This weekend was an important one in the UAE’s capital as thousands flocked to Yas Island for a weekend of motoring fun and entertainment.
The event kicked off on Friday with the Formula 1 drivers taking to the Yas Marina Circuit for their first practice rounds. The Australian V8 Supercars were also out in full force, taking in two practice sessions before the all-important qualifying race. The atmosphere in the stands was akin to that of a carnival with fans from all over the world enjoying the pit lane walks and driver autograph signings. At 9pm sharp, pop princess Kylie Minogue took to the stage in the Du Arena wearing tiny hot pants and boasting some impressive dance moves to bring the first full day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2012 to an end.
Day 2 started off bright and early with the first race of the Australian V8 Supercars. With temperatures climbing to around 32° by midday the weather was just as hot as the on-track action. Spectator Ghulmiyyah Ghulmiyyah from Lebanon excitedly told me “It’s amazing, actually amazing.”
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The afternoon saw the F1 qualifiers take place with Mclaren’s Lewis Hamilton in pole position after Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was demoted to the back of the grid for failing to have enough fuel left in his tank for a sample to be taken. The excitement of the news rippled through the fans who left the grandstand for the Du arena and a second night of concert, this time with Canadian rockers Nickelback.
The third and final day of the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix got underway at midday on Sunday and, with many of the resident fans having to work, the stands were noticeably quieter until late afternoon. But then the action really picked up. The UAE national anthem was warmly received to signal the start of the F1 final race and the starting signal turned green at exactly 5pm. Fans were on the edge of their seats as they watched the action which saw Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber retire from the race while Narain Karthikeyan and Nico Rosberg collided heavily. Vettel came from the back, struggled through some vehicle damage and stunned fans by finishing in third position. Fernando Alonso took the second spot while Kimi Raikkonen went on to claim the win with a finishing time 0.8 seconds ahead of the others. The celebrations continued into the night as American rapper Eminem made his first ever Middle Eastern performance in front of a packed stadium. Concert-goer Eileen Daoud from Ireland gushed, “It was the best day of my life.”
All in all, a spectacular weekend of racing and entertainment that surely provided a boost to the emirate’s tourism.