This year, Mercedes claimed the manufacturers’ title halfway through November in Imola, while Hamilton took the drivers title at the Turkish Grand Prix. In Abu Dhabi, he might be celebrating a different achievement: his return to racing if he recovers from the Covid-19 infection that afflicted him shortly after his 11th win of the season in Bahrain on November 29. As a result, Hamilton had to enter self-isolation and miss the Sakhir race at the same venue the following weekend.
So Yas Marina will be all about entertainment at one of the most spectacular races of the championship, on a circuit that is among the most picturesque of them all – and certainly the most modern. Throughout the Emirates, there’s a massive passion for Formula 1. Visible from the stratosphere is the enormous red canopy of Ferrari World: the planet’s biggest automotive theme park. This huge facility that pays homage to Ferrari tells the story and fascination of the marque to an international audience, attracting hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the planet. And it was the first concrete step with which the Emirates became closer to Ferrari, and the universe of grand prix racing.
Ferrari World – and the world’s fastest rollercoaster – became a reality more than 10 years ago in Abu Dhabi. But for a while it looked like Formula 1’s arrival in the region would take place somewhere else. Specifically, Dubai. In 2006 there was a long-term deal with a massive investment that was ready to be signed. Bernie Ecclestone – F1’s former ringmaster – arrived to put pen to paper, but Dubai’s ruling sheikh wasn’t around to receive him.
And that wasn’t down to any contractual or economic reasons. Instead, his favourite race horse had been injured, and this was an emergency that took precedence. In the end, Dubai never got the Formula 1 race that it had been so close to realising, while Abu Dhabi seized the opportunity instead. Which happened to have at its disposal an ambitious project for an innovative circuit built on an artificial island. Today it’s a stunning oasis of greenery and technology, in stark contrast to the surrounding desert.