By Anil Bhoyrul
Live reporting from the biggest sporting event of the year: read breaking news from the track as Sebastian Vettel fights to make history as Formula One's youngest champion, see up-to-date pictures, highlights and more
Okay here we go, this is the moment everyone has been waiting for, the final race of the most exciting F1 season anyone can remember. The atmosphere is electric. The boats around the marina are filled with ecstatic race fans. The stadium is jam-packed, flags from every corner of the world flutter brightly. 600 million people are watching on the edge of their seats to find out who will be crowned champion of 2010.
We hoped you've enjoyed the build up as much as we have. We're off to find Anil to watch the race.
More from Anil who has just bumped into Felipe Massa (surely hanging around with Anil in the corporate hospitality box an hour or so before the race is not the best preparation).
He says that he loves racing in Abu Dhabi but it's a tricky prospect because of the timings. "There isn't a race track better than Abu Dhabi's in the world but the late start makes it difficult. I treat it as a day night race, which presents its own challenges," he told Arabian Business.
Life isn't always this hard for Massa. He says this year he has taken full advantage of Etihad's sponsorship of Ferrari.
"Things could be worse, I'm a Formula One driver racing for the best team and I get to fly round the world on the best airline," he says.
Breaking news from the expensive seats. There's a man with a megaphone on the loose in corporate hospitality. Anil says he sounds like a scouser (a man from Liverpool), and apparently he's attacking various nationalities. He's just finished laying into the Japanese and now he's laying into the Germans. Security are on their way.
Anil asks: "Why is there always one Brit who spoils it for everyone?"
Nicole may have left the stadium but she hasn't taken all of the glamour with her. England midfielder Joe Cole's wife, Carly Zucker, has just been spotted tottering around the Paddock area. No sign of Joe though.
Meanwhile the drivers have just finished their parade on an open top bus, you know you're getting older when none of them look old enough to even have a driving licence. Claire says she is now supporting Mark Webber. I wonder why....
More from Anil. He's just shared a canapé with Ferrari team principal, Stefano Domenicali. Asked if victory today for Fernando Alonso would be tainted by the uproar caused earlier in the season by the team orders controversy in Germany, Domenicali didn't mince his words.
“The whole thing in Germany was a stupid misunderstanding by people who don't understand F1, who don't understand the rules of Formula One,” he said.
Asked what he thought would happen today, Domenicali said he didn't know, but said he would make sure his drivers kept their eyes open for Lewis Hamilton, who is expected to be particularly ruthless today.
"Lewis has absolutely nothing to lose, he'll be pushing very, very hard,” he said.
Anil has sent word from the Etihad corporate box and he sounded surprisingly lucid, but give it time. He's been chatting to Etihad CEO, James Hogan, who is glowing with pride. This year Etihad celebrates its seventh birthday and Hogan last week told Arabian Business he would be celebrating it at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Last year Etihad's box wasn't in the prime location it is today - this year its been moved to directly over the starting grid. Hogan couldn't be happier: "Everything is going well. Just look around you. We're a best-in-class airline, this is a best-in-class event, and now we've got the best-in-class box." More from Anil later.
Claire has just spotted Bernie Ecclestone rushing through the Paddock area, looking like a man with a lot on his mind. She reports she stopped the great man and shook his hand, but when she asked who he thought was favourite to win today, he issued a terse "no comment" and suddenly had somewhere to be, urgently.
Right, Damian and Claire here, filling in for Anil while he refreshes himself in the corporate hospitality area after all that hard work.
We have just shared a coffee in the Paddock with Aabar Chairman Khadem Al Qusaibi and his CEO, Mohammed Al-Husseiny. They were talking excitedly about opening up their business dealings in the Middle East with Sir Richard Branson, and said they are soon to be advertising for someone to build them a spaceport in Abu Dhabi. Apparently you need experience - Damian volunteered himself but was flatly turned down.
Claire reports she has just seen friend of Arabian Business Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls storming out of the race area, attended by terrified looking flunkies. Let's hope whatever has happened doesn't affect Lewis' title hopes.
Well, only another couple of hours to go before the real action starts on the track. Before that we have the drivers parade, the Etihad flypast, the national anthems, and anyone else we can find to chat to in the paddock.
Damian Reilly and Claire Ferris-Lay will shortly be at the controls while I head into the Etihad box for some well deserved corporate hospitality!
So shall we get controversial? Ok, let's do that...
Now I'm sure many of you are familiar with the story of ACI. Basically, in late 2007, a certain Robin Lohmann announced plans for a series of sports-branded buildings in Dubai. Michael Schumacher, Boris Becker and Nikki Lauda all had towers named after them, and came to Dubai for high profile launches. Investors poured millions into these projects.
Today, they are just holes in the ground and Lohmann has disappeared, while the ACI fund has filed for bankruptcy.
One of these projects was the Nikki Lauda Twin Towers.
We have just been speaking to Lauda for an update and he says: "I only gave my name to that project, I had nothing else to do with it. I think its a mess now but I don't have anything to do with it."
We asked him if he had spoken to Robin Lohmann and he said: "Who is he?... I only met him once, I don't know who he is."
Now, i don't want to digress too much from today's big F1 race, but Nikki Lauda, you really are talking nonsense. Your claim that you only hardly know Lohmann and you only met him once is tosh (I had to listen to the tape twice to be sure you really said this).
And I know its tosh because I had lunch with you AND Robin Lohmann in late 2007, at Pierre Chic in Dubai. And I met both of you together two more times! You told me how much you respected each other, and how you were both so happy to be working together.
Come on Nikki, the fact is that hundreds of people invested their money in Nikki Lauda Twin Towers because of you. You need to take some responsibility and stop denying you know anything about this. And while I'm on the subject, the same goes for Michael Schumacher and Boris Becker.
If you are an F1 driver and you HAVEN'T spoken to Claire today then you are in a minority. She has been chatting to both Mark Webber (who has a great chance of winning the title today) and Hamilton.
First Webber. He says "It a few hours to go before the race. Am I nervous? Not yet! I will give it my best shot, and we will see."
Starting from fifth of the grid, he needs more than his best shot - Webber really needs to win and hope Alonso doesn't come second. A big ask. And is, as everyone keeps saying, Mark Webber the nicest, most humble man in the paddock? Yes, definitely. A top bloke.
On to Hamilton...now, the thing about Lewis, I don't know if you have noticed, is that he has started speaking with a bizarre American accent. Honestly, listen out for him on the telly or radio and you will see what I mean. Anyway, here's what he has to say:
"I'm cool, I'm looking forward to the race. I'm happy with second on the grid. I need to win, I can't do anything about anyone else, I just have to win. And that's what I plan on doing."
David Coulthard has come over to say hello. The former driver turned commentator told me last year he was hugely impressed with Yas Marina. What does he think 12 months on? "It's even better," he says.
I have to agree. It just seems even more slick this year. Some of you may have been down to the circuit yesterday - the whole infrastructure, getting in and out, the staff...everyone has upped their game. I was chatting a few months ago to David Tremayne, a guy who has covered more F1 races than probably anyone else - and even he thinks that Abu Dhabi is the best circuit in the entire world.
Okay, coming up shortly we have Lewis Hamilton AND Mark Webber. And if that isn't enough, we have some fascinating stuff from Nikki Lauda about his involvement with ACI. If you were one of thousands of people that invested cash in the Dubai towers named after Lauda, you DEFINITELY want to read what he has been telling us.
Well we promised you big names today and boy do we have them - Claire is with Lewis Hamilton right now, I'll be bringing you parts of that conversation shortly and a picture of the two of them (is this why Nicole looks moody today?)
But anyway, let's see what Ron Dennis has been saying to Damian...you may recall a few months back that the former McLaren boss had some harsh words to say about the new Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4, the world's fastest legal road car. It can reach a whopping 431km/h. Not that this has impressed Dennis who suggested it was 'crap'.
Does he still think so? "I don't even think its that good. It's worse than crap," says Dennis.
Ouch ouch ouch. Would love to know what the story is there.
At the far end of the paddock, Damian has been chatting to McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh. He looks like a man enjoying himself, given there is no real pressure on the team: Lewis Hamilton has to come first and all his main rivals come last for them to bag the title.
“We're happy to be in Abu Dhabi, we absolutely love the circuit and everything around it - really, really great show that Abu Dhabi has put on,” he says.
Many experts thought McLaren would have trouble keeping both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton happy in the same team. Well so far they have proved all the experts wrong.
And I have just spotted Eddie Jordan, former team owner and now a BBC commentator. I don't know how to say this Eddie, but in those trousers, you really do look ridiculous.
Now things are starting to hot up - coming up very shortly we'll be joined by David Coulthard and Ron Dennis.
So things are starting to build up here, with Bernie Ecclestone having just arrived in the paddock. There are about 40 boats, well i should say yachts, parked in the harbour to my left and plenty more in the rest of the marine. And who has the biggest boat of the lot? Well it could just be Drake & Scull founder Khaldoun Tabari, who has just been telling me how much it cost to park his boat here. I won't repeat, but let's just say its a lot of cash. He has also with him 16 'mates' as they get set for a slap-up meal before the race. Nice work if you can get it.
(Incidentally i made a couple of really good jokes earlier but I can see our website editor Joanne Bladd has cut them out, claiming they are too offensive. Come on girl, where's your sense of humour!)
So, what’s Richard Branson been saying? I caught up with the Virgin boss at the Shangri La Hotel in Abu Dhabi yesterday, and firstly I have to say he looks great. The man’s energy is so infectious.
Anyway, F1 supremo Bernie Eccelstone has apparently been giving the likes of Virgin Racing and other small teams a bit of a hard time. According to media reports, Ecclestone basically thinks they are nuisance and an embarrassment, and that if they pulled out of the sport tomorrow, nobody would care.
Ouch! I asked Branson this, and he replied: “I actually brought this up with Bernie two days ago, and he categorically denies ever making these comments. He just never said anything like that, he is proud to have teams like Virgin Racing in F1.”
Branson did admit to me that he had received “no favours” during his first full year in F1, and that some of the rules “were a bit difficult” to follow. But he is still grinning, having just teamed up with Russian outfit Marussia Motors, in a deal that will secure Virgin’s place on the starting grid for the next five years.
You want my opinion? Somebody’s been mischief making here, but the sport and the world needs Branson in F1. He is a much needed breath of fresh air.
Beep beep. Brum Brum. Heba heba hendrey. Whoooosh. Scccrrrruh.
Good afternoon petrol heads!
Yes, you guessed, we’re coming to you live from the Formula One paddock in Yas Marina, where later this evening the drivers' world championship will be decided.
My name is Anil Bhoyrul, and I’ll be with you for the next two hours, bringing all the build up from this incredible arena on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. Loads of big name special guests will be joining me on this blog between now and 2pm (I hope!), and after that I’ll be handing over to Formula One’s first couple, Damian Reilly and Claire Ferris-Lay, who will be with you until 4.45pm.
And then the three of us will be heading into the Etihad VIP box for a well deserved few pints of orange juice and some sparkling mineral water.
It should be fun: this is the final race of the season, and we still don’t know who is going to be the world champion, so the entire world is watching tonight.
If you want my tip: The two Red Bull drivers will crash into each other, Fernando Alonso will crash into a wall (isn’t that what his teammate is meant to do?), and Lewis Hamilton will win the race and the world championship here in Abu Dhabi.
There is of course only one outcome guaranteed, which is that Yas Marina has made the UAE – well actually the whole of the Arab world – really proud by putting on such a super show. Are you watching Bahrain? You really should be. The glamour of Monaco, the carnival of Sao Paulo and the design of Istanbul all rolled into one have made Abu Dhabi THE best venue on the F1 calendar in my opinion. I remember last year chatting to former world champ Damon Hill, who wasn’t too complimentary about Yas Marina. If he’s come back this year, I think he will be eating his words.
And I’m not just talking about race day. The dynamic line-up of entertainment and events, known as Yasalam, kicked off a few weeks ago and spread from the Corniche and beach right across the city, taking in schools, universities, shopping malls, hotels, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Yas Island itself. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several F1 venues in the past decade, and I genuinely believe that for all round entertainment – way beyond the actual race – nobody has done a better job than Abu Dhabi.
On Friday night Prince did a spontaneous gig at the Sky Bar in the Yas Hotel (he’s back on tonight after the race). Last night Sister Sledge performed at the F1 ball in front of a star studied audience of Hollywood A-listers. Add to that Kayne West, Linkin Park – hats off to Flash Entertainment. That said, would have been nice to have an all round family entertainer like Andy Williams or Des O’Connor – but what do I know.
Anyway, that’s enough whining, let’s get on with the show. Where exactly am I? Right in the middle of the F1 paddock, which is buzzing with some seriously rich and mega famous faces. Yesterday I had brunch with Sir Richard Branson, and will be bringing you some of his thoughts shortly. Last year Damian got to hang out with Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls, and he’s back in the paddock right now looking for her again (the restraining order must have been lifted), while Claire is hunting for everyone from Bernie Ecclestone downwards.
In the meantime, let me leave you with this F1 fact that I nicked from the TimeOut Abu Dhabi F1 guide, who nicked it from Google:
Did you know that an F1 car is made up of 80,000 components – and if it were assembled 99.9 percent correctly, it would still start the race with 80 things wrong. Comforting thought when you're this close to the track.
Thank you sooooo much for the entertaining commentary, so vivid - the atmosphere is practically cracking off my screen as I read but erm... I'm not so sure about the Sebby and Webby crashing into each other, Alonso is more than welcome to Not Finish ;) all the best to Lewis!
like I said ,, Geee time to get a top driver for team virgin... And reckon webber man for job,, to create that winning team...
I hope richard branson will take webber on as his key driver,, that would make an awsome crew.... and a hugely winning team,, congrats when you do it ,,brad
Congrats to Sebastian Vettel & Red Bull (Austria) Team. Austrian quality & German energy seem to be the perfect combination!