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Published: November 24th 2018
The alarm went off at 8am and I roll over and switch it off remembering the texts my wife was sending me a few hours before. Probably not appreciating the 4 hour time difference she seemed determined to wake me. The run for this morning was out of the window. I staggered bleary eyed into the kitchen and again praised Lisas hospitality as I poured myself a freshly percolated coffee she had prepared before leaving for work. Outside the streets were busy with weekend traffic and the city looked alive with energy. I took my coffee back to bed and put on an audiobook in order to kick my brain into gear. A couple of cups of coffee later, having showered and dressed I knocked Nick and Bethany awake. I left them to carry out their routine and I toileted to ensure no repeat performances of the previous day. All seemed to be in full working order.
We head out onto the street below and jostle with the hubbub of pedestrian traffic, many of whom are clad in F1 team shirts and caps. We make our way down to Denny’s for our fill of food which would set us up for the day. I had a couple of snacks in my bag (a box of nuts and 2 apples) just in case hunger developed later on in the day and to avoid paying £10 for a hotdog (beef as well which is a very strange ingredient). After we have our fill we hail down a taxi and set off, once again, to Yas island and to qualifying day. I look out of the window as we travel through this new city and wonder at its cleanliness. Now don’t get me wrong we are in a desert state (although it is built on a coast line) and this presents with a lot of dust but the streets are clean, the bins empty, the verges clear of any litter. This probably has to do with littering laws that fine people the equivalent of £100 for a piece of thrown litter and £20 for a dropped cigarette. For some in this wealthy state this isn’t a concern but for the vast population who’s wages wouldn’t cover a fine, this has all but stopped littering of any description. Something I have noticed at the Grand Prix is that people just don’t litter, to have a largely western crowd abiding by local laws is amazing to see. People actually use the bins provided leaving very little cleaning for the army of litter pickers to actually do. You also find that the toilets are spotless. Just like any large event the toilets are rammed with people at times but they are spotless. Each toilet block has several cleaners working laboriously to maintain the impeccably high standard that this Jewel in Abu Dhabi’s crown is looking to achieve. You’ve got to give it to them, they know how to impress.
The taxi ride follows the now familiar route and we are soon entering the circuit. We haven’t been troubled with any traffic of more than a few minutes upon entering the circuit throughout. It certainly helps that the 5 lane motorways run pretty much directly to the event. The taxi on this occasion travels with nauseating movement as the driver feathers the accelerator to ensure the speed limits are stuck to. Both Bethany and myself feel particularly green around the gills by the time we step out into the blazing midday sun.
We enter the circuit and we go through a series of scanners and searches to ensure that we arent smuggling contraband into the track. Nick and myself are amused by the list of prohibited items and ensure that I haven’t accidentally packed my golf cart in my rucksack. We walk under the tunnel of the main straight and into the infield of the track. I give my grandstand pass to Bethany as she and Nick will use it to sit together for the first F3 race and we organise a meeting place. I head on to the Abu Dhabi Hill section. Again I have to go through a security search. My bag goes through the scanner as do my personal items from my body (watch, glasses, wallet, ear phones). The man on the X-ray machine notices something in my bag and pulls it back out. “Open it”. I comply. What’s that? Pointing to my two apples. “That’s my lunch, I have no money (I lie). “You can’t take food into the event. “Fine just take them I’ll have to starve”. The bag goes through the X-ray machine and I go through the body scanner. Again the X-ray man flags up an object. He orders another security man to search for the item. The man goes through my bag and produces my tin of nuts. He says in a low voice “This is your lunch, you have no money” and puts them back in my bag secretly so the X-ray man can’t see. Small things really do mean so much. I buy a bottle of water (the first of many in this heat) and head on up the hill. I find a shaded spot with a good view and settle down to eat my nuts as I don’t want to go through that whole ordeal 20 times today.
I speak to Yuliya and the kids as the first race gets underway and wish them a good morning and to have fun on their weekend away to one of Yuliya’s hotels. I really should feel sorry for them as yuliya tells me it is Baltic back home. I offer some sympathy as beads of sweat run down my back in the midday sun and in the 33 degree heat. Jamie asks me if I had seen any scorpions, I assured him if I had I would be on the first plane home, he asked if I would bring him one as present. Of course I will.
Feeling the pangs of homesickness I text my dad whom now shares my love of Formula One. We text for a while about my trip and he is inquisitive to find out if I had soiled myself again. I think he was disappointed when I told him I hadn’t. He does like me being in embarrassing situations. I wish my dad was with me now experiencing this event. I love the company of Bethany and Nick but they are enjoying their time together as a couple and I want to give them their space to enjoy. I have no problem with this at all but I wish my partner in crime was with me. We have experienced so many amazing trips over the past few years, and I feel that we have bonded very closely on these. He has become my closest male friend. Although he is my dad, we have such an honest and open relationship. This is routed from my experience of working alongside him at Rockingham Motor-speedway. Ironically I am missing the last ever race meeting at Rockingham this weekend to be in Abu Dhabi. Not that I would really want to be there to be honest. The spirit and atmosphere of that place was destroyed by several individuals who’s main reason for purchasing the company was for their own financial benefits (having developed new housing estates) within a noise restriction zone and therefore sealing the death of a beloved race track. Anyway away from that shower of shite. As I was saying we (my father and me) have been through so many great adventures. We followed our love of history and visited auschwitz and the Normandy beaches, concerts a plenty and although I said yesterday that this was the only F1 event I have been to for pleasure, I lied, as we went to Monza a few years ago for the Italian Grand Prix. Maybe in the future Yuliya will let me come and experience this again with Nick and family but also with my Dad.
The temperature on the hill was stifling and after the race I headed down to meet up with Nick and Bethany. We swapped passes and I headed into the Grandstand to watch the F1. Now I thought the temperatures on the hill were bad. Sweet Jesus I had so much moisture in my pants after 10 minutes of sitting in the sun I thought I had had an involuntary accident. Nick joined me for a few minutes at the end of the session and we headed down to sit with Bethany in a shaded area in front of the stage. Due to the heat and the lethargy we lay on bean bags listening to music for a good hour before the Abu Dhabi Red Arrows (Al Fursan) took to the sky’s. The display was great but not a shade on the British Red Arrows. The air was filled with clouds of smoke that lingered for 15 minutes after their display. Whilst watching one of the bands on the stage, he encouraged people to come and have a boogie. He said leave your bags on your seat as this is Abu Dhabi, one of the safest places. And it is. I have never felt so safe anywhere in the world. I have been to countless countries and there is always an air of unease in certain places. In my time here I have felt so safe. Lisa was telling me she would have no problem walking in the middle of the night around the city centre alone. She told me stories of her cousin leaving her handbag with wallet in it at a table in a restaurant, an hour later after realising it was missing, traced her steps back to the restaurant to find a family sat at the table eating their dinner around the left handbag. Nothing had been taken.
The sun had begun to drop below the grandstands as I made my way up to my seat for the Qualifying session for the F1. I love the atmosphere during qualifying and the race, as die hard fans cheers and sigh at their team or their rival team who perform well or badly. The biggest cheers were for the Ferrari cars and it appeared that they were outnumbering the Mercedes following (me being one for team Hamilton and Bottas). The qualifying was great. Alonso performing in his final ever qualifying session was knocked out in the second round, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation when he walked through the pit lane to the weighing station. A true legend ( double world champion) who through bad career decisions and near misses will finish a remarkable career a few world titles fewer than he deserved. End of an era.
During the qualifying I received a message from an old colleague from Rockingham, whom I know works at Mercedes, asking if I was in Abu Dhabi. “Where you sitting?” She asked. “Opposite the Mercedes garage in the main grandstand…and you”. I could sense the smugness in her reply “ above the Mercedes Garage. And sure enough we gave each other a wave. It’s been 10!years since I’ve seen her and we arranged to meet up sometime over the weekend.
The results from the qualifying dissatisfied half the crowd, as myself and the outnumbered Mercedes fans celebrated a 1-2 with Hamilton achieving pole position in his 5th title winning year. The cars pulled up in front of us and I watched as the post qualifying interviews took place. The drivers were spitting distance from me. Again I will say amazing seats. I was quite sad that Nick hadn’t joined me for some of qualifying but we have the whole day tomorrow together.
After nipping out for a vape I returned to watch the F2 race. George Russel was on the verge of winning the title of 2018. The race was on the whole unremarkable and Russel went on to winning the title. Hopefully not the last time we hear the national anthem from the podium this weekend. The highlight for me was the start. The car in third place stalled and the entire field managed to avoid him until the last unsighted car hit him at 170mph. The noise of the crash was sickening, as debris littered the start finish straight. But it goes to highlight the safety of these cars as both drivers climbed out of their mangled wreckage of what were cars and walked away apparently uninjured.
Following the race I met up with Nick and Bethany and we made our way to the arena. Here we met up with Lisa who had just finished a shift from Hell at the hospital, and went in to watch Sam Smith. The arena was so crowded that we only just got within eyesight of the stage. Sam Smith was brilliant, but as we were tired and hungry we headed out after only a few songs and got a taxi back to the main island and the flat. The car ride was hysterical as we squeezed into the back of the taxi. I squeezed so close to poor Bethany that at times I felt as though I was cheating on my wife. The taxi driver who obviously aspired to be a formula one driver drove very erratically and his late breaking meant that we, in the back, were at risk of performing in our very own ménage a trois. Thankfully we arrived back at the apartment before anything too embarrassing took hold.
Upon our return we had a lovely dinner prepared by Lisa before sadly saying goodbye until Monday to Lisa, as it would be a late night tomorrow for Nick and Me, as We shall not be leaving Guns and Roses early. I retired to my room to write this blog and I shall soon be dreaming of Denny’s and the race tomorrow.
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