One of the many urban legends surrounding Formula 1 is the alleged fact that Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi is one of the few man-made structures on earth that can be seen from space. It is after all the biggest-ever automotive theme park ever made. And it’s of vital importance to international business as well. This facility, which tells the story of Ferrari through a series of exhibitions and rides, has now become an international attraction that welcomes hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the world every year, providing a vital link between the Arab world, Ferrari and grand prix racing. In the first decade of this century, Bahrain was the only host of a grand prix in the entire Arab world, having been on the calendar since 2004. Ferrari was very much at the forefront there too: the first race was won by Michael Schumacher, while in 2007 and 2008 it was the turn of his team mate Felipe Massa. And then came Abu Dhabi in a blaze of pomp and circumstance. The Ferrari World theme park, complete with the fastest rollercoaster in the world, was already well-known in Abu Dhabi.
But at first, it looked like the F1 race was going elsewhere: namely, Dubai. A long-term deal was on the cards, thanks to a suitably mega investment. In the end, things didn’t quite go according to plan for reasons largely unknown. But the story goes that, just as Bernie Ecclestone was ready to sign a deal, the local sheikh was unable to make the appointment due to an injury sustained by one of his favourite race horses. Fact or fiction? It will never be proven. The fact remains that Dubai never got its F1 race and so the opportunity shifted to Abu Dhabi. Which fortuitously already had plans in place for a state-of-the-art circuit… These days, Abu Dhabi has become a long-term fixture on the world championship. Even under the new management of Liberty Media, which is not overly fond of races held a long way from Europe or the United States – their key focus – the future of the Yas Marina circuit seems assured. And so, on the last Sunday of November, the venue will host a round of the F1 championship for the ninth consecutive year.