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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Anticipation builds as Formula 1 fans pour into Abu Dhabi

Yachts lining the marina with trackside views have been loaded up with exotic food and drink for the start of the three-day festival of motor sport that is expecting to pull in fans from all corners of the globe

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes-GP meets fans at Yas Marina Circuit. Christopher Pike / The National
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes-GP meets fans at Yas Marina Circuit. Christopher Pike / The National

Yas Marina was overtaken by Formula 1 fans on Thursday as the excitement ahead of one of Abu Dhabi’s most eagerly awaited weekend builds.

Some were dropping into the marina’s many restaurants for a bite after work, whilst others were reaching the end of a long journey to make it into the capital for race weekend.

Yachts lining the marina with trackside views have been loaded up with exotic food and drink for the start of the three-day festival of motor sport that is expecting to pull in fans from all corners of the globe.

Formula One has come to town.

Despite the season already being over, with Lewis Hamilton crowned 2017 Formula One champion for the fourth time, motor sport fans were still hotly anticipating the season finale, even though it may not have quite as grand as many had hoped for just a few months earlier.

Ian Smith had flown in from Abu Dhabi for a taste of his first desert Grand Prix with his life, but had faced a difficult journey.

“We arrived in Abu Dhabi but unfortunately our luggage didn’t,” said Mr Smith, who has flown in from Aberdeen for the weekend.

“The four passes for the family were in my luggage, so it’s been a bit of a struggle trying to get replacement tickets but it has been sorted out now.

“I’ve been to the Hungarian Grand Prix, but this is my first visit to the Abu Dhabi track so it is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.”

Not everyone was in town for the racing, with music fans also set for a treat with an eclectic line-up of bands due to play over the three nights, starting with Scottish dance DJ Calvin Harris on Thursday night.

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Hip-hop stars J Cole and Busta Rhymes will take to the stage at after race shows on Friday before UK folk rockers Mumford and Sons perform live on Saturday.

The British band will make up for some of the disappointment felt by Michelle Linanne, 26, from Ireland who had been hoping for a closer finish to the F1 season rather than Hamilton’s victory procession.

“I was hoping [Sebastian] Vettel could close the gap, but it wasn’t to be,” she said.

“This is my first Grand Prix, but I love it and always catch the races on TV.

“I’m hoping I’ll be able to see the race from a good vantage point, as it always looks so spectacular and the coverage is great.”

Although not Hamilton’s biggest fan Ms Linanne is hoping for strong showing from the Red Bull team and Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo in particular.

“It’s a shame it’s not closer but I still expect the Red Bull team to do well,” she said.

“The music line-up is amazing this year, and it will be a great weekend regardless. I can’t wait to see Mumford and Sons.”

As the sun set and working week drew to a close, crates of drinks stacked up on the Yas Marina quayside as partygoers began to arrive for one of the social highlights of the year in the UAE.

Celebrities were in short supply at the iconic venue and nearby Viceroy Hotel, although that will change as the rich and famous fly into the capital to take in the weekend action.

Jamie Ross, 28, had flown in from Scotland to meet his friend who lives in Abu Dhabi, and is keenly awaiting the after show parties.

“I’m not a massive F1 fan in all honesty,” he said.

“And being Scottish, I’m not a huge fan of Lewis Hamilton either but this is going to be one hell of a party.

“I’ve always watched the Abu Dhabi race on the tele back home and it has been on my bucket list for a while.

“I’m not bothered that there isn’t much riding on the actual race, it will still be an incredible event.”

Friday is family day at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with up to four children under 12 offered free entry accompanying an adult with a three-day grandstand ticket.

Matthew Smith was meeting his dad at the Viceroy who had flown in especially for Sunday’s season finale.

“I’ve been to all the golf events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi but this will be my first Formula One race,” he said.

“The sunset as the lights come on always looks special, I just hope Hamilton can end his season well.”