Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Formula 1, Day 1

I got to work the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 last week. It is not nearly as glamorous as you might imagine, but despite that, fun was had. I'm going to bore you to death over the next few days with a behind the scenes overview of my week at the Abu Dhabi Formula One.

Day One:

My Flight for AUH leaves at 11:00, so I need to aim for a 09:30 arrival at Seeb airport. A leisurely morning becomes an outright panic when I realize my phone died overnight, and I need to get one sorted before I get on the plane, as my Joining instructions for this event are "Call us when you get there and we'll tell you where to go because it's extremely complicated and you will never find us unless you are actually on the phone while in the taxi."

After consulting with Twitter, a plan is hatched, which went to absolute shambles in short order because nobody here ever opens a shop on time. Much Panic, gnashing of teeth, 1 Failed Attempt to purchase a Blackberry at the Nawras head office, and just in time to make my flight, I purchased a 20 Rial Nokia from Airport Duty free. Thanks a million to whomever it was who suggested that!

On arrival in Abu Dhabi, I got the only taxi driver in the entire UAE who does not know how to speak English or Arabic or Farsi or Hindi or Urdu. The communication issue was further compounded by his lack of any knowledge whatsoever of Abu Dhabi, or Yas Island.

What I Said: "Yas Island, East Exit, Aldar Offices, I'll direct you from there."

What he heard: "I would very much like to circumnavigate the entirety of Abu Dhabi Airport, checking in at each an every gate surrounding the periphery, and eventually getting menaced by some rather intimidating chaps with automatic weapons"

Eventually, I took over driving the taxi, and trusty phone to ear, found my way to the Operations Village.

The Operations Village, which was to be my home for the next week, was a sort of gourmet Labor camp, comprised of 200+ portable trailers, with 4 beds in each, a recreation area which had been pressed into service as event offices. Surrounded by Razorwire, with security controlling access to the facility, it was a little like being in a minimum security prison.

In the office, the Staff Welfare team are counting room keys, radios, marshals tabbards, overalls, t shirts, access passes, and a million other things. It looks hellish, tedious, and thankless. I'm suddenly thrilled that I'll be strictly administrative on this one.

Due to the hasty eviction of the laborers who used to live there, and the subsequent short notice handover to the F1 Organizers, the carefully planned room allocation system went out the window, and when I arrived my room had been taken over by some other women. Thankfully, I packed a sleeping bag, so I can always crash out on a floor somewhere.

The Chief Medical Officer pops in and offers me a lift to the Circuit, where my office awaits. Nearly hyperventilating from the excitement, I pile in, and we're off. On arrival at Race Control, I am freaking speechless.

The track, the hotel, the paddock, Media canter, and marina must have set AD back Billions and Billions of dollars. Whereas Bahrain built a (wonderful) plain, simple trick on an empty area of sand, AD built a city, a mega mall, a Marina, hotels, grandstands for 50,000, and a gigantic amusement park. In two years. Unfuckinbeliveable.

I set up my office, meet a few of the early arrived key figures, and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening cutting little laminated phone lists into pocket sized squares. Professional motorsport is usually doing hideously boring stuff in an interesting environment.

Discussing sleeping arrangements over beers later that night, it emerges that Chris, Christopher, and Richard have one bed spare in thier cabin, so I'll bunk in with them for the week. This is Excellent news, because they are men. Male roommates means I will get all the wardrobe space to myself, I will not have to put up with lengthy beauty routines, and because men take fast showers, there will be plenty of hot water left for me. Win!

I toddle off to bed at about 1:00 am, for a 7:00 am start the next day.

Later in the week: Day 2.


Sid said...

This is fantastic. Please keep them coming soon. You can't imagine how bonkers I am over F1. And to get an insiders view to a grand prix is amazing.

Farmer Joe said...

Did you say 'took over driving the taxi"??!!! I read that twice and if true that is the best, ballsiest, hilarious part of the story!!

That is what I am doing next time in AD
Takin over the drivers seat! How relevant at F1 weekend!
Keep it coming...

Amber said...

took over the taxi? Awesome!