The acceleration of a Formula One car is 2g. That’s quick, when you consider a family saloon accelerates at about about 0.4g, but it’s nothing compared to the rollercoaster at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. From a standing start, it accelerates at a massive 4g – enough to leave an F1 driver shrieking for mercy.
“You can’t help but cry out,” says double world champion Fernando Alonso. “I was made to go on it about five times in a row because the team was filming me and Felipe [Massa], and by the end I needed to stop because I was feeling sick! But it’s good; it gives you a real buzz. It’s definitely worth a go.”
With the late kick-off of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (the gates to the circuit didn’t open until 12pm on Sunday), the spectators had plenty of time to kill before the start, and what better way to pass the hours than at Ferrari World? Something that’s fast enough to scare an F1 driver has got to be worth a go.
Once inside the track, the fans had plenty to see and do. The fan zone behind the main grandstand had F1 simulators and show cars in it, and there was a spectacular 55-lap race to watch. Two Safety Car periods, incidents aplenty and a new winner – the eighth of the season – in Kimi Raikkonen. He gave Lotus its first win since Ayrton Senna won the Detroit Grand Prix in 1987.
As the teams packed up the freight on Sunday evening, Eminem could be heard warming up in the du Arena for the third of three consecutive concerts over the GP weekend. The drivers could make it tonight if they wanted, but that’s unlikely if Daniel Ricciardo’s attitude is anything to go by.
“I grew out of Eminem about 10 years ago,” said the Aussie – 10th in the Abu Dhabi GP. “But even if I did like him, I don’t think I’d go. You’re so knackered after a race that you just want to chill out.”
There’s now a two-week break in the F1 calendar before the circus reconvenes at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas for the first GP on American soil since 2007. With only 10 points between Alonso and Sebastian Vettel in the title chase, there’s everything to play for. Should be a cracker!
The Formula One paddock was still buzzing to the tunes of Kylie Minogue this morning. The Aussie pop princess wowed observers at the du Arena on Yas Island last night and those people lucky enough to get tickets say she was fantastic.
Not that any of the workers in the F1 pitlane got to see Kylie. Friday is the busiest day of a race weekend for the teams because it’s their only opportunity to make big changes to their cars, if necessary, ahead of the parc fermé regulations kicking in on Saturday. All of the teams were at the track long after Kylie’s concert had ended at 11pm, and none more than Ferrari.
For the second night in succession the Scuderia broke the paddock curfew, which meant they were still working on their F2012s after 5am this morning. That means a lot of work was going on. Breaking the curfew doesn’t mean anything bad, unless a team exceeds the four jokers it is permitted in the regulations each season. If they do that, their cars start from the pitlane, which leaves Ferrari with two jokers in hand and two races remaining.
Seeing Ferrari hard at it is a stark insight into the realities of F1. The headlines this weekend speak of the glamour of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the Kylie concert, the yacht parties in Yas Marina – but the reality for the guys on the ground is different. It’s hard work in the pitlane, made even harder by the fact that the team people have spent six of the last seven weeks away from home.
For the F1 in Schools finalists, who had their world finals in Abu Dhabi last week, Ferrari’s plight painted an authentic picture of F1. The winners, from Brighton Secondary School in Adelaide, were given a paddock tour by Bernie Ecclestone today and they saw many of the Ferrari mechanics falling asleep in the corner of the pit garage!
In the end, Ferrari’s hard work brought them a tiny bit closer to Red Bull in qualifying. Fernando will start the grand prix from seventh, with Hamilton on pole and the two Red Bulls second and third. A thrilling race is in prospect!
The Formula One paddock is sick. Even in the sun-drenched desert of Abu Dhabi, team personnel and members of the media are coughing and spluttering; everyone seems exhausted by the intensity of these last few races.
The freight left India’s Buddh International Circuit in the early hours of Monday morning and it was ready to be unloaded in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday morning. Monday was the only day off for mechanics, and they spent it on a plane. They will at least get five days at home after this race, prior to heading to the final double-header of the year in America and Brazil.
All of the drivers arrived in Dubai or Abu Dhabi on Monday and many of them have been busy with PR events ever since. Bruno Senna enjoyed a penalty shootout with the Brazilian beach football team in Dubai (“my team won, of course,” says Bruno); Ferrari stars Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa spent a lot of time at Ferrari World, located next to the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, and Marussia’s Timo Glock spent a couple of days jumping out of a plane in Dubai. He paid for his entire car crew to do a skydive, which was a generous (or malicious? – Ed) gesture.
Something that stands the race in Abu Dhabi apart from the rest is the amount of off-track activities. Last year Paul McCartney did a gig at the ‘du Arena’ on Yas Island; tonight it’s the turn of the pint-sized pop princess Kylie Minogue. The Aussie isn’t new to the F1 paddock; she’s been a regular at the Melbourne Grand Prix for years and her sister Dannii Minogue used to date 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.
There has already been a wicked warm-up gig ahead of Kylie’s bash. Last night Mel C – aka Sporty Spice – performed for an hour at the Beats on the Beach club in downtown Abu Dhabi. “I’ve never been to Abu Dhabi, so I’m really excited to be here,” she says. She’ll no doubt love seeing the cars on-track because she’s a very keen racing fan, having attended many a British Touring Car Championship race in the UK to watch her half-brother Paul O’Neill.
As if that’s not enough to whet the pre-race appetites of fans in Abu Dhabi!