When I did my pre-season Formula One column interview back in March with my friend Gerald Donaldson, arguably Canada’s foremost expert on all-things F1, I asked him about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“People are going to love the track,” he chuckled. “They have all the money in the world over there and they’re building a new hotel and a section of the circuit is going to run right through the lobby.”
Now, Gerry was kidding me - laughing when he said that. But that fact of the matter is that he was close in his prediction. The circuit isn’t going to run through the lobby but close to it. It is, in fact, going to run through the hotel.
Designed by Canadians Lise Couture and Hani Rashid, the Yas Hotel will actually straddle the race track – two enormous bulb-like structures connected in the middle. The 500-room hotel will be open just in time for this weekend’s race.
Race organizers are expecting in excess of 50,000 people to flock to the spectacle but none of them will be able to watch the race from the Yas this year as all of the rooms have been set aside for F1’s VIPs. (What a surprise, eh?)
Hotels over race tracks are nothing new, of course. The Fairmont Monte Carlo (nee the Grand Hotel, nee nee the Lowe’s Hotel) is built over some of the city streets of Monaco and what’s called the “tunnel” passes beneath a portion of it.
But Average Joes (if you have the money) can actually rent rooms in that Monaco hotel for the Grand Prix and hopefully, going forward, that will also be the case in Abu Dhabi.
By the way, retired driver David Coulthard was being very diplomatic about the Abu Dhabi track in a published interview this week. But if you read between the lines, he’s not fussy about it and is particularly concerned about pit exit, which is – apparently – a very sharp turn.