It’s the glitziest, most ostentatious, even the most glamorous, of all Formula 1 races in the world. For high rollers, there is no place like the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: In its tenth year, the last race on the F1 calendar (November 24-25) gives you a heady mix of speed and style like no other, not even Singapore or Monaco, the more popular bywords in luxury on a racing circuit.
That the Yas Marina Circuit cost $1.32 billion to construct, the costliest in the sport’s history, is just one of the numbers speed freaks salivate over. Add to it Marriott International’s 499-room Yas Hotel, an engineering marvel of sorts for its over-water, over-land location straddling an F1 track, the only hotel in the world which lets you watch a race from the comforts of your room’s balcony. And all this sits atop the 600-acre Yas Island... which cost $40 billion to develop.
Evidently, this city state spells opulence like none other. It is almost as if Abu Dhabi’s in a race to tick off items on a five-star shopping list: What was once a fishing village is today home to the world’s largest hand-loomed carpet, the fastest roller coaster, the biggest mosque... and a man-made hotel that leans more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Want to spend a night at the “most luxurious” hotel ever constructed? Book yourself a room in the Emirates Palace here. Fancy sampling gold-flaked cappuccino? You won’t find it anywhere else in the world.
Abu Dhabi is the playground of the world’s wealthiest, drawing millionaires and celebrities to the stunning waterfront setting to soak in a week of absolute excitement. If you are a petrol-head who digs luxury, here’s what you do: Skip the grand stands. Watch the action unfold from the deck of your private yacht! The 227-berth, 31,000 square metre marina gives you a sweeping view of the area and a bird’s eye view of the track. “The marina is the place to be at during the race weekend. If you appreciate fine craftsmanship of F1 cars as much as a luxurious yacht, the drama and luxury the marina promises is something you cannot afford to miss,” says Sophie Knight, marketing manager of Yas Marina.
It’s expensive, but worth every dirham you spend to watch the race like a king. Looking to hire an opulent yacht? Seven Yachts, one of the more popular charter services in Abu Dhabi, offers a super-yacht for four days, complete with a track view berth, Marina passes and onboard service. The smallest yacht on offer from the company is a 64ft Formula 1 beauty, which comes with one master, a VIP and a twin-sharing room, with French and Montenegro crew, for 1,80,000 dirhams. The biggest offered is a 154ft super yacht, with one master, VIP and two double rooms with Turkish and Filipino crew. It could be yours for 4 days for an all-inclusive price of 700,000 dirhams.
Another company, Xclusive Yachts, is planning an after-race party on board their 69m three-deck super-yacht with a live performance by British pop singer Craig David on November 24. The company is also offering a range of yachts, from 84ft boats to a mammoth 146ft super-yachts, which could accommodate up to 50 guests for prices ranging from 2,75,000 to 8,50,000 dirhams.
The Grand Prix is as much about the races as it is about the famed post-concert parties that give the Marina a festive look all through the week. Known for the most star-studded and exhilarating GP after parties, Amber Lounge Abu Dhabi will launch its 10thAnniversary celebrations of Saturday night. And on Sunday, the Formula 1 drivers, teams, celebrities and royalty put their dancing shoes and join in on the fun. At the heart of Amber Lounge celebrations are the luxury yachts docked along the circuit: Every year, these celebrity yachts host international celebrities, socialites, sporting personalities and VIP guests. Indeed, a weekend on board the Amber Lounge Celebrity Yacht combines the high-octane spirit of F1 and luxury into a whirlwind amazing experience for race enthusiasts.
However, if you are looking for ultra luxury hotels, cutting-edge restaurants, gorgeous beaches, a state-of-the-art water park or a glistening skyline, Abu Dhabi is your destination. Says Claire Micheletti, who runs her own communications agency in Abu Dhabi, “The world comes to Abu Dhabi because you are spoilt for choices here. India is the biggest feeder market for us, both in terms of tourism and business. We are a global destination, and during F1, Abu Dhabi is without doubt even better than Monte Carlo. It’s an incredible atmosphere and we know that the world’s eyeballs are on us, not just during the race weekend, but through the rest of the year.”
Without doubt, the centrepiece of the F1 is the Yas Hotel on Yas Island. While the island itself has some of the Emirate’s biggest drawcards -- including the Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, Yas Marina and the Yas Mall – it’s the statement curved exterior design of the hotel, to be renamed W Hotel later this year, which has made it one of Abu Dhabi’s most popular landmarks. The architectural innovation continues inside the hotel, with winding hallways and sleek design, splashes of colour in common areas and hallways adding warmth to the entire structure. More than the architectural wonder that this hotel is, it is the services it offers that makes it the go-to place for any F1 enthusiast. Says Jason Harding, GM, Openings and Projects, Marriott International, Middle East and Africa, “We are very excited and fortunate to be at the center of the action. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi so it will be packed with thrilling surprises. The lead up to the Race Weekend is always exhilarating. Therefore, we make sure we plan ahead and ensure all of our associates are geared up to deliver a great guest experience during the Race Weekend. We also use this opportunity to curate well-thought-out experiences that bring sparkle to the atmosphere at what is clearly Abu Dhabi’s biggest sporting action of the year.”
If you want to enjoy the race like a king, get yourself a room here: The hotel hovers over the 18th and 19th turn of the circuit, giving you an unrivalled view of the track. “For the best experience, you should book yourself a Deluxe Suite with a North, South or West facing balcony in this hotel. It will give you a view of the circuit right from the comfort of your bed,” says Abd al Sami, a local who claims to have seen all the previous editions of the Grand Prix.
Harding adds, “We have a great line up of events planned across the hotel including the sumptuous Race Weekend Brunch packages that include post-race concert tickets. We have tried to up the ante and amp up the vibe. This year, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Race Weekend, we have partnered with Ounass to create a #RaceReady look to provide fashion inspiration for our guests. The Race Weekend will see the Skylight Terrace transform into an eclectic space that reverberates the W Hotel vibe through its B&F offering and an exhilarating line up of talent including international artists and up and coming local DJs. Guests can also listen to the region's trendsetters and tastemakers, as they share their inspirations and stories across the brand’s passion points.”
And when the roar of the cars become too much to handle, book yourself at the awe-inspiring Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, further away from the Yas Island. Everything about these five shimmering, sail boat-shaped skyscrapers on the shores of the Arabian Gulf in the exclusive Ras Al Akhdar area, on the West Corniche, is awe-inspiring. Nothing about this 382-room, 69-storey hotel is subtle. Swarovski-inspired chandeliers in the lobby, floor-to-ceiling glass-panelled atrium, amethyst-encrusted lifts, lobby stone of rare marble variety from Italy, fine European crystals, pearl-encrusted statement ceilings, rich fabrics and hand-tufted rugs – all lend the hotel a sensual environment that is luxurious and inviting all a tthe same time.
Stephen Fuchs, general manager of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, puts it the most aptly, “The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has everything to attract the world to us. It is the ultimate place that gives you the best: Top-notch luxury, food... the best of the races. Yes, we are ready to welcome the world.”
When and where
Your guide to abu dhabi F1
It's the 10th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the Formula One calendar. Without doubt one of the biggest events on the UAE calendar, here's everything you need to know about the race, minus the glitz and glamour
The first practice (90 minutes will start at 1pm (local time) on November 23, follwed by second practice on the same day at 5pm. The final practice session (60 minutes) will be held at 2 pm, November 24
of 55 laps will begin at 5 pm on Sunday, november 25 at the yas marina circuit
Best seats in the house
Regulars say the Main Grand stand is the best place to soak in all the action. The West Grandstand, too, is great. Sadly, all the seats here are sold out.
The Grand Prix Brunch package will cost Dh1,250 for the Friday. If you spend Dh21,395, you get access to the Paddock Club for all three days. This includes entrance fees to Yas Marina Waterworld and Ferrari World.
The yas draw
You will never run out of options for things to do in Abu dhabi. perhaps, no other city in the world will give you so many choices
1/ Ferrari world
The world's fastest roller coaster here will get your heart pounding. And if you want to get a taste of what it is like to be inside a F1 car, head straight to the simulator. Needless to say, it's here that you will find the world's biggest logo: Of Ferrari.
2/ Sheikh zayed Grand mosque
There is every reason to be proud of this jewel in the Capital's crown: It has the capacity to hold an incredible 40,000 people at a time. The iconic prayer hall of this awe-inspiring mosque has the world's largest chandelier.
Opened only last year, the Louvre is the city's biggest tourist attraction. It was recently named as one of the seven Urban Wonders of the World. Without doubt, the awe-inspiring building, housed within the Saadiyat Island Cultural Distric, is a sight to behold.
"India is our second largest source market"
Jason Harding, GM, openings and projects, uaE, Marriott international
How have Indians reacted to the races in the past?
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has always excited Indians who travel to different locations, and sometimes to even more than one location to experience the vibe of the race and we love that!
During race weekend, or even otherwise through the year, do you see a substantial number of Indian tourists at the hotel?
India is our second largest source market throughout the year and steadily growing. Excellent air connectivity paired with our strategic location in the heart of Yas Island and proximity to key tourist attractions such as theme parks and acclaimed shopping malls, we offer everything that an Indian traveler is looking for be it thrill, excitement, entertainment, shopping or a family holiday.
With F1 no more happening in India, do you see the numbers from India swelling?
For us, India is a growing market and we continue to see a lot of potential from this market. Given that we have a spectacular W Hotel in Goa, we believe that we will continue to see more traction with our hotel among the Indian travellers once the hotel is rebranded as a W Hotel.
Live like a king, splurge like a royal
In Abu Dhabi, you'll have a tough time choosing a luxury hotel. Here is a rough list of the city state's best hotels, other than Yas Hotel and Jumeirah at Etihad Towers.
An ultra-five-star hotel, the 394-room Emirates Palace by Kempinski is, without doubt, the last word in hotel luxury. Other than its palatial rooms, a visit to the hotel's stunning 1,600sqft spa is a must: It even has an ice cave! The hotel's afternoon tea is considered Abu Dhabi's best.
Set in Abu Dhabi's central island, Al Maryah, each of the hotel's 200 rooms and suites come with a water view. Though the hotel doesn't have a beach of its own, it has built a huge, palm-shaded outdoor terrace on its third floor, which it calls an "Urban Sanctuary". It is complete with an infinity pool, loungers and over half a dozen dining and drinking options.
One of the many luxury hotels on the Corniche, each of the 283 rooms of St Regis overlook the elegant waterfront boulevard. Other than its spacious rooms, one of the hotel's star attraction is its relaxation station, Nation Riviera Beach Club. It's monthly Brunch in the Clouds, in a 49th-floor suite, promises a culinary journey you cannot miss.
Every hotel in Abu Dhabi does not look like a palace. The Ritz-Carlton is designed to resemble Venice, complete with a Venetian village, romantic footbridges and a canal with gondolas. It has 532 spacious rooms, and you can also opt to stay in the Venetian village and glide around in a gondola.
Every one of the hotel's 213 guest rooms and suites will offer you a water view. The Arabian Gulf side of the hotel boasts one of Abu Dhabi's biggest beaches, a full half-mile long, laden with sunbeds and loungers. The hotel is made of white stone, which appears gold in the sun, and is built on a Venice-style neighbourhood of canals.
Zaya Nurai island
This one is a beach resort set on a private isle within the city of Abu Dhabi. The island has state-of-the-art private villas that open onto the Tiffany-blue Arabian Gulf. It's rated as one of the world's 'most incredible island resorts'. It was also given the Boutique Hotel Arabia award.
Fairmont bab al bahr
Breathtaking views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of its biggest calling cards, other than the fact that all the 369-rooms of the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr are ultra fashionable and deluxe. Don't believe us? You will fall in love with the spa-like bathrooms of this hotel.
Qasr al sarab, by anantara
This hotel is set amidst the red sand dunes of the Liwa Desert, about two-hour drive away from Abu Dhabi. If you are looking for serenity after all the noise of F1 cars and all-night parties, Qasr Al Sarab is where you rejuvenate yourself. Its spa has a hammam marble steam lounge.
Done with the races? keep yourself busy
A visit to this city-state is incomplete without spending some time along the waterfront in Corniche. A great vantage point to take beautiful pictures, this is where tourists flock for majestic views of the Emirates Palace and St Regis Abu Dhabi. Needless to say, the area has loads of lovely spots from where you can order a drink or grab a bite. eastern mangroves
The Mangrove National Park is a not-to-be-missed area. It is pretty and gives you a chance to while away your time with some mild adventure activies like paddleboarding, kayaking or even a simple boat ride. It is very peaceful too in this part of Abu Dhabi, if you are able to shut out the view of the city's skyscrapers at a distance. Once you've had your fill of the 'water sports', you could grab a bite at of the many outlets on the Eastern Mangrove Promenade.
At 1,240m, Jebel Hafeet is the tallest mountain in Abu Dhabi. The craggy limestone, on Abu Dhabi's border with Oman, has been weathered and shaped over millions of years. If you love road trips, after your share of F1, this is the one you spare some time for. It is so beautiful that many tourists compare the drive to Australia's Great Ocean Road.
If you still crave for adventure, give yourself some time in Wadi Adventure: It has a 200m zipline and a giant swing. Doesn't interest you? How about whitewater rafting, surfing, wakeboarding?
Zaya Nurai Island
Taking a private speedboat to the five-star island resort of Zaya Nurai will make you feel as glamorous as a celebrity. Once there, spending some time at the exclusive Smokin' Pineapple bar is a must. But hold. The bar has a minimum spend of Dhs 440 per person. Regular visitors say you will end up spending much more than that: thanks to the bar's pizzas (baked in a funky pineapple-shaped oven). And then, of course, there are the signature drinks of the bar that will keep you busy.