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!