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Paddock Life: Yas Marina edition

AUTOSPORT brings you its regular column of life inside the paddock. This week: Yas Marina

At each race of the season, a few work colleagues and I sit down in the evenings and, if we are having a particularly good time, try and work out if that weekend has been 'the best grand prix ever!'

It is not a competition that depends on how entertaining the race is, or if the GP has been a particular hot bed of amazing news or gossip. Instead, it depends on the vibe of the event - have the facilities/hotel been particularly good? Have the evenings been fun? Has there been a party that stands out? Have there been some funny stories to lighten up the day? It could be the Nurburgring or Monaco - every GP has the chance to be the 'best ever'.

Abu Dhabi GPSo it was on Saturday evening, as I stood there sweating profusely about 10 metres away from the stage in front of the Kings of Leon, that I received a text message from one of my colleagues: "Are you at KoL? If so - the best GP ever!'

And, having experienced Abu Dhabi's first race, it was hard to argue against the effort that had been put in to the season finale. Yes, the track will never go down as one of the great challenges for drivers, but you could not find anybody in the paddock who could fault the facilities, the backdrop and the venue.

The Yas Hotel, and the way the cars blasted around the Marina, was truly, truly spectacular. The concept of a day-to-night race worked brilliantly and on television the whole facility looked fantastic.

But more than that, this was very much a weekend where the fans would have had a truly brilliant time. Beyond getting closer to the cars than they can at many venues, organisers made sure to deliver entertainment.

After the track action finished every evening, music was thrown on in the form of spectacular concerts that took place at one end of the soon-to-be-completed Ferrari World. Over the four nights there were concerts from Beyonce, Jamiroquai, Kings of Leon and Aerosmith. They were a great addition to the weekend, and proof of how big a success organisers can make a grand prix with a bit of thought.

And next year, there is every reason to feel the event could get even better. Renault's new sponsor, watch maker TW Steel, was one that felt F1 should be having a bit more fun off the track - and it has some grand ambitions to bring spectacle for both those in the paddock and fans next year.

So book your place for Yas Marina in 2010 now...

There is no doubt that if this year's event was a huge success, then next season there will be even more of a reason to visit the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That is because Ferrari World, the spectacular theme park that adjoins the Yas Marina circuit should be opened next year.

Ferrari theme parkA few lucky ones of us in the media were allowed inside the mammoth red structure that you could not help but notice from watching the race on television.

Below the huge Ferrari logo – which at 65 metres by 49 metres is the largest Prancing Horse in the world – there promises to be the best theme park for any petrol heads out there.

As well as simulators, log flume rides and driving experiences, perhaps the most spectacular thing will be the outside rollercoaster – that promises to be the fastest in the world.

Our host on the day reckoned that from a standing start it would accelerate to well beyond 200 km/h in just 4.5 seconds – pulling 4.5 G in the process! And that is before it climbs up to 52 metres high.

I know what I hope to be doing on the Wednesday before next year's race.

One of the most amazing aspects of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was how you could not move for big wig figures and celebrities.

While the Monaco Grand Prix has up to now provided the usual celebrity hot-spot of the season, there were some who reckoned that Abu Dhabi 'out-Monaco-ed' Monaco over the weekend.

Ron DennisAs well as the concert performers, Gavin and Stacey star James Corden flew in to watch proceedings. The Wailers were there, together with rapper Timbaland (whose real surname is Mosley!). Down at Red Bull Racing, England cricketer Freddie Flintoff was getting his bit of Formula 1 fever, while the teams themselves had more of their bosses present than ever before.

New FIA president Jean Todt flew in. Ron Dennis made his first appearance at an F1 race since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, while at Ferrari, president Luca di Montezemolo and Piero Lardi Ferrari kept tabs on things.

One of the more amusing scenes was on Saturday when di Montezemolo was asked to sign autographs for screaming fans watching from one of the stairways. After throwing up the pen and programme, he was greeted with shouts from the two men: "We love you Luca...."

Mercedes-Benz had many of its board members present at the race, while it ponders its future plans with McLaren and Brawn, while Peter Sauber also visited for what could well be, but hopefully is not, his team's final race. There was little doubt that Abu Dhabi was THE place to be if you had anything to do with motor racing last weekend.

With the world championship settled in Brazil, the Abu Dhabi weekend did not quite have the tense edge that we have been used to in recent races.

However, for Jenson Button and a few others, it allowed things to be a bit more relaxed – which I think everyone welcomed after such a frantic few weeks on the road.

The flyaway trek from Singapore-Japan-Brazil-Abu Dhabi left energy levels quite low, and many spent the weekend simply looking forward to a tiny bit of rest before the focus switches onto 2010.

On Saturday night, BMW hosted a farewell party for its 10 years in F1 – and it said much about how respected the team and manufacturer were that representatives from every team turned up. Hopes of ending the event at midnight soon got scuppered – as the party toured on until the early hours of race morning...

At Ferrari, the team showed how much things had relaxed and become more friendly in the Domenicali era as it hosted a small awards ceremony for the British media on Sunday morning. Your correspondent was unsurprised not to win either the best looking journalist, sweetest journalist, or funniest moment of the year award! It is just a shame there wasn't a trophy for largest calf muscles...

Will she or won't she?The end of the season also marks the time when people can start looking to life's proper priorities – especially family. And that is why post-race, it seemed that love was in the air.

Immediately after the finish of the race, Brawn GP chef Dave Freeman felt it was the right time to propose to his girlfriend Fatna Laachi – although she was not actually at the race. Instead, live on television, Freeman – who doubles up as the Brawn pit board man, sent his message out in the most public of ways.

Holding his pit board high above his head in the pits for camera crew, it read: "Will U Marry Me Fatna?" The answer was yes.

It was then left to Sebastian Vettel to wonder in the post-race press conference whether Freeman was not the only Brawn GP man heading for a winter wedding….

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