Things to do at the

F1™ Etihad Airways

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Action at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The finale to the F1™ season. The longest straight of any F1™ circuit. The only race to start in daylight and finish beneath the moonlight. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a unique and unmissable event on the motor racing calendar. 

Everything is bigger in the UAE capital – and that goes for its Grand Prix too. Cars reach speeds of up to 315km/h along the 1.14km straight. Floodlights illuminate the buildings around Yas Marina Circuit. 

And after the race, comes the entertainment. The Yasalam After-Race Concerts – where household names take to the stage in front of adoring fans. 

​Welcome, to the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Action at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Arrive at the cutting-edge Yas Marina Circuit for race day. Breathe it all in – from the track curving around the edge of the yacht-filled Yas Marina to the city skyline behind. From the moment you walk through the gates to when you leave, you’ll find many things to do at the Abu Dhabi Formula 1™ Grand Prix.

Pre-race entertainment

The gates usually open just before midday, including all entertainment in the F1™ Fan Zone, Oasis and other areas. Enjoy live music, captivating aerial acrobatics and more. 

Gear up for the main event with one of the supporting races in the early afternoon. Normally there’s an FIA race, featuring local UAE drivers, and a Formula 2 event a little later. Then it’s on to the Paddock Club pit lane walk and drivers’ track parade.

The Race

The Abu Dhabi Etihad Airways Grand Prix usually starts around 5pm in daylight, as the sun starts to set. Ten minutes before the race, you’ll see and hear the roaring jet engines of the impressive Etihad Airways’ fleet as they perform their aerobatic display with a traditional flypast.

Key facts about the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: 

  • 55 laps
  • Lap distance – 5.554km (305.5km in total)
  • 20 drivers on the starting grid
  • Drivers average 68 gear changes per lap
  • Lap record – 1:39.283 (Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2019)

Generally, most drivers make only one pit stop, as teams favour super-soft tyres and tyre management to maximise track position, due to Yas Marina Circuit’s layout and conditions. Expect the fastest speeds on the long straight (1.14km) between turns seven and eight in front of the West Grandstand, while into turns eight and 11 is where the most overtaking action typically happens. 

The Finish

By the time the winner crosses the finish line, the sun will have set – leaving Yas Marina Circuit fully illuminated by floodlights. As the chequered flag falls, fireworks fill the sky. 

Stay to see the champion crowned on the winner’s podium, with more fireworks signalling the end of another year for F1™. As the final race of the season, it can often be the farewell for any retiring drivers – making the day extra special for fans.

Abu Dhabi qualifying sessions

​The qualifying session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is an important part of the race, as it determines what position each driver will have on the starting grid. It can have a huge impact on the race’s outcome and the drivers’ chances of success. 

Kimi Raikkonen’s victory in 2012 is the only time a driver not starting in the front row of the grid has won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – he started in fourth position.

The qualifying session normally takes place late afternoon on the Saturday. 

Enjoy the F2 supporting race

One of the other things to do at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is watching the Formula 2 supporting races. These are highly competitive, high-speed affairs well worth watching.

F1™ vs F2™

Success in Formula One is down to both driver skill and the build of the car. All cars in the starting grid are different, with most having horsepower close to 1,000 and up to 18,000 rpm. This can differ depending on their design.

In Formula 2, all drivers are behind the wheel of an identical car. Currently, these are designed by Williams F1, with a 500 horsepower engine and 10,000 rpm. They still reach a breathtaking pace – with top speeds only about 30km/h below F1™ cars.

The idea behind F2™ is to allow driver talent to shine through.

F2™ races in Abu Dhabi

The F2™ races at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are also the final ones of the season – titles can be won or lost. Generally, they cover fewer laps. All drivers have a practice session and go through similar qualifying to F1™.

The pit lane walk

The curtain raiser to every Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend is the illustrious pit lane walk – the Thursday before the race. The event starts late morning – just after the gates open – and ends mid-afternoon. Anyone with a three-day ticket to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix can attend the pit lane walk. 

Join thousands of racing enthusiasts as you get the rare chance to walk along part of Yas Marina Circuit. With this exclusive experience, you can get up close to all F1™ teams and gaze at the cars as they’re being constructed. 

You might get the chance to talk to one of the mechanics, snap a selfie with a technician and, if you’re really lucky, get a glimpse of one of the drivers.

After-Race Concerts

The fun doesn’t stop once the gates close each day at Yas Marina Circuit. All four days from Thursday to Sunday keep the party going with a different After-Race Concert. These all take place at the du Arena, to the north of the racetrack.

All ticket holders get access to the concerts for the relevant days. Three-day ticket holders get exclusive access to the Thursday night concert too. Doors normally open from 6pm, with performers taking to the stage around 9pm. Expect an eclectic line-up across the weekend, with plenty of big global names and some local artists.

Previous performers include:

  • Beyoncé 
  • Britney Spears
  • Calvin Harris
  • Kanye West
  • The Killers 
  • Lana Del Rey
  • Mumford and Sons 
  • The Who

Things to do on Yas Island

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

Hitting speeds of 240km/h in 4.9 seconds – close to the heights real F1™ cars reach – Formula Rossa is the fastest rollercoaster in the world. Ride the speed machine at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and feel like a professional F1™ driver. If that’s not thrilling enough, the Flying Aces rollercoaster features the largest loop and steepest incline cable lift in the world too.

Yas Waterworld

Cool off with more than 40 rides, slides and attractions for a great family activity on Yas Island. Relax along the 300m lazy river, or feel the rush as you hurtle down the world’s longest six-seater water coaster with your friends. 

Warner Bros. World™ Abu Dhabi

From Gotham City to Bedrock, the world’s first Warner Bros. theme park spreads across six different ‘lands’. Jump on one of 29 rides or take in a fun show – with everything inside and air-conditioned. Interactive and immersive attractions transport you into some of your favourite movies. 

Yas Mall

Shop and dine in luxury at Yas Mall – home to 370 stores. Browse department stores, high-class fashion boutiques and modern electronics. Then sit down to eat at a family-friendly café, international food court or al fresco restaurant. 

Want to know more about Yas Island? Check out our guide to the best things to see and do in this prime Abu Dhabi spot. 

What to do across Abu Dhabi

Beyond Yas Island, there are many more enthralling cultural things to do across Abu Dhabi, all within a 30 to 40-minute taxi from Yas Island.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Standing 115m tall at its highest point, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the UAE’s largest mosque – able to hold 40,000 people. Completed in 2007, the mosque is visually stunning from a distance and up close, where visitors can see the beautiful golden calligraphy encircling its domes.

The diverse design of the mosque was inspired by architecture from across the Muslim world, and the biggest chandelier on the planet hangs from the ceiling indoors. 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Explore the contemporary cultural highlight of the UAE capital at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The museum’s ornate, lace style dome covers a water system based on ancient engineering, creating a calming and cooling presence. Wander through 9,200 square metres of gallery space, admiring art and artefacts from all over the world. 

The Emirates Palace

Indulge in sumptuous extravagance at this luxurious, five-star hotel. Whether you decide to stay in the affluent accommodation or not, stop by Le Café for a cup of the famous Palace Cappuccino – a golden cappuccino. Served with flakes of 24-carat gold on top (and a side of dark chocolate and a date), it completes any luxurious Abu Dhabi experience. 

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – FAQs

Explore Abu Dhabi

Understand what’s included with each type of ticket and where you’ll get the best views. From the Main Grandstand to Abu Dhabi Hill, pick the right spot and ticket type for you when booking tickets to this year’s grand prix.  

Who’s playing after the race this year? What time will they be on stage? How do you get access to the arena? All these questions and more are answered in our comprehensive guide to the After-Race Concerts. 

Away from the track there are many exciting attractions in and around Yas Island. Spend a day at one of the various theme parks, go shopping in the gigantic mall, or or simply sunbathe on Yas Beach.