Fans on the start-finish line at Thursday's Yas Marina Circuit Pit-Lane Walk
Fans on the start-finish line at Thursday's Yas Marina Circuit Pit-Lane Walk Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

There was a real air of celebration in and around Yas Marina Circuit as the fans returned in their thousands to take part in the traditional Pit-Lane Walk ahead of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Covid restrictions prevented fans from attending the race last year, but it was clear to see that they were more than happy to make up for lost time as they got up close with the pit-lane paddocks to see the 10 teams putting their final touches to the preparations for Sunday’s finale.

Fans watch the teams cork in the pits at Yas Marina Circuit
Fanst watch the teams work in the pits at Yas Marina Circuit

Yas Marina was pristine once again and the luxury yachts were already berthed around the track, while the crowds got a feel for the new-look track that has undergone major changes since last year.

Abu Dhabi also had an extra buzz as the final race of the F1 2021 season will go down to the wire as Mercedes’ defending champion Lewis Hamilton has come roaring back to reel in Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and now the rivals go into the Abu Dhabi finale locked on points and knowing whomever finishes ahead will take the title. Fans are eagerly awaiting the mouthwatering clash on Sunday with a clear split in who they are rooting for.

“I would really love Lewis to take his eighth world title to confirm his place as the greatest of all time,” said Nikki, 22, from England, as she posed for pictures on the Yas Marina Circuit start-finish line. “He has been pushed all the way by Max but he has kept his head and hopefully he will come out on top.”

Damon from Germany was leaning the other way and rooting for Verstappen. “It would be great to see a different champion for a change after Lewis’ dominance. Also, I am a big Michael Schumacher fan and don’t want Lewis to get ahead of him in the overall Drivers’ Championship record title standings.”

It was a family affair ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand prix
It was a family affair ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Omar from Dubai admitted it was tough to split the two drivers, who are level on 369.5 points. “It’s a shame there has to be only one winner after one of the best title challenges in history. Max is clearly one for the future while Hamilton has once again showed why he deserves to be counted among the greatest in F1. The most important thing for me is the fans will be back to cheer on their favourites — and Yas is looking brilliant.”

The fans dispersed as the sun went down of Abu Dhabi, but they will be back in their droves when the action heats up over the next three days and the drivers hit the track during practice, qualifying and then the big finale on Sunday to decide the destination of the title.