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Aiming towards
the future

It’s a special type of weapon: a really modern track of the sort that was never seen before: many different corners of differing radius, a couple of short yet high-speed straights, a section of circuit that runs underneath the beautiful concrete and glass structure of a six-star hotel, as well as a pit lane exit that comes out underneath the track itself via a tunnel. That’s what Formula 1® in Abu Dhabi is all about. And a lap that’s designed in the shape of a pistol, aiming at the northeast, which seems to challenge the surrounding desert.

Right up to the end of the last century, there was little to differentiate this place from an endless sea of sand. Then, the power of oil money fuelled the unstoppable economy of the Emirates and allowed the stunning Marina Bay circuit to be built as part of the growing passion for motorsport that the Middle East had only recently discovered. It all began with Ferrari World: something that’s more than just a theme park, which can be identified by the naked eye even from high up in the air, thanks to the enormous prancing horse logo on the roof. And right next to it, just a handful of minutes away by car, is the Yas Marina circuit – situated on the island that Abu Dhabi keeps as its most exclusive corner. When Ferrari World was born, the circuit that today hosts the final round of the Formula 1® world championship was already in the planning stage. Both projects were created by Aldair Properties, the Abu Dhabi property fund that also owns the Mubadala group, a long-time Ferrari sponsor. And in the end this group incredibly managed to bring F1® to Abu Dhabi, as right up until the last minute Bernie Ecclestone, who ruled the roost in F1®, was leaning towards Dubai. But the local sheikh who was due to meet Ecclestone cancelled the meeting due to an accident that befell his favourite horse, and so attention turned to Abu Dhabi and Yas Marina.

Formula 1® finally arrived there in 2009, and victory went to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. One year later Vettel and Red Bull triumphed again, following a nightmare for Ferrari. Had it not been for an error from the pit wall, Fernando Alonso probably wouldn’t have slipped down the order and that year’s world title could have been his – rather than the first of four championships that were destined for Vettel. And the Abu Dhabi jinx still continues for Ferrari: Abu Dhabi is one of just four countries to have hosted a world championship grand prix that has never been won by Ferrari (the other three are Morocco, India and Russia).

But there is more to the Abu Dhabi track than just its 21 corners and 5554 metres of track. Despite the ever-present heat, even at this time of year, there’s always a generous supply of water thanks to the desalination plant that uses seawater to create a veritable garden around the track. There’s also a high-tech lighting system that ensures the track and pit lane maintains a consistent level of illumination even with the advancing evening. All this put together makes the Abu Dhabi track not just a perfect example of a hyper-modern facility but also a real megastar of the F1® calendar. It’s futuristic, but with maximum respect for the environment at the same time. And respect for the neighbouring desert as well, which is happy for the circuit to be there. Just as long as everything knows its place.

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