Monday, November 15, 2010

Leaping the Sound Barrier

So my first F1 race, what was it like? Well, the day was a lot more fun than might have first been expected and, fortunately the somewhat pessimistic weather forecast was completely incorrect with clear skies throughout the race. The circuit at Yas Marina is architecturally very striking with the Yas Hotel (with a roof rather like an unruly birds nest) dominating the arena. We were in the West Grandstand and were sitting just before the end of one of the longest straights on the course - apparently cars can reach up to 320kph on this part.

We arrived to the sound of helicopters clattering overhead and the growl of the Porsche racing cars as they came to the end of their race - we saw some quite nifty driving apart from one chap who tried to undertake another car coming into the bend near us and realising he had left it too late to break simply carried on off the circuit and rejoined slightly further down.

In truth this was one of the few overtaking manoeuvres that we saw. The cars in the main formula one race were truly impressive, screaming down the straight next to us at speeds that you thought would make it impossible to stop but somehow (with ear-splitting honks) they did indeed slow down and then accelerate away out of the bend. The earplugs came in very useful. Nevertheless, there was little real action. Apart from a crash at the beginning that nearly decapitated Micheal Shumacher (he spun round and a following car nearly drove over his head as it collided), the race lacked major incident. By the half way stage it was very unclear who was actually leading as a result of the various pit stops (we had a screen nearly opposite us and the writing was difficult to read).

The key decisions seemed to be made in the pits as the race leaders only changed when tyres were changed and the driver who started on pole position (Sebastian Vettel) eventually won the race and at the same time the driver's championship. If I go again I will need to bone up a bit in advance about who the teams and drivers are and perhaps invest in a radio which apparently allowed easy access to the race commentary (it was broadcast over the stadium speakers but was impossible to hear over the engine noise and the effects of the ear plugs).

The post race concert by Prince was excellent. He played pretty much all his well known songs (1999, Little Red Corvette, Raspberry Beret, Kiss, Purple Rain, Nothing compares to U etc.) and was very entertaining - a real showman and almost worth the price of the tickets on his own.

It was very interesting to see the demographics of the concert crowd (you could only gain entrance to the concert if you had race tickets I think). Mostly 20 or 30 something western expats formed the majority of what looked to be a very large audience (held at one of the stadium behind one of the stands). Given the location and the fact that it was a school night I was expecting to see more locals and a slightly older crowd.

I am not sure I would necessarily go to the racing again. However, the concert venue was good and I saw that Guns 'n' Roses were playing later in the year so I may be making a return visit soon.

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