Abu Dhabi: Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton may have secured the fifth World Drivers’ Championship in Mexico City last month but the season finale at the spectacular Yas Marina Circuit will be nothing less than a carnival to celebrate Formula One’s exploits this season.
The UAE capital will also be celebrating a decade-long association with the sport as it marks the 10th edition of the showpiece event.
The twilight race is one of the most popular on the calendar for race enthusiasts and 60,000 fans will descend on Yas Island to watch the action on the Tarmac laced around the Yas Viceroy Hotel.
Hamilton has shown that he is in no mood to take his foot off the gas by finishing on the top of the podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix last time out.
The track itself is fun to drive, passing the yachts in the final sector has a similar feel to Monaco...
It was a lucky win for the Briton as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen lost the lead in a collision with back-marker Esteban Ocon of Force India.
Belgian Verstappen will certainly be looking to put that setback behind and will be keen to finish off the season on a high.
“The track itself is fun to drive, passing the yachts in the final sector has a similar feel to Monaco, but it’s not as tight,” said Verstappen while speaking to the F1 official website. “There are some long straights that do not really play to our strong points but we will try to make up for this in the twisty sectors. Apart from being the last race of the year, Abu Dhabi is always a special one due to the atmosphere. The crowds are big and noisy, and being a sunset race adds to the unique feeling. After a busy few races, I think everyone looks forward to getting to Abu Dhabi. The nice weather and a more relaxed feel in the paddock means everyone is smiling.”
Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo will be figuring in his last race in Red Bull colours here in the capital as he is all set to join Nico Hulkenberg at Renault in 2019 on a two-year deal.
And the Australian is also keen to finish off on a high.
“Abu Dhabi marks the end of five years with the team and 10 years with Red Bull itself,” he said. “I’m sure it’s going to be emotional afterwards, especially when I cross the line for the last time with the team.
“But I’m going there all guns blazing, showing a lot of love. Hopefully, the love shows me back and I can celebrate on Sunday, which would be a fitting farewell.” Ricciardo is currently in sixth spot in the Drivers’ Championship, one above Hulkenberg in the standings.
Although Abu Dhabi is the home to Ferrari’s highly popular entertaining theme park with the world’s fastest roller-coaster, they are yet to win a race in the capital.
However, with both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen having tasted success here in the past with Red Bull-Renault (2009, 2010, 2013) and Lotus-Renault (2012) respectively, the Italian marque maker will be hoping they can set that record straight this time round.
The race weekend will also see the curtains coming down on the career of one of the sport’s biggest stars — Fernando Alonso.
The 37-year-old two-time world champion, who has won 32 Grand Prix, has decided to call it quits after the Abu Dhabi GP. Tareq Al Ameri, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit, speaking ahead of the event said, “In the lead up to the 10th edition of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, our teams have been very busy, a huge amount of work goes into preparing for the race weekend to make sure the Circuit looks perfect. We want to ensure that the fans in the grandstand and those watching on TV around the world enjoy the best F1 experience.
“Since our first Grand Prix in 2009 we have been finely tuning our operations. It’s a massive logistical task that is the culmination of 12 months’ meticulous planning.”
Six special charter flights will land at Abu Dhabi Airport, each loaded with more than 90 tonnes of gear, while Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Port will handle 140 containers, each carrying the kit needed to make sure the F1, F2 and GP3 teams are able to put on yet another thrilling display of motorsport action. It will take more than 400 members of staff to offload all the equipment, using 60 forklift trucks once it reaches Yas Marina Circuit.
The Yas Island will be transformed into a three-day festival packed with parties, celebrities and the F1 FanZone will be offering speed demons a chance to take the wheel of a race car in the safety of a VR simulator.
The after-race concerts taking place across the weekend include Guns N’ Roses, Sam Smith, The Weeknd and Post Malone.