Paddock Postcard from Abu Dhabi 01 Nov 2009
Like Monaco and Singapore, Abu Dhabi drew celebrities and Middle Eastern royalty like a magnet as the dramatic Yas Marina Circuit was adjudged a huge success.
Beyonce returned to Formula One after her appearance in Singapore, and was joined by fellow musical stars Kings of Leon, Aerosmith, the Wailers and Jamiroquai, together with rapper Timbaland. And even US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton paid a visit, as did American basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
England cricketer Freddie Flintoff was a guest at Red Bull, while McLarens Ron Dennis made his first appearance at a Grand Prix since Melbourne. Ferraris President Luca di Montezemolo and Piero Lardi Ferrari met up with former employee Jean Todt, who made his first official appearance as the new President of the FIA, while Peter Sauber was present as the future of his team remains uncertain, David Richards was having another look at F1 racing, and the entire board of Mercedes-Benz was gathered for key talks about their partnership with McLaren.
Damon Hill, Richard Phillips and Neil England of the British Racing Drivers Club were present to discuss the future of the British Grand Prix with Bernie Ecclestone, the former world champion accompanied by son Josh who is currently racing in Duratec Formula Fords as the third generation member of the famed racing family.
Sir Jackie Stewart was back, as were Ferraris Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa, together with former fellow racers Stefan Johansson, Johnny Herbert, Jacques Villeneuve, Jackie Oliver and Andrea de Adamich.
On the track, iSports Davide Valsecchi took an impressive first victory in Saturdays GP2 race, which opened the GP2 Asia series and inaugurated single-seater racing at the Yas Marina track. The Italian took pole position but lost the lead to Britains Sam Bird at the start. He quickly repassed the ART Grand Prix driver, however, and his task was made easier after Ocean Racing Technologys Fabio Leimer stalled on the formation lap grid and then Scuderia Colonis Roldan Rodriguez stalled on the grid.
As Valsecchi pulled away, Luca Filippi (MalyasiQI-Merotus.com) and James Jakes (Super Nova Racing) fought all race over third place. Although he pitted just as a safety car was deployed on lap 12 following a collision between Barwa Addax Teams Luiz Razia and DAMS Christian Vietoris in Turn 12, Filippi managed to stay ahead of Valsecchi at the restart, with Jakes running in third place ahead of Bird, Alexander Rossi in the second Ocean Racing Technology car, Super Novas Josef Kral, Ardens Rodolfo Gonzalez and Vietoris.
Valsecchi was half a second faster than Filippi, however, and after closing the gap the pair of them ran side-by-side through Turns 11, 12 and 13 on the 19th lap before Filippi eventually had to concede in Turn 14. Thereafter, Valsecchi romped to victory which not even a brief second safety car period could jeopardise. Filippi kept Jakes at bay, and they completed the podium as Rossi held on for fourth on his debut ahead of Kral, Vietoris and Tridents Johnny Cecotto. Bird retired late in the race with brake problems, leaving fellow Briton Oliver Turvey to finish eighth in the second iSport car, and thus take pole for Sundays second race.
As the sprint event got underway, however, a slow-starting Turvey was pushed back to fourth with Vietoris seizing the lead from third, ahead of Kral and Rossi. Despite a mid-race safety car, caused by a spin by the Coloni of Will Bratt which in turn collected Oceans Fabio Leimer, Vietoris led from start to finish and clinched his maiden GP2 victory.
A charging Valsecchi took second on the last lap from third-placed Kral, while Turvey, Rossi, Cecotto, Piscopo and Filippi made up the top eight. After scoring 19 points over the weekend, Valsecchi now leads the series ahead of Vietoris on nine points.