The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one of the most popular races on the F1 Calendar ( also being the first dusk race ).
Designed by the legendary circuit designer Hermann Tilke, it has been the season-ending race ( but for 3 years ) with Lewis Hamilton being the most successful driver here.
Who can forget the nail-biting finish in 2010, when Fernando Alonso failed to overtake Vitaly Petrov which let Sebastian Vettel win his maiden Championship or the Drama that unfolded between Lewis Hamilton & Nico Rosberg in 2014 and 2016 when the title fight went right down to the wire!
Who can forget Kimi Raikkonen's win at the circuit in 2012 ( after his return to F1 ) which featured those famous radio communications: "Just leave me alone, I know what I am doing" & "Yes Yes Yes I am doing it all the time, you don't have to remind me every 10 seconds!" or those horrendous crashes between Rosberg & Karthikeyan in 2012 and Hulkenberg & Grosjean in 2018.
The circuit is also a venue for goodbyes..be it for Drivers leaving a team or F1 personnel switching to another employer or taking retirement from the sport altogether. It is also the place when everyone wishes each other a restful winter break and drivers make a resolve to return stronger for the next season.
I still remember those weekends of 2013 and 2018, the two occasions on which I was present at the track.
My experience from 2018 is shared here :
The Circuit Layout :
Official Website :
The Circuit is located on Yas Island, a 30-minute drive from Abu Dhabi city centre. It is easily accessible from Dubai as well. There are multiple exits offering access to the island from the highway connecting Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The island is home to several hotels, a water park and the iconic Ferrari World! Its a place bustling with activity all over the weekend and sees a lot of visitors on normal days as well! The island, built-in 2006 has infused a major boost to an already thriving economy of the country. Etihad Airways, the national carrier of UAE is the title sponsor for the race.
Closest Airports :
Abu Dhabi International Airport ( AUH ) is the nearest airport to the circuit and one of the biggest international hubs in the Middle East offering connections to all parts of the world! Its also home to the National carrier of the UAE Etihad Airways.
Dubai International Airport ( DXB ) which is less than 100 km from Yas Island cannot be discounted either. Home to one of the largest airlines in the world, Emirates, its the busiest airport in the Middle East ( and 5th in the world ). All the airlines of the world fly to Dubai. It is also a major hub for Emirates' Codeshare partner Qantas Airways.
Emirates is the airline of choice for me - excellent connections worldwide, a modern fleet of aircraft & fantastic services onboard. Emirates owned Low-Cost Carrier FlyDubai which offers connections to Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and some parts of Europe also has Dubai as its hub of operations.
My Emirates Flight Experience ( latest ) from Mumbai to Dubai is shared here :
Where to Stay :
There are a lot of options over a race weekend. If budget is not an issue, then its best to opt for a Hotel on Yas Island. There is always a premium to be paid over the weekend, most of them non-refundable rates. Those with even deeper pockets can stay at the unique Yas Viceroy Hotel which is within the circuit, overlooking a lot of sections of the track! There are also a few Airbnb apartments in the vicinity of the Island but they tend to sell out quickly.
Abu Dhabi has a lot of hotels from budget to serviced apartments to ultra-luxury accommodation and its best to stay near the city centre which offers multiple options for a commute to the Island. The hotels in the city charge a premium over the weekend as well.
Airbnb accommodation is available as well. Most of the rates are non-refundable.
Dubai is another great place to stay ( my city of choice ) with options for all pockets and prices comparatively cheaper ( no premium charged ) to those in Abu Dhabi. However, one must be prepared for a 90-minute commute to the circuit each way ( which can be expensive in a taxi ).
There is no camping facility at the track.
Circuit Access :
The Circuit is well connected by road, sea and even air! There are multiple entry points into the circuit and kudos to the Race Organizers for doing a top job every year.
Taxis are plentiful at the circuit and the preferred mode of transport for most! There is also Uber on offer but with surge pricing, flagging down a taxi tends to be cheaper. VIP Guests can make their way to the Yas Viceroy Hotel Entrance and then walk down to a water taxi which takes the guests across to a Paddock Club / Paddock Access gate, the journey from the Hotel to the Access Gate takes about 20 minutes.
Most hotels on the Yas Island offer free circuit shuttles to the main circuit entrance, so one can utilize those shuttles if they have friends staying on the island. There is another access via Ferrari World, one can walk or hop onto a circuit shuttle to enter the circuit.
Do note that there can be long queues every evening post the sessions/concerts so it makes sense to use the circuit shuttle to go further away from the circuit to take cabs back to the city.
I stay in Dubai and use a taxi service to one of the Yas Island Hotels where my friends stay over the weekend ( the commute from Dubai takes about 90 minutes ). We then use a Complimentary Shuttle provided by the Hotel which drops us at the Main Entrance, it is a short walk to the Paddock Club from thereon ( using tunnel access under the circuit ).
Those who choose a car hire can purchase trackside parking ( which is limited in number ) or park at the Yas Mall and get on a circuit shuttle from there. There are multiple car hire options at both airports and cities.
Buses are the cheapest mode of transport for the weekend. Bus Number 190 runs from Abu Dhabi Bus Station ( next to Al Wahda Mall ) to Yas Island. If travelling from Dubai one must use a service from Al Ghubaiba Bus Station to Abu Dhabi and then hop on to the 190 to Yas Island. The commute to Yas Island from Abu Dhabi Bus Station takes about 40 minutes with buses every 20 minutes.
There are multiple complementary shuttle buses on Yas Island which connects hotels to various attractions, hotels, malls and the various grandstands.
The main shuttles are the Circuit Circular Shuttle and the Yas Courtesy Shuttle. The former runs around Yas Island and through the Yas Marina Circuit. The latter runs within the circuit premises and is available for any ticket holder throughout the weekend. Other shuttle services are the Pit Lane Walk Shuttle, Paddock Club Shuttle and Yas Suite Shuttle.
Details about the Various Shuttle Buses are shared here :
There is also another service called the Yas Express, a shuttle that gets you around Yas Island.
More Details shared here :
These buses tend to get jam-packed in the evenings as the fans make their way to the concert arena ( or their way home ). It is advisable to walk ( if the distance isn't too long ) under such circumstances.
High fliers also have the option to book Helicopter Transfers, to and fro from the circuit!
F1 Village, Fan Zones :
The F1 Village, situated behind the Main Grandstand is one of the best on the F1 calendar. There are many merchandising and food outlets along with a few stores selling Official Circuit Merchandise as well. The Official F1 Store is well stocked and one of the largest.
There are makeshift stages for performances by local artists throughout the day, Circuit Mascots strutting their stuff with volunteers distributing circuit guides, Race Programmes & Protective Headsets. Show cars on display by companies like McLaren, Renault and Mercedes make this village a must-visit!
Competitions such as the Pit Stop Challenge, Batak Challenge and the Simulator faceoff run throughout the weekend. The winner of the Simulator competition over Friday and Saturday wins couple passes for the Paddock Club for Sunday.
There are smaller merchandising and food outlets spread over other parts of the circuit as well. Food options are limited but reasonably priced.
Fan Experiences :
3 Day ticket holders are eligible for Pit Lane Walks on Thursdays. VIP Guests, Paddock Club Guests and Celebrities can purchase a Pirelli Hot Laps Experience ( pricing dependent on the type of car and the day ).
There are concerts on all days i.e. Thursday to Sunday. These are free with a valid race ticket for the day but fans need to collect a wristband from the Oasis area for access to the concert. It is a daily exercise for those planning to be at all the concerts!
F1 Experiences, the official hospitality partner of the sport offers fans great upgrades to their existing tickets, from single day Paddock Club passes to guided Paddock Tours, guided Track Truck Tours, guided Podium Visits and Photo-op with the Race Winning Trophy!
The "YasHub" app ( available on iOS & Android ) keeps fans up to date with all that is happening over the weekend.
It is recommended wearing hats or caps and light clothing ( in adherence to the laws of the land ) since it can get pretty hot during the day.
Fans cannot bring any food or drink to the circuit and one must be prepared to be screened thoroughly at the circuit entrance gates.
The Circuit also offers guided tours ( on normal days ), go-karting experiences, track days in Formula cars or other supercars! Details are available on their official website.
Yas Island itself is a must-visit for any traveller to the UAE. The Island is home to 3 world-class parks - the Ferrari World, an indoor theme park run by the Italian brand with its famous Prancing Horse logo on the roof and is situated next to the track. The team also runs a special activity on Thursday, so fans at the park can get a glimpse of the Ferrari F1 Drivers; the Yas Waterworld, a huge waterpark and the island's newest addition Warner Bros World which is a theme park devoted to the characters of Looney Toons, DC Comics and Hannah-Barbera.
Visitors can purchase 2 days-2 parks or 3 days- 3 parks tickets.
The Marina itself is worth a visit; one can enjoy beautiful sunsets while wining and dining at some of the finest restaurants and cafes dotting the marina. Its also home to many Luxurious yachts, some of which are venues for parties on a race weekend.
The Yas Marina Circuit leaves a lasting impression. It offers so much more than just a normal F1 Race Weekend. I rate this circuit higher than the one in Singapore.
The island is like a city in itself and one can easily spend more than a week exploring all that it has to offer. I am convinced that this circuit will be a part of the F1 circus for many more years to come! Time to draw up plans for another visit this year!