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Abu Dhabi for the Grand Prix?

April 2, 2018

Eight missed calls.

 

My stomach dropped and my ears cut out all background noise. I ran to the corner of the gym, frantically trying to clear the notifications from my screen and call him back. 

 

'Hey baby!' he answered. Hey baby? I had eight missed calls and this was his chipper response? 'What's wrong?' I asked, my heart still thumping. 'I've just finished coaching and found all these calls from you, what's happened?'

 

'I don't think I can afford to go for dinner on fireworks night like we planned.' Was he kidding? We lived together, that could have waited. He continued, 'I've just bought flights to Dubai... We're going to the Grand Prix instead!'

 

'What? How? When did you... How much...', my words getting muddled. 'Yep, I've got us race day tickets and we fly on Thursday night.' It was Monday.

 

We'd spoken that morning about how exciting it would be to have a spontaneous weekend and just book it. Abu Dhabi is the penultimate race on the F1 calender and in November, fifty degree heat would be incredibly welcome. Since Lee and I met, our Sundays had been sprinkled with 5am get ups and afternoon sofa sessions drinking Desperado and eating sweet chilli crisps. I'd never been to an F1 race before, but I knew that it was one of the most exciting, starting during the day and ending under darkness. Plus, 2013 marked the last season that the roaring V8 engines synonymous with the Fleetwood Mac overture would be used. In 2014 they'd be replaced with more eco friendly, rubbish sounding alternatives.

 

That evening we booked accommodation and packed. 

 

Heathrow to Doha, and on to the arid Saudi desert heat of Dubai. I remember everything being so tall, and looking so empty. The taxi driver told us that in recent years, money had been invested into regenerating the main areas to bring in tourism. Rates had become stupidly high though, and so no one could afford to do anything once the refurbishments were complete. As a result, scores of skyscrapers sat in perfect condition, and perfectly unused.

 

There is loads to do at a Grand Prix. Specifically, gawping. Yas Marina is beautiful and most definitely a place to feel inadequate financially... The yachts alone have a cumulative valuation of billions, the Arab men in authentic dress making the whole area look like a backdrop for 'Taken'. Add in the Bugatti Veyrons, Aston Martins and Ferraris parked up by the 'normal' folk, over looked by the soaring Bell 505 Jet Rangers and you have the sexiest, most prestigious line up of engine powered finery in the Middle East. Then there's Ferrari World. Check out a video of the Formula Rossa roller coaster. 1.4 miles of track, taking in 4.8g at 150mph. Insane. Only £40 each. Bargin. 

 

By race time we were exhausted. The heat was suffocating and at £10 per pint, the beer wasn't exactly flowing... But, walking up the steps to the grandstand and we were awestruck... The Yas Viceroy Hotel looks pretty snazzy during the day, and from where we sat we had a perfect view of the turn seven left hand bend. Camera bound choppers circled the skies and on every corner there was some sunglassed, suited up dude speaking to his wrist. Despite being outside in the open air, it felt like we were under the confines of maximum surveillance. 

 

As the race started, the excitement was totally overwhelming (see picture). I squealed every time a driver went past, not caring who they were, but waving frantically. The engine noise was deafening, and gave me butterflies as it reverberated through the seating area. You watch, and watch, and watch the drivers approach from the horizon, then in a second, they're gone. It's odd though, seeing it live. For every five minutes of race time, you catch about one. Just your section of track. You miss the coverage of the crashes, the overtakes, the pit lane stuff - thank God for the screens!

 

As the purple lights of the Yas Viceroy Hotel illuminated the evening sky, we cheered and clapped the drivers to the very end. My first F1 experience had been amazing, and something I thought I'd never do. The engines sound so weak now, but I bet the thrill of just being in Singapore sometime soon will make another night race just as unforgettable.

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