Abu Dhabi & the Grand Prix 2012

This years’ F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit was reported to be thrilling. People who know the sport say that it’s one of the best circuits around because of the 21 different turns and few potential areas to overtake. The second-longest straight in GP (after the back straight at the Korea International Circuit) usually sees some hairy manoeuvres, leading to some heavy braking at turn 8. This year’s race wasn’t incident-free, as technical problems saw Hamilton’s exit, then a number of collisions involving Vettel, Senna, Rosberg and Karthikeyan. However, none of this would have bothered Ferrari’s Alonso too much, as he claimed that ‘we were not super-competitive this weekend.’ Yeah, right. Maybe that’s why the Technical Team risked penalties by breaking an unprecedented two curfews, working through the night for two nights running to get the cars into peak shape. His apparent all out bid for victory in the final 7 laps, which he wasn’t far off claiming, was probably just him alleviating his boredom, or maybe he was in a hurry to get to the bar.

            However, having said all of this, I’m not an F1 fan myself. It’s just too noisy and smelly a sport to enjoy, especially when you spend as many nights as I do, sitting on a hotel balcony on Yas Island, trying to snatch a couple of peaceful sunset hours on the laptop with a cold G&T, only to have to contend with the snarl of half a dozen angry, stinky cars.

            The F1 story of the year for me was definitely in the run up to the Indian GP last weekend. After a number of near-incidents last year where stray dogs were spotted on the circuit, the organisers were determined to avoid any embarrassment this time by making the event animal-free. So in a country where labour is far cheaper than technology, they set about recruiting teams of dog-catchers to scout the perimeter of the circuit, each armed with a stick and a bag. I imagine that these are the men who carry out the same task every night on the city streets, but with rats as their usual targets. In India, as I witnessed first hand earlier this year when I did the programming at Nissan’s stand at the Motor Expo in New Delhi, the rats there really aren’t much smaller than dogs. I was fascinated, though, to see how they were going to deal with the issue of the stray (free-to-roam) cows. In a country where it is illegal to kill or injure a cow (this does vary from state to state), how do you catch and restrain one? And where would this leave an F1 driver who accidentally ran one over (unless they were dead). So, I tuned in only to be disappointed by the repetitiveness of cars zooming around a track completely unimpeded by any stray animals or men wielding sticks and sacks.

            I can’t imagine this scenario happening at Yas Marina Circuit, somehow. And that’s not because vermin don’t exist there. At times the rats are bigger than cats, and wholly unsuited to the UK-sized pest control boxes optimistically positioned outside any buildings aimed at tourists, including Ferrari World. Anyone who has seen the size of the creatures here knows that they couldn’t even squeeze their greedy snouts into a trap far enough to be at risk of getting one whisker caught. But for some reason you just don’t expect to see them in the same way that you do elsewhere. Maybe because the area is keen to attract and impress tourists from around the world, and have invested frightening amounts of money in creating an industry and then an image.

However, Asgar may have been slightly worried when he ventured beneath one of the rides at Ferrari World, whilst helping with the RFID tagging that we were doing. Rather him than me …

Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

And so it was great to see Abu Dhabi on the TV today, including the alcohol-free-champagne celebrations, whilst I sipped my real red wine. I could see Ferrari World in the distance, the Marina and the Arena. Next year, maybe they'll do a feature on Yas Waterworld, like they did with our theme park last year. Until then, I'm going to enjoy another 365 sport-free days.