Smith was making ends meet working at a bar. Jobs included serving customers and scrubbing the toilets. “I was working full-time in a bar Monday to Sunday, all the hours I could,” he told the UK paper The Guardian. “And I'd walk home because I couldn't afford the tube."
His biggest influence is his mother: A trader for a major London brokerage firm, Smith credits his mother for instilling in him a sense of confidence. “I know how to be authoritative. Even if I don’t know what I’m doing, I pretend like I do,” he told the music magazine Rolling Stone. “It’s all for show. That’s true for anyone, I think. You’ve gotta convince yourself that you know what you’re talking about sometimes.”
Special report: Abu Dhabi GP concerts: Sam Smith performs live
Hamilton on pole after setting lap record
Lewis Hamilton put himself on track to win the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for a record fourth time as he took pole position for Sunday's race.
The world champion took top spot in qualifying on Saturday with a lap record of 1 minute, 34.794 seconds.
Mercedes-GP teammate Valtteri Bottas was second quickest to give the German marque their fifth successive lockout of the front row this season.
The Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were third and fourth, with Daniel Ricciardo out-qualifying his Red Bull Racing teammate Max Verstappen.
Safety tips for after race concerts
The After Race concert promoters Flash Entertainment have provided some safety tips for after race concerts.
There was a crush at one of the entrance gates at Friday’s concert at the du Arena, which Flash said led to "inappropriate" behaviour when fans attempted to force their way into the venue.
1. Arrive early: Doors open from 6pm so make the most of the opportunity to arrive with time to relax and enjoy The Village environment and supporting acts. The earlier you arrive the faster and smoother your entry process will be.
2. Stay hydrated: The weather remains warm so hydration is important, particularly if you have been out and about enjoying the F1 activities for a full day. Drink water before entering du Arena and take advantage of the chilled out Village experience to grab some beverages to take with you before heading in to enjoy the After Race Concerts.
3. Be prepared: Have your passes ready to hand for an easy and fast entrance through du Arena. Ensure you have no dangerous or prohibited items on you, which could create security delays. Pack only the essentials - large bags need to be checked for safety purposes and therefore can slow the process down.
4. Know your entrance: Be aware of where you need to collect your passes from and go there with ample time to avoid queues.
5. Enjoy the show: Over the next two days we will welcome two incredible A-list artists to the capital, both of whom promise unforgettable moments. Create a playlist to listen to in the lead up to the concert and start the great music experience early.
Hamilton sets the pace
Carlos Sainz (Renault), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Sergio Perez (Force India) and Fernando Alonso (McLaren) were the five drivers eliminated from the second part of qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton was quickest in the session, setting a lap record of 1 minute 35.693 seconds to be more then half-a-second clear of next fastest, Max Verstappen.
Qualifying is under way
The first 18-minute part of qualifying for the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is over and it is Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso), Pierre Gasley (Toro Rosso), Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren), Sergey Sirotkin (Williams) and Lance Stroll (Williams) who have been eliminated.
They will start from places 16 to 20 for Sunday's race.
Sebastian Vettel was fastest in his Ferrari with a time of 1 minute 36.775 seconds, but the two Mercedes-GP cars of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton are right behind him, with 0.053 seconds covering the top three.
The clocks are now wiped and the remaining 15 drivers will return to the track shortly for the second part of qualifying.
The fastest 10 from that session will graduate to the shoot-out for pole position.
WATCH: Love is in the air over Yas
The Al Fursan aerobatic team has been busy this afternoon over the capital. It kept circuit-goers entertained by creating a beautiful love heart over Yas Island, as well as filling the sky with different colours.
Sunday will see a fly-by from Etihad with the special Formula One livery making an appearance on its Boeing 787, together with its Year of Zayed A380.
Racing fans meet the drivers at Yas Marina Circuit
Racing fans got a chance to rub shoulders with their heroes today. The Yas Marina Circuit Fanzone hosted a bevy of drivers for autograph sessions.
They included season champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas. They were also joined by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Also hitting the track today was Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. He arrived at the grid at 3.45pm to sample the Hot Lap experience, where he took in the twists and turns of the circuit while seated in a McLaren supercar.
Manicures and beard trims
The National's Charles Capel is at the Fanzone - here's what he has found going on:
From cultural experiences to the high-energy activities, the Fanzone is buzzing with off-track entertainment.
At the Majlis - a traditional Emirati hangout where you can drink Arabic coffee, listen to Arabic music and hold a falcon - a traditional Emirati dance is performed, drawing crowds enchanted by the rhythmic twirling of sticks and gentle sway of the performers.
Some guests were invited to take part and after a moment of red-faced doubt, they’re dancing and laughing with enjoyment.
Meanwhile, for those who are considering a career change after what they’ve seen on the track, there’s a trio of activities you can take part in to test your F1 skills, with the potential to win paddock tickets, T-shirts and pit access.
A pit stop practice allows you to wield a massive drill with two teammates and race to change an F1 tyre. If you’d rather be on the track, an e-sports simulation puts you in the driving seat of a Formula One car, racing against dozens of other people. And if you think you could give an F1 commentator a run for his money, the TV challenge gives you the opportunity to narrate a clip of motorsport racing.
Elsewhere in the Fanzone, there's full schedule of performances. From electronic orchestra Ember Trio, who performed this morning, to funk artist Stranger Faces, there’s something for everyone.
And if your mind is only on Sam Smith’s performance tonight, complimentary blow drys, manicures, and beard trimming are available, all within earshot of the entertainment.
Hamilton wants to launch his own fashion label
In another exclusive interview, Lewis Hamilton has told The National's Selina Denman of his plans once he's done with racing.
“The ultimate goal would be for me to one day have my own brand,” he says. “That’s my goal. That’s the dream.”
And here's some of Hamilton's bold fashion choices...
Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash reveals who he wants to win
The 53-year-old rock legend is set to make an appearance today at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Speaking exclusively to The National he said he was an avid follower of the Formula One season and a big fan of Lewis Hamilton. Guns N’Roses perform at the du Arena on Sunday evening.
Verstappen defends kerbing
Max Verstappen has defended the kerbing on one of the corners at Yas Marina Circuit that caused minor damage to his Red Bull Racing car during practice ahead of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Dutchman ran wide over the kerbing on the exit of Turn 20 on the 21-corner track during Friday's second practice session and suffered minor damage to his floorboard.
Final practice under way
Ericsson embracing 'exciting' new chapter with IndyCar
Marcus Ericsson will compete in his 97th, and potentially final, F1 race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Swedish driver has not been retained by Sauber for the 2019 season, but as the saying goes: when one door closes, another opens - and that is certainly the case for Ericsson, who will take his skills to the United States for the IndyCar series.
Sports editor Graham Caygill spoke to Ericsson ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to hear his thoughts about his "exciting" new chapter in IndyCar, while reflecting on his most successful season in F1.
Cars take to the track
Friday and Saturday afternoon is all about practice for the 20 Formula One drivers ahead of qualifying, and practice does not come any more picturesque than at twilight during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Action on the track
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is about a lot more than just Formula One and legendary concerts, says grand prix newbie Charles Capel.
The first race of the day is under way and it is the GP3, a smaller but by no means quieter species of motorsport and a rite of passage for future F1 drivers.
Rivalries played out over an entire season are coming to a climax in the series' last two races of the year.
The grandstands are filling up, vibrating with the rumble of engines as the drivers put their foot down on the home straight leading to dramatic moments of silence and then thundering noise as the cars go past.
Elsewhere the fanzone is in full swing once again, teaming with fans, bobble-head mascots and live music.
Crowd crush at venue entrance to The Weeknd concert
A crush at one of the entrance gates at Friday’s Abu Dhabi Formula One after-race concert at the Du Arena on Yas Island was caused by the "inappropriate" behaviour of fans attempting to force their way into the venue, according to organisers.
Celebrity spotting: Tiffany Haddish, Dave Chappelle and Chris Tucker
A trio of comic titans are in Abu Dhabi for the F1 weekend. Actress Tiffany Haddish has posted a picture of herself at the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi alongside stand-up comedians Dave Chappelle and Chris Tucker.
The 38-year-old Haddish has fast become a Hollywood darling with acclaimed and uproarious roles in last year’s runaway comedy hit Girls Trip and this year’s Night School alongside Kevin Hart.
When it comes to Chappelle, his Abu Dhabi visit is part of his broader UAE stay which included a sell-out show at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Tuesday.
Tucker is also no stranger to the capital. Having moved away from acting in 2012 to focus on his stand-up comedy career, Tucker performed two shows at the du Forum in 2013.
The trio joins a growing list of celebrities spotted in Abu Dhabi over the weekend, which includes supermodel Bella Hadid and US talk show host and comedian Steve Harvey.
We expect to see more star sightings as the racing weekend hots up.
Mercedes v Ferrari in direct duel for pole
The on-track action ramps up on Saturday with qualifying for Sunday's race. Practice on Friday, when the top six were separated by just 0.333 seconds, hints at a thrilling day of qualifying.
However, sports editor Graham Caygill, who is trackside all weekend, can't see beyond a Mercedes v Ferrari duel for the front places on the grid, although Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will face a fight from their less celebrated teammates.
After race concert review: The Weeknd Warrior
Jason Von Berg caught the Canadian singer on Friday night and says on stage, the Starboy hitmaker found the perfect balance between his most popular tracks and the lesser known ones.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend has something for everyone
Here's the latest news from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday:
Hamilton goes for gold in Abu Dhabi
Lewis Hamilton will begin the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix safe in the knowledge that he has already wrapped up his fifth world title.
To mark his success, the British Mercedes-GP driver has a custom gold helmet for Sunday's race, which he showed off during an Instagram video. He also made sure to zoom in on the No 1 at the front of his car!
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix fuels motorsport dreams for Dubai teenager
Yashish Manohar, a 13-year-old from Dubai, mixed it with four professional Formula 2 drivers in a virtual E-sports challenge at Yas Marin Circuit on Friday.
Yashish is in fact a very accomplished driver in the UAE karting scene and is aiming to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel.
Charles Capel spoke to Yashish, who had with him some signed Ferrari memorabilia.
Bottas tops tight second practice
Mercedes-GP driver Valtteri Bottas edged out Red Bull Racing pair Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo to be quickest in second practice.
But with just 0.333 seconds separating the top six, qualifying on Saturday should be a tightly-contested affair.
Five things to know about tonight’s Abu Dhabi F1 concert headliner The Weeknd
The Weeknd performed on Friday evening tonight as part of the Abu Dhabi F1 race day concerts, Saeed Saeed has a few facts about the Canadian singer.
He has been to Abu Dhabi before
In a way, Abu Dhabi has played a role in his ascendency to pop-stardom. Four years ago, when The Weeknd was gaining industry buzz as one to watch, he was hosted by the Saadiyat Island nightclub People by Crystal. The night spot may have closed now, but plenty of patrons knew that The Weeknd was well on his way to becoming the next big thing in pop music.
The missing letter in The Weeknd is on purpose
With his parents hailing from Ethiopia, The Weeknd’s real name is Abel Makonnen Tesfaye. As an aspiring singer he felt the name was too much of a mouthful, hence the creation of his stage name The Weekend. After realising the moniker would invite a copyright claim from a fellow Canadian rock band, he decided to remove the letter and it became The Weeknd.
It is only recently that he has started travelling
There is a reason why The Weeknd is spending a lot time on the road, whether it’s for business or pleasure - he is making up for lost time. Born and raised in Toronto, it was only at the beginning of his career seven years ago that he not only left Canada, but Toronto itself.
His hero is Michael Jackson
That isn’t surprising, as tracks such as Can’t Feel My Face and Star Boy sound like modern sonic incarnations of the King of Pop. But The Weeknd’s love for MJ is so serious that he reportedly plays the 1979 classic hit Off the Wall loud in his changing room moments before taking the stage.
He doesn’t talk to the press
This is not due to some trepidation of the media; The Weeknd’s built his appeal on being enigmatic. He once remarked that he doesn't want "to spoon feed my audience" and prefers to use symbolism instead.
Five Tips for the weekend racegoers
Follow these simple tips and you are guaranteed to have a blast, says eight-year veteran Saeed Saeed.
A well placed brunch
Venues to watch sporting events don’t come much more comfortable than the Bridge Gallery at the Yas Hotel - slap bang in the middle of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit, writes Simon Wilgriss-Pipe.
With a near panoramic view of the action, a live broadcast of the practice laps on a six-by-eight metre screen and a brunch in progress, few of the early spectators for one of the UAE’s premier events are hankering after a change of scene.
Race tech for super fans
There's broadly two types of people at the Formula One weekend: the petrol heads and the lifestyle gang.
You can find the petrolheads trackside for most of the day - and for Dh495 for the weekend, they'll have likely rented an F1 Vision device - "tech for super fans" - giving them access to all cameras, team radios, leaderboards and stats.
They'll also be sporting an F1 top (about Dh250 bought new) from the store here. There they might have also picked up (for Dh450) some techy ear muffs that allow you to play music, or the team radio, while preserving your eardrums.
Meanwhile, the lifestyle gang are more likely to be checking Sam Smith's Instagram or keeping tabs on Bella Hadid than they are McLaren's Stoffe Vandoorne's practice lap times.
The racing is "unnecessarily loud", meaning they have to raise their voice while getting a shave or haircut in the fan zone. A small price to pay for the extra likes on their Instagram.
Family Friday at Yas Marina Circuit
Before the serious racing business begins with tomorrows qualify rounds, the Yas Marina Circuit welcomed hundreds of families for Family Friday, writes Saeed Saeed.
Those who bought tickets to all three days were able to register up to four children to attend the circuit today.
This is in addition to having unlimited access to all three Yas Island Parks - Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld and Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi.
Popular hubs for families were the Oasis area and fan zones with its car exhibitions and simulators and food outlets.
Verstappen top in opening practice
Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing dominated the opening practice session for the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as world champion Lewis Hamilton struggled.
His lap of 1 minute, 38.491 seconds was the quickest of the 90-minute session, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo second fastest, 0.454 secs adrift of the Dutchman.
Graham Caygill is track side at Yas Marina Circuit with all the latest from Thursday's race action.
Time for box office Verstappen to 'move forwards'
Max Verstappen is generating a huge amount of interest at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, both from fans and the media.
The Dutchman's skills on the track have propelled him to superstar status at the age of 19, while his honesty has been a breath of fresh air in the PR-controlled environment of F1.
However, with Verstappen's row with Force India's Esteban Ocon spilling over from Brazil, sports editor Graham Caygill argues why the Dutchman - although undeniably box office - has to, as Ocon says, "move forwards" and focus on trying to win for a third time this season.
Spotted: Celebrities descend on Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Early celebrity spotting: Bella Hadid has arrived in the UAE capital. She took to Instagram and snapped a photo of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque from a helicopter. She's here to support her boyfriend and tonight's music performance - The Weeknd.
Comedian and talk show host Steve Harvey is also in town. He spent Thanksgiving at the Emirates Palace.
A tale of two pitstops
The F1 fanzone appears to be your one-stop pit-stop for everything you need. Food, drinks, hair dressers, nail salon, giant bean bags that swallow you whole - they have everything, says Charles Capel.
The Formula 2 practice session was going on just metres away, and while it meant you had to raise your voice just to order a juice, it contributes to an electric atmosphere.
For now everything has gone quite on the track - in the real pits, F1 teams are practicing crucial tyre changes. Dozens of mechanics swarm around one car and before you know it, the car has a new set of wheels. For someone who has never been to the F1 before, it is extremely impressive.
Take your F1 knowledge for a spin with our Grand Prix quiz:
Lewis Hamilton: Abu Dhabi is awesome
The five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was looking relaxed but focused when he spoke to The National and described Abu Dhabi as the ideal host for the final race of the Formula One season.
“This place is awesome. It really is the best end of year race. For the last race, you often want to bring your family and there’s no better place to host guests.
"The weather is fantastic. Imagine being in a wintery place right now - if we were in Silverstone right now, it just wouldn’t be great. So it just ends up being the perfect end to the year. The service here, also, hospitality wise, is second to none.
Concert review: Post Malone's southern charm offensive
Our music reporter Saeed Saeed was left impressed by the US singer and rapper's vibrant set that featured a guest appearance from French Montana
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix talking points
This is Ferrari's chance to end their Abu Dhabi hoodoo. The Italian team have never won here in nine previous visits. But this should be the Italian team's best chance to change that statistic, writes Graham Caygill.
The long straights that make up sector two of the track should suit the strong horsepower of the Ferrari power unit and Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen should be right up there at the top of the timesheets.
Kimi Raikkonen: Finishing third in F1 standings could be a 'negative thing'
The Ferrari driver not keen on prospect of more travel to awards ceremony if he seals third in the championship at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Here's the latest news from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Thursday:
Abu Dhabi's F1 weekend in full swing
More than 60,000 Formula One fans will descend on the UAE capital this weekend for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Thousands more tourists and visitors are also due in the emirate on Sunday for the final race of the F1 season.
Organisers revealed that grandstand tickets for the 10th Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix sold out in record time this year.
Boom time for Abu Dhabi hotels
Hoteliers in Abu Dhabi are among the biggest winners this weekend ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix with some charging up to 20 times the usual nightly fare for a room.
Hotel staff in the capital said they had 100 per cent occupancy rates this weekend, with many guests staying beyond Sunday — when the Grand Prix draws ends.
The four-day event has seen hotels increase their prices across the emirate but that has not stopped guests snapping up rooms.
Post Malone gets the party started
The Abu Dhabi F1 concerts kicked off on Thursday night with the Middle East debut performance of Post Malone, writes Saeed Saeed.
The rapper – or singer, if you are a hip-hop purist – took to the du Arena stage just after 9pm to begin the concert series.
With Malone’s woozy and downbeat musical style needing sometime getting used to, he prefaced his appearance with a 10-minute musical introduction of what can be best describe as sustained low key droning sounds.
The lights were low and the smoke machines billowed as a subdued keyboard hum slowly took over the arena.
Once deemed the crowd suitably zen-ed out, Malone – dressed in what appeared colourful pyjamas - strolled on stage to the elegiac Too Young.
An ode to a former music collaborator who passed away, it was not the most upbeat way to start a concert but it was a solid showcase of Malone’s style, which is an eclectic body of influences ranging from hip-hop and soul to folk music. Warmed up, Malone turned it up a notch with Better Now – with its stuttering beat and cinematic production, Malone’s solid performance proved that it is his underrated voice – which can fluidly move from a mellow croon to growling raps - that is behind his success.
Red Bull Racing practice a pit stop
Drivers arrive at Yas Marina Circuit:
Here are the best pictures from Thursday's race walk:
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2018 Schedule
GP3 qualifying, 10:15am
Formula 1, practice 11:30am
Formula 1 first practice, 1pm
GP3 qualifying session, 3.10pm
Formula 1 second practice, 5pm
Formula 2 qualifying, 7pm
Performance: The Weeknd
GP3 race, 12:30pm
Formula 1 final practice, 2pm
Formula 1 qualifying, 5pm
Formula 2 race, 6:40pm
Performance: Sam Smith
GP3 race, 12:10pm
Formula 2 race, 1:35pm
Formula 1 race, 5:10pm
Performance: Guns N' Roses
Abu Dhabi GP facts
How do I get to the Yas Marina Circuit?
There are three options: by car, taxi, bus, Careem or Uber (the latter of which has just announced its return to Abu Dhabi).
Going by car is the easiest, providing you have already secured parking, otherwise, there is limited public parking.
Buses are an alternative way to get to Yas Island Marina. Bus routes 170, 180 and 190 will take you to Ferrari World, starting at Zayed Sport City on the main island.
Alternatively, you could take a taxi or Careem. Both will be in heavy demand so it might be worth booking in advance.
Updated: November 25, 2018 11:03 AM