If there’s one sport in the world that attracts the crème de la crème, it is Formula One Grand Prix.
The international appeal of the audience is evident as soon as you step off your plane (jet, or yacht). You will quickly hear global dialects with British, Arabic and Russian dominating the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The opportunity to spend time in such close proximity with others abroad is valuable to anyone who wants to increase their understanding of the world (and it doesn’t hurt that some of these individuals are world business leaders).
The appeal to the 1% may have something to do with the amount of money spent on this sport. Formula One’s 12 teams are worth a combined $4.05 billion and the average team is worth $337 million with an annual revenue of $145 million. Teams generate income from two sources: sponsorships and prize money and the nine most valuable teams have seen their values increase roughly 27% over the past two years.
Although like a (self proclaimed) model Toronto resident, I can’t help but occasionally cheer “Go Leafs Go” (or Go Jays Go depending), I’m typically not one to embrace sporting events. However, there’s something that draws me to this semi-obscure, Euro-centric sport that is Formula 1.
If you’re not in the F1 culture, you may be aware of the stereotypes associated with the arguably most glamourized world sporting event as it’s often deemed too political, a haven for spoiled rich kids or an empire run by a billionaire tyrant who is eccentric at best. But, in my opinion those points are of zero relevance. The race itself proves its doubters wrong with its unforgettable energy, loud colourful engines, and engaging entertainment as its attended by some of the wealthiest people in the world.
And although Dubai has firmly established itself as the region’s tourist hub, Abu Dhabi is the actual capital of the U.A.E., as well as the largest and by far the wealthiest emirate.
So what can you expect at the Abu Dhabi Formula 1? Let’s a take minute to go through the highlights.
Without a doubt, whether you’re a typical sports fanatic, car enthusiast or a passive observer; the Formula 1 race is by far the biggest highlight. There’s something about the sound of fast cars that fills the Yas Marina circuit – the sound that translates and stands for power and money. Contrary to some of the other car races that will remain unmentioned here, there’s a certain level of strategy or “formula” that may be go unnoticed with the clutter to the untrained eye. Each race is scored with a points system in order to determine two annual World Championship titles, one for the drivers and one for the carmakers. This is based on 19 scored races with the top 10 cars earning points and with the winner earning 25 points per race. At the end of the season the total number of points won at each race are added up and the driver and constructor with the most points are World Champions (these two often have different results).
If your event is going to attract the high rollers of the world, you best ensure that the celebrations are up to par – and Abu Dhabi doesn’t disappoint. Nearby is the Viceroy hotel, home to 1OAK and also where at the end of Race Day, Lewis Hamilton celebrated his victory. One of the official well known parties (and where Nico Rosberg celebrated his victory this year) is the Amber Lounge started by Sonia Irvine. Over the past six years, Amber Lounge has hosted F1 parties in Abu Dhabi boasting glamorous, A-list guest lists that have included Prince Harry, Kylie and Dannii Minogue, Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler, and actors Hugh Grant and Naomi Campbell. At $800 per ticket, you can expect to rub shoulders with Prince Harry and Tyrese Gibson, Lewis Hamilton, Niki Lauda, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. Another pop up includes The Podium Lounge branding itself as the ultimate A-list party for the racing community in Singapore, Melbourne and Monaco. Some of the notable names at the party include Kim Kardashian who was known for having a security so large they had to take two lifts to accommodate her personal entourage.
The Yachts & The Marina
What does the rich and famous clientele tend to bring to the party when there’s a marina? The yachts of course. Abu Dhabi is one of the only other locations besides Monaco where there’s an informal yacht show around the circuit making it a surplus of yacht parties – all private and by invite only. Surrounding the yachts is a handful of restaurant such as Iris that are all projecting a lively atmosphere filled with beautiful people, flowing champagne and new friends.
If you don’t have a friend who happened to park their yacht at the Yas Marina circuit (it happens), the official party of F1 Amber Lounge offers a VIP celebrity yacht experiences and is perfectly situated in the hub of Yas Marina. At just $4 950 USD per person, The Amber Lounge Yacht plays host to international celebrities, socialites, sporting personalities and VIP guests. The VIP Package includes race viewing, F1 driver appearances, gourmet buffet lunch, open champagne bar, access to concerts and more. “F1 drivers will come on board to meet the guests and answer their questions,” says Amber Lounge’s PR and media manager Julia Burg. Previous years included former F1 drivers Romain Grosjean, Sergio Pérez, Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard have graced the three decks of the 27-metre-long vessel, which was made in the UAE by local company Gulf Craft.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
For kids and adults alike – Ferrari World is the world’s largest indoor theme park, and it’s an architectural marvel. The red roof is designed to look like the Ferrari badge and it houses a web-like metal lattice that sprouts geyser-style from a central point before gently forming an enveloping mushroom cup over the rides, restaurants and red cars that are equally enjoyable for all ages. It is also home to the world’s fastest rollercoaster that hits 240km/hr. In order to get on the ride, you will need to wear plastic glasses – the sort that you get in high school chemistry lessons to stop you dipping your eye into the Bunsen burner flame. The build up to the ride is equally terrifying so much so that even one of the passengers in a few rows prior called for staff to escort her out. Getting off the ride is equal part of the fun as you are disoriented by having just attempt to defy gravity at a high speed. An experience you won’t forget on The Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.
Bonus: Visit Dubai
Only an hour uber ride away, Dubai is more worldly known as a tourist and expat attraction. A high-rise oasis, this city is a pleasure-dome surrounded by dunes; one of the most fashionable on the planet thanks to its ability to satisfy the needs of legions of luxury enthusiasts (think Dubai Mall).
The city is filled with natural beauty such as year-round sunshine and gorgeous beaches but it’s the man-made attractions that make Dubai alluring to the public. At times the city looks as though you have entered a futuristic set of a movie with almost every building being less than 20 years old.
Here are a few highlights in Dubai that are worth a 48-hour stint to compliment your Abu Dhabi Grand Prix experience.
The world’s tallest building deserves a visit. Surrounded by the Burj Khalifa fountains, the Dubai Mall and the Armani hotel located inside the world’s tallest building – you are sure to be in awe of the picturesque view.
Stimulate Your Taste Buds
The Armani Hotel Dubai is a must visit. The venue is Giorgio Armani’s debut in the hotel world that occupies 10 floors in the world’s highest tower with 160 guest rooms, eight restaurants and lounges, a 12,000-square-foot spa and other Armani-branded retail shops. Canadian Eramosa marble flooring and rich satin and silk sofa coverings make the Armani feel expensive. Make no mistake: It is.
One of eight restaurants worth a mention is the unforgettable Armani/Deli – restaurant with a view as it faces the Burj Khalifa fountains for a beautiful night show as you enjoy your dinner. The venue is in a black and white theme adding a classy touch to the already extravagant Armani. The Italian flair is evident with a focus on pasta and bread that are all locally made in house. Opt in for the seafood option and make sure you save room for dessert.
You don’t need to venture far to have a cocktail at the world’s tallest bar – At.mosphere located on 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa. Enjoy a cocktail or a coffee as you absorb the view around you.
For those closer to the Dubai Marina, take a 10 minute uber to The Gate at Movenpick. A surreal and impressive hotel with countless Arabian lanterns hanging from the high ceilings and similarly a handful of fine dining restaurants. One of the establishments is a hidden gem Shanghai Chic. The restaurant is home to Chinese cuisine and arguably some of the best customer service and friendliest staff in Dubai. The menu is an all you can eat small portions and creative presentations that are a must see (and eat!)
Shisha is a popular past time in Dubai with many lounges dedicates to the activity. For a premium experience, try Ikandy Lounge located in Shangri La with a funky outdoor vibe and an incredible view of the Burj Khalifa. Described as one of Dubai’s best kept secrets, with live DJs playing throughout the evening, this stunning roof-top venue blends poolside bliss with signature cocktails, refreshing, flavoured shisha, delicious light bites and the perfect place to unwind after work or on the weekend. If you’re up for more of a club night vibe, visit Ikandy on Fridays and Saturdays along with night time stops at the likes of Cavalli at Canada’s own Fairmont Hotel.
Dune Bashing and Camel Riding
If you’re looking for a true Middle East adventure outside the manmade luxury inside Dubai, definitely indulge in dune bashing, camel riding and snow boarding for a truly unique experience and desert fun. Deserts Safari Dubai offer a variety of packages either day or night to fit your schedule.