Steven’s view of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

From the stands

Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Ever wondered what it’s like to watch an F1 race at Abu Dhabi’s ultra-modern Yas Marina circuit?

F1 Fanatic reader Steven Smith saw the gripping title-deciding race in Abu Dhabi last week. Here’s what he thought of the track and the action:

I’ve just got home after staying on for a couple of days in the United Arab Emirates following the title deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

I travelled out on Thursday last week from London, and decided to stay at the pool instead of watching practice at the track on Friday and soak up some of the gorgeous weather.

Saturday’s track action couldn’t be missed, though. So an 8.30am departure from the hotel in Al Ain, was followed by a two-hour drive to the circuit.

The first thing to let you know you are there is the sight of the red roof to the Ferrari World leisure park and it’s roller coaster.

All the fans then have to use the park and ride buses to get to the track, of which plenty had been laid on.

We got to the circuit and, after passing through airport-style metal detectors and X-ray machines, headed for the West grandstand. Access both in and out of the grandstand is by swiping your race ticket at the turnstiles. All tickets came on a lanyard.

Saturday afternoon’s running was all in daylight, and nothing spectacular happened. But plenty of photo opportunities were available, as movement around the grandstands was fully allowable.

They even have public areas at the end to allow people to stand and snap away. The view from this grandstand gave a small glimpse left at the northern end of the circuit where the hairpin bend is.

Then we saw the cars about half way down the main straight, before they flicked left, then right, and sped off past the support pits, towards the harbour. Then they came back into view at the penultimate corner to take the final two turns and blast down the pit straight. It was impressive an view compared to many other tracks I’ve been too.

Qualifying was done at dusk, and was easy to follow with both the big screen, and track radio. But, strangely, the radio coverage was absent on Sunday.

Finding the bus to get home proved awkward, as it had been ordered to move by the stewards, and was nowhere near where we had left it. It took us until 10:30pm to get back to the hotel.

Sunday’s action started later, so we stayed at the hotel until 10:30am, arriving back at the track two hours later. We saw the Porsche Supercup support race was poor in both numbers of entrants, and the quality of racing.

Bernie and the F1 hierarchy need to address something about the F1 Drivers’ Parade. We fans pay lots of money to travel to events like this. Yet the trailer carrying the drivers carried so many hangers-on the drivers could not be bothered to turn and face the crowd. They were too busy chatting to each other. The only notable exception on Sunday was Michael Schumacher.

The race itself obviously had it’s main “event” on the first lap with the coming together of Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi. After that, it was purely a strategy game. Lap after lap Fernando Alonso followed the yellow Renault, never gaining.

The main excitement was knowing how the title race was at any time during the race. We knew early on that Mark Webber was in trouble, but realising Alonso had thrown it away too was quite remarkable.

I got my best photographs on the slowing down lap, when the two Red Bulls went side-by-side just in front of me.

As we left to get back to the coach all the stewards were thanking people for coming and saying “please come back”. They were so friendly, and the track so spectacular, that it will be hard not too.

Steven’s pictures from Abu Dhabi

This is a guest article by Steven Smith. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

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48 comments on Steven’s view of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

  1. Antranik said on 21st November 2010, 9:42

    In my opinion Abu Dhabi is one of the worst, most boring tracks and doesn’t deserve to be the title decider, or even ON the calendar (like Valencia)… Like this guy said, it’s only a strategy game…
    Still anybody who gets to go see an F1 race, any F1 race, live, is lucky. I wish I got the chance to see one race live :P

  2. I can’t think of the most entertaining place on the track. If I went to Monza, I would like to stay in one of the chicanes, but here? What is the best place to watch? I think the turn where Schumacher and Liuzzi collided, because it was the only action of the race.

    • Steven said on 21st November 2010, 14:13

      I think we had a pretty good view from our grandstand, as my photos hopefully show. But I have noticed that I have not posted a photo of the cars entering the last but one turn just before the pit lane entry. I would guess that we could see the cars for probably about 20-25 seconds on a 100 second lap.
      Sadly for good spectator viewing the Austrian Grand Prix is no longer held. Now that that place did offer good views.

    • Mark (@marlarkey) said on 22nd November 2010, 12:40

      I was in the same grandstand as Steven (the West grandstand) last year and chose it again for this year as I think it gives the best view.

      Apart from seeing the cars come down the main straight and into the main overtaking spot, you also see them coming around the last two bends, past the pitlane entrance and onto the pit straight.

      You get to see the grid form up and get away too.

      And there is plenty of room to move around so you can walk up and down the grandstand to take photos from different spots – although they frown upon you going to the front.

  3. Well written.Nice Pics.Would you mind shedding some light about the hotel price that you lived in?

    • Steven said on 21st November 2010, 14:05

      We stayed in the second city of Abu Dhabi, which is Al Ain. It’s about 90 miles away down a three lane motorway with little traffic. Given the choice again I would probably stay in AD itself, and save the long journey. But that’s another £500 or so on the bill.
      Hotel Intercontinental with Motor Racing International who are (for UK fans) the best group to travel with.

    • Mark (@marlarkey) said on 22nd November 2010, 12:41

      Can’t comment on hotels and prices, my hotel was very cheap as I stayed with my brother who lives/works in Abu Dhabi. His place is 10 minutes drive from the circuit :)

  4. good article..
    and i agree as well. at tracks like albert park, you only see one corner, and theres practically no screens.
    so the cars fly by once every minute and a half, then you just wait, and check your emails before they come back again.
    So having a track where you can see all the action must be great. tracks like winton and sandown in australia spring to mind where you can see the cars go through every corner.

    but yeah, the track ain’t that great at abu dhabi, but it seems the people are nice and stuff..

  5. BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st November 2010, 10:48

    Thanks for the write up Steven. Nice to hear some positives about Abu Dhabi. It seems they have got the grandstand view quite fine. Is the fiew as good from other parts of the track you tried?

    Just a shame the track is not more challenging to the drivers, giving more mistakes and overtaking opportunities. It does seem a bit sterile to enjoy the title final, and have a winners party, what do you think?

    From your experience, it seems the track is part of the Ferrari world, nice idea. Did you have a visit to the park as well included in the package, or was it just the parking and going through to get to the track.

    • Steven said on 21st November 2010, 13:58

      Ferrari World sits just behind the North Grandstand, where Scheuy got his close up viewing of waht the underside of a Force India looks like. The evening concerts were held there. Kanye West on Friday. Linkin Park on Saturday and Prince on Sunday. All included in the price of the grandstand tickets. Just swipe them at the barrier again.

      • bosyber said on 21st November 2010, 15:03

        Thanks for the nice write up, interesting to read. Glad to hear that the positioning of the grandstands is pretty good, even if the track itself hasn’t worked out so super.

        The Ferrari world being part of the complex and also where you park and what they use for those evening events sounds like a good idea for any new track to keep the traffic from being a bottle neck, and at the same time keeping people longer on the site to spend some little bit of money :)

      • It seems Joe Saward was far from impressed with Ferrari World (to be honest, the concerts will have not been his cup of tea, as well as the rollercoaster, but still it does not sound like the wonderfull experience it might have been).

        By the way his view on the Senna movie is pretty good

  6. Rahim.RG said on 21st November 2010, 11:51

    Nice Write up….i’m going for Track Marshal Training for the Indian Grand Prix…will be there for the race….Can’t Wait….Would surely love to share here….

    • bosyber said on 21st November 2010, 15:04

      Good luck, and fun with that! It sounds like a great opportunity. Sharing the experience here would be great to read, please do!

  7. GeeMac said on 21st November 2010, 12:01

    Makes me feel like a chop for selling my tickets in the North Grandstand and going to South Africa for the weekend instead… :(

    I’ll be there next year though!

  8. kowalsky said on 21st November 2010, 12:13

    I am glad you enjoyed it. But let’s be realistic. You saw a boring race, and i am sure paid a fortune for it. Of course it’s nice to travel, but to me you have to get your money’s worth. I saw f1 races at several circuits all over the world, mostly in the eighties. I Stopped when the ferrari-schumacher domination, and came back in 2009, for the turquish gp. I was so disapointed by the lack of performance plus all the politics, that f1 lost me as a travelling fan. This year i went to sepang where i saw the 46th victory of valentino rossi, plus lorenzo becoming moto gp world champion, and stayed in thailand for a week, for less money than steven paid for his trip, i can assure you. F1 is going the wrong way, moto gp on the other side, is serching for more power, and more action. It’s what got me hooked to f1, in 1976. And like a 21st century marriage, i asked for a divorce, because i found a younger, more exciting bride. Without having to pay child support.

    • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 21st November 2010, 13:19

      Do Turquiose people go to the Turquish GP?

      Sorry, I had to! I do agree with your post, that’s part of the reason I didn’t go to the AD GP when i had tickets, I knew it would be a dull and boring race despite having the WDC on the line.

      • The country’s name is Turkey and its people are called Turkish you guys!

      • kowalsky said on 21st November 2010, 16:49

        thanks for the english class, but i can give you one in spanish if you need it.
        geemac, having the tickets, i would think about it. But i am sure a grandstand ticket can cost around 500 euros at that venue.
        That was another thing that shocked me in the early 2000’s. Going to a gp, to see schumacher get the pole, fastest lap and the win. that’s wasting your money.

        • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 21st November 2010, 16:56

          The North Grandstand tickets were AED1800 for two days. That’s a shade ove 350 Euro’s, so 175 Euro a day. It was hardly extortionate.

          • kowalsky said on 22nd November 2010, 6:30

            i am sure there are some at higher prices. But you made your point.
            Only if the racing was any good.
            And what is it going to happen when the car get another cut in power in 2012.
            As long as the fans keep coming to the races, they will keep making these decissions without any consideration to the fans that think a f1 should be the fastest, more dificult car to driver.

          • Mark (@marlarkey) said on 22nd November 2010, 12:56

            My tickets for the West Grandstand (three rows from the front) were about £250 for two days (~EUR300, USD400).

            These were among the highest priced tickets available apart from VIP boxes. There were cheaper tickets in other grandstands.

            I was pretty happy with that price… some people would pay that much just for the concerts. In fact from what I could see I think that’s exactly what a lot of people did…. the men went to the race and then went to the bar in the evening while their wives and daughters went to the concert after they had been sunbathing and shopping during the day.

            This is a fantastic way to make a family outing of visiting a GP.

  9. MclarenForever (@mclarenforever) said on 21st November 2010, 14:09

    Good job Keith great review!

  10. Going to a traditional ‘boring’ GP may be the best thing to do. If it’s action packed and you are in a Grandstand you will miss the action you would see on TV, but if it’s dull on TV it would feel more interseting from the Grandstand just for the crowd atmosphere and seeing and hearing the F1 cars!

    • Steven said on 21st November 2010, 14:24

      Non attending F1 followers always say you can see more on TV. But that’s rubbish. All tracks nowadays put large screen TV’s in front of every grandstand, so that those sitting there see the Tv coverage, and get the noise atmosphere, and spectacle too.
      How do we know we are going to see a boring race. (Unless we are off to Valencia or Monaco!)
      I do not know when I go to a race if it will exciting or not. But being there is better than being at home on the couch.
      I was at Montreal in 07′ and seeing Hamilton’s first GP win, 4 safety car periods (when there is no racing), and Kubica destroy his car in front of me was certainly more exciting than it would have been back home.

      • MclarenForever (@mclarenforever) said on 21st November 2010, 14:26


      • kowalsky said on 21st November 2010, 16:58

        you can always get a boring gp, and i agree about the atmosphere, but at what cost?
        You have to agree with me that the grandstand prices are a robbery. The spectacle nowadays it’s just not worth the price. If the prices went down, and the racing improved, i would think otherwise. And i am a non-traveling f1 fan, that went to more than 20 f1 races, being one of them senna’s first victory at estoril, where i paid somewhere around 90 euros.

        • Mark (@marlarkey) said on 22nd November 2010, 13:00

          I got a Kangaroo TV for the Abu Dhabi GP which only cost about £30 when booked in advance.

          That gave me BETTER coverage at the circuit than available on TV (exactly the same world TV feed as you see on TV plus timing info and selection of onboard cameras). Even including the BBC 5Live Sports commentary.

          I had far better views and info available to me while at the circuit than I get at home.

      • You can see more on TV – or at least when you’re at home with TV, laptop and commentary you are far more informed than at a race. I’ve been to Monza several times, in several different stands and trialled the Kangaroo TV there. Even that didn’t keep me as well informed about the race progression as when I’m at home with an eye on the live timing….but I wouldn’t want to miss out on the buzz of hearing the cars go screaming past. I realised I was watching the Kangaroo too much when Alonso’s engine blew up a few years ago and it took me a while to realise I could see it 10m in front of me for real, rather than on a 2″ screen! IIRC Hamilton won the GP2 Championship at the same time.

      • I will never understand people who say that, Monaco? Boring? Blasphemy.

  11. I thought about going to my first GP this year but after doing the calculations, it was going to be quite expensive. and like others, I do think I’m able to get a more involved experience plus I can do it on my own time (I’m here in america and record the races since most are around 4AM). BUT I’d love to go one day just to experience it once and see it in person. I’m thinking of Canada or Singapore or maybe Brazil although I’m not sure how safe I’d feel at the last one and I felt that way before what happened this year.

    I’m an amateur photographer so I’m curious how much I’d be able to roam around the track and how close I can get. I have a 200mm but even that doesn’t reach very far.

    • Steven said on 22nd November 2010, 6:21

      Nesto. If you live in the US, then just go up to Montreal. The city has the best atmosphere of any that I have been to. (I’ve done 50 GP’s now.) It just buzzes. Better than China, Malaysia, Indy, Silverstone, Spa etc. Best viewing for pictures in my opinion is a high seat just after the first right hander from the start line.
      But having seen Kubica’s almighty crash three years back, the bottom hairpin can have it’s moments.
      Plus Canada is nearly always an exciting race.

    • Mark (@marlarkey) said on 22nd November 2010, 12:30

      The grandstands at Abu Dhabi are quite close to the track so with a 200mm lens you can get pretty good views…

      I took most of my close up shots with a 70mm-300mm zoom lens.

      The big challenge at Abu Dhabi is the lighting at dusk – you’re having to balance a fast enough shutter speed at long zoom to freeze the cars without having to use so high an ISO that the photos are grainy.

      Reduce the ISO then you have to increase the shutter speed and you get blur.

      Also focussing is tricky too. The cars are coming past you so fast it is difficult for the lenses to react quickly enough on auto so for a lot of my shots I focussed manually on a spot and then tried to catch the car in that frame.

  12. You didn’t mention if you went to Ferrariworld, and if so, was that worth a visit?

  13. Mark (@marlarkey) said on 22nd November 2010, 12:22


    Great article. I have been at Abu Dhabi GP this year and last year and thoroughly endorse your comments.

    It sounds as if you might have been in the West Grandstand near where I was located – maybe we were seated near each other :)

    I really don’t understand the comments about this year’s race being boring. At the circuit the atmosphere was tense and exciting as every circuit we leaned out of our seats to see how close Alonso was going to be to Petrov this time.

    And that battle wasn’t the only one going on… Button trying to get past Kubica, Massa trying to get past Algy. Every lap we were treated to the excitement of will they/won’t they.

    I didn’t go to Ferrari World – but I did go to the after race concerts which Steven didn’t mention. Friday they had Kanye West (which I missed), Saturday they had Linkin Park (who I wasn’t that interested in much to my neice’s disgust) and on Sunday they had Prince (who was great :) )

    It isn’t a purists circuit but you’re not sitting on wet grass, you get a great view and the hosts look after you well.

    Plus there are plenty of other attractions in the area (watersports, Ferrari World, the new Splash waterpark, golf courses, shopping, etc) so you can expand your trip into a leisure break that includes a GP – something which is very important to those of us who need to sell the idea to a partner who is not interested in racing :)


  14. Serious dust on the sensor, although it’s quite cropped so maybe it looks worse than it is.

    • Steven said on 22nd November 2010, 17:12

      Spot on Nick. I picked it up out there, and had no way of cleaning the sensor. It’s been sorted since I got back.
      Well spotted.

  15. I went to the GP in Abu dhabi and honestly I thought the race weekend they put on was brilliant. I was in the west stand and I must say that the atmosphere was truly electric.

    One thing that I think should be mentioned is the fact that if you buy a three day ticket, not only do you get access to all the evening concerts, you also get given a pass for the Thursday. There is no racing but you do get access to the pit lane for a walk. The teams are all working hard on the cars and it is a brilliant opportunity to get close to the cars and teams are there any other circuits that offer this?

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