x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Celebrities racing to the F1 ball

The Grand Prix Ball Abu Dhabi is expected to attract film stars, musicians and knighted notables.

The world champion Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and Nicole Scherzinger, of the pop group The Pussycat Dolls, are expected to attend the ball.
The world champion Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and Nicole Scherzinger, of the pop group The Pussycat Dolls, are expected to attend the ball.

Formula One motor racing is all about speed, power, noise, money and glamour. It is a sport that attracts the stars of stage, screen and music - and Abu Dhabi will be no exception.

The most glamorous event on race weekend is likely to be the Grand Prix Ball Abu Dhabi, with a host of A-list celebrities expected to attend and others likely to confirm their presence as the event draws near. There will be other balls during the race weekend, but two of Formula One's biggest names will be attending this one - the defending world champion, Lewis Hamilton, and the man who hopes to succeed him as title holder, fellow Briton Jenson Button.

However, those appearing will not just be the on-track aces who will go into battle the day after the ball, one of the few scheduled in the run-up to the race. Notables to attend include the Welsh songstress Dame Shirley Bassey, the British singer James Morrison, the American pop star Alicia Keys, Jay Kay of the music world's Jamiroquai, the businessman Sir Richard Branson and the television interviewer Sir David Frost. They will mingle with local business people, VIPs and officials at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club event.

Organisers are even hoping to entice the Hollywood star Brad Pitt. The footballer David Beckham and his wife Victoria might also put in appearances at the glitzy gathering. "The rumour is David Beckham and Victoria are going to be in town," said James Magee of the ball organiser Global Event Management. "We're waiting for final confirmation of people like Hugh Grant, Brad Pitt, Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller."

Some of the funds generated at the event will go to a charity called fresh2o that helps to provide clean drinking water to disadvantaged communities across the globe. An auction will take place in aid of the charity, with lots to include a replica of the US$150,000 (Dh550,965) home entertainment system that the Beckhams have at their home. If Mr Beckham is not at the event, Mr Magee said, organisers hoped he would record a video message to be used to accompany the auction.

In total, the auction lots, which will also include signed memorabilia and artwork, are expected be worth about US$1 million (Dh367m), Mr Magee said. He hoped the auction would raise at lease half this figure for the charity. Four children died every minute as a result of unclean water and 1.1 billion people worldwide did not have access to adequate amounts of drinking water, said Rue Kothari of the charity. She said the organisation tried to help communities to manage their own water supplies.

The pop flamenco group the Gipsy Kings will perform at the event along with the operatic tenor Jean Luc Viala. However, the main singing act has yet to be finalised. One possibility is that the 72-year-old Bassey will give a performance of some of her biggest hits, which include the classic James Bond theme Goldfinger. Alternatively, the party - which is taking place in a specially built venue at the golf club - may feature the likes of Kay, Keys and Morrison giving an informal jamming session of the kind seen at other Grands Prix.

Other celebrities who may show up include the R'n'B singer Lemar, who achieved success after appearing on the British television programme Fame Academy, and members of the pop band Girls Aloud. A similar Grand Prix Ball has been held in Monaco by a company linked to Global Event Management. There have also been balls at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in England. Others luminaries Mr Magee expected to attend include Brian May, the guitarist of the rock group Queen, while the retired Scottish Grand Prix driver David Coulthard is a confirmed guest. Lewis Hamilton will be flying to the event by helicopter, with a helipad being created especially for the occasion.

Mr Magee said there were likely to be other drivers accompanying the Team McLaren superstar. as the helicopter, which is being provided by the event partner .Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, will have space for more than a dozen people. As they will be racing the next day, Hamilton, Button and any other drivers that appear are only likely to stay for an hour or so after they arrive at about 7.30pm. The event itself will continue until midnight.

There are 600 spaces at the ball, around half of which have already been reserved, with a table for 10 costing Dh25,000. Mr Magee said the capacity might be increased to 700. About a third of the ticket price will pay for the event itself, with another third goes to the event organisers. The final third would end up with the charity, Mr Magee said. "We want it to be a very exclusive event and we already have half the tickets taken," said Mr Magee, adding that companies had snapped up many of the tickets already sold.

Though the celebrities appearing at the ball are not charging appearance fees, their flights, hotel costs and other expenses are being paid by the organisers. On the evening after the race, an even more exclusive private party is being held on a yacht in Yas Island marina where the Gipsy Kings will also be performing. @Email:dbardsley@thenational.ae