Abu Dhabi F1 doff hat to COVID bravehearts


UAE Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix with limited fans Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Yas Island, Abu Dhabi’s premier leisure and entertainment hub, paid an ode to the COVID-19 frontline workers and celebrated and rewarded them during the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2020 held from December 11th-13th. It was a tribute as well as a salute to these bravehearts who are bending over backwards to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to plague the world.

The 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was scheduled for November 29th but the race was moved to December 13th to allow the Bahrain Grand Prix to run after their race was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic which still has the world in its fatal grip. The race was won by Max Verstappen (Belgian-Dutch racing driver), with Valtteri Bottas (Finnish racing driver) and Lewis Hamilton (British racing driver) finishing second and third, respectively.

Six hundred passes to the F1 racing event were issued to frontline workers and their families over the course of three days to witness the action live on the island, while Etihad Airways performed its breathtaking fly-past at the circuit as part of the overall celebration.

To show gratitude to the frontline heroes, Abu Dhabi Hill at Yas Marina Circuit was renamed ‘Frontline Heroes Hill’. In a further mark of thanks and respect, the UAE’s amazing heroes and their families were given exclusive access passes to choose from and enjoy one of Yas Island’s record-breaking theme parks including Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi.

Talking about her experience, Reycel Tanate, an NMC Royal Hospital, Abu Dhabi, nurse from the Philippines and in charge of managing 118 nurses across 26 different clinics, said, “My family and I were so excited to visit Yas Island to watch the F1 races and experience Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, and we’re thankful to have this opportunity to enjoy our time together.”

Also in attendance was Kiran Kumar Karri, an NMC Royal Hospital Facility Operations Manager from India and managing operations across three hospitals, who stated, “It has been a tough year for all of us, and my family and I weren’t expecting this, we’re so grateful to Yas Island for this opportunity to watch the exciting races and enjoy one of Yas Island’s award-winning theme parks. It made us feel like celebrities.”

Signaling Yas Island’s appreciation of frontline workers to the world, the destination’s award-winning theme parks, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi and CLYMB™ Abu Dhabi, along with Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Mall, Radisson Blu Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi – Yas Island, Yas Island Rotana and W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island were all lit up blue for the duration of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Remarked Saif Al Noaimi, Acting Chief Executive, Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, “Unfortunately, we were not able to open up the event for the fans in the usual way we always have. But we are fortunate that we had the approvals for the frontline heroes. It is very fitting for us to prioritize them in terms of attendance at this event and offer them an opportunity to come see the race live in real time. They have had a very difficult year.”

There were 600 heroes for the F1 spectacle in total, which means 200 attendees across three days.

Formula One has been thrown off the track this year as a result of the COVID-19 curse. The start of the season was delayed by nearly four months, causing many races to be either postponed or canceled. With the exception of the Tuscan and Russian Grand Prixs which permitted limited fans, all races have taken place sans trackside supporters.

Given the challenges of staging a Grand Prix this year, Al Noaimi said his team have adapted to these difficult times.

Al Noaimi informed that the Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management had worked in close collaboration with the Government to ensure that the venue sticks to all the guidelines laid down for COVID-19 protocols – “Obviously it’s been a challenging year but we are proud we were able to organize the season finale in Abu Dhabi.”

He added, “It says a lot that we were able to host and organize an event in a safe manner given the difficult period that everyone is facing right now. It really demonstrated our ability and also demonstrated all the hard work that the frontline heroes and all of the relevant entities have put over the last few months to make sure Abu Dhabi is safe.”

Looking ahead to the next season, Al Noaimi is excited to see Saudi Arabia added to the F1 calendar to make it three races in the Gulf – “Saudi Arabia’s entry to motorsports and the various events they are doing are really exciting in the region. For us, having more events in the region means you are developing more motorsports interest and developing future generations in motorsports. This year, given the challenges we have been facing, for F1 to be hosting 17 races in different countries is an accomplishment. We are happy to be the last race again and for them to celebrate a successful championship here in Abu Dhabi.”

Yas Island in Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s fastest growing leisure and entertainment destinations, located on the golden shores of Abu Dhabi – just 20 minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi and 50 minutes from Dubai. Yas Island offers holiday makers a diverse mix of award-winning leisure and entertainment experiences, from one-of-a-kind theme parks, world-class shopping and superb dining, to a links golf course, exciting water and motor sports, and the most enjoyable musical and family events – all within the 25 sq km Island.

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