Abu Dhabi: With a silver ring on each finger, a bunch of shiny bangles on both wrists, matching earrings, a stylised red West African kaftan and a dark grey paddy cap, giant Senegalese Moko is hard to miss in a crowd.
The F1 draws a melee of A-listers, starlets, gorgeous pit girls, business tycoons and champion F1 drivers, but Moko is a star in his own right.
How it started
As a curious onlooker you can tell he is no ordinary follower of the sport, but to legions of F1 regulars and those in the know he is a superfan who is ever-present in almost every race over the past 37 years.
“It all goes back to 1979 when South African Jody Sheckter became the first person from my continent to win the championship riding a Ferrari. That was the defining moment for me as a fan as it hooked me on to the sport and the team forever,” Moko tells XPRESS, sitting at the porch of the official villa of Scuderia Ferrari inside the Yas Marina Circuit.
Moko doesn’t reveal his real name or age but claims he hasn’t missed a key race since that momentous season. “You can figure out then how old I must be,” he says with a smile.
Ask him about his favourite circuit and he will let out names like Suzuka in Japan, Silverstone in the UK, Spa in Belgium and Monza in Italy. “The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is a real delight I have to say but the sheer joy of watching races on all those tracks is unmatched,” says the Ferrari man. “But if you ask me about the recent circuits, then Abu Dhabi is right up there. Certainly amongst the very best I have seen in terms of the total experience.”
With Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel coming third at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix behind Nico Rosberg - who eventually won his maiden Driver’s Championship despite finishing runner-up to Lewis Hamilton - late Sunday evening, Moko is sure to have one more reason to love the Yas Marina Circuit.
So will he come back to the capital again next year? “Surely and for all you know we might be looking at a Ferrari driver fighting for the title same time in 2017. Anything can happen and I am hopeful of seeing good times return for the team soon,” he says.