Grapevine: Paddock Life: Yas Marina edition

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

Grapevine: Paddock Life: Yas Marina edition

The sun came down, quite literally, on perhaps the greatest F1 season at Abu Dhabi - as grand prix racing's only day-night race delivered a tantalising season finale and produced the sport's youngest ever world champion.

The Abu Dhabi event may only be in its second year, but the spectacular Yas Marina backdrop leaves those seeing it for the first time with their jaws wide open - and it is already proving a big hit with teams and fans.

While there were plenty of tired souls over the weekend - thanks to the tortuous back-to-back schedule with Brazil and the evening timetable that stretches the day out for everyone - one man not having any problems was a smiling Rubens Barrichello.

"The energy levels, as always, are high because I have lots of testosterone and lots of adrenaline," he smiled as he arrived at the Yas Marina circuit.

The organisers again put on a great show for the fans - with music concerts featuring Prince, Linkin Park and Kanye West. In the paddock, the guests flew in too - with footballer Patrick Vieira and comedian Simon Pegg jetting in to catch their F1 fever.

Judging by the spectacle - and the amazing atmosphere on the grid before the start - they would not have been disappointed.

The end of a season, just like the end of a school term before the summer break, is a time to wave goodbye to the friends and colleagues who have shared the long journey of the previous few months with you.

For some, the focus is already on Bahrain and the all-too short time over the winter to get ready for the 2011 season.

However, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marked the end of some peoples' current tenure in the sport - with some definitely not going to be around next year and others unsure of their futures.

The biggest name that waved goodbye for now was Bridgestone - whose tyres had become so linked with the sport and had provided so many drivers with race wins, world championships and special memories.

On Friday morning at Williams, in the return to a tradition of the summer season, the team opened its doors to the British media for a special farewell breakfast with top man and ace PR Liam Clogger, who is leaving the team.

Clogger, who became as well known for the excellent job he did for his team and the press as he was for delivering Union Jack place mats at the Friday morning press breakfasts, was presented with a special leaving card - a signed Union Jack flag!

Then, on Sunday morning, on the roof terrace at Force India it was time to wave goodbye to BBC Radio 5's pitlane reporter Holly Samos, who has decided to turn her back on the sport and go back to her love of music radio.

However, her work colleague and BBC radio commentator David Croft starting fuelling rumours - which some people actually thought were true - that she was quitting F1 to go work at a donkey sanctuary!

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marked the end of a long road for all the men battling for the world championship, but it also signalled the final hurdle for a few brave soldiers in the paddock too.

At the finish line of the Yas Marina track, several dozen people - including your correspondent here - completed their final track runs of the year.

Bookended by the desert heat of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, the season has seen some tired legs and sweaty feet bound their way through Eau Rouge, Parabolica, the new Silverstone, the fresh asphalt of Korea and the Monaco tunnel among other famous places.

It was a great journey for all involved, and the effort was made all the more rewarding for everyone thanks to Simon Morillas, from McLaren Electronics, who created a website - and world championship - for everyone to log their times.

www.runthattrack.info became a regular haunt for many paddock regulars, with times logged, world championship points awarded and some great graphics and information for us data-lovers to pour over.

In the end, it was Sutton Photographic's wire man Matthew Kingston-Lee who came out on top - ahead of Renault's engine man Fabrice Lom and Kangaroo TV's Christoph Leitold. Your own correspondent here did a bit of a new teams' special - and scored zero points!

Abu Dhabi was also quite a fitting place for the runners to get together, because track boss Richard Cregan revealed over the weekend thatYas Marina has starting opening its gates to the public on some evenings to allow runners and cyclists in.

"We open the circuit for social events," he said. "People can come here and train in safety from 6pm until 8pm once a week - and now we are looking at doing it twice a week.

"It gives back something to the community. We started with 20 people and at the last event we had 600 people - dividing the circuit between running and cycling. They go in different directions too so they don't crash into each other!"

It is not very often that Formula 1 drivers can enthuse about an experience outside of driving their cars, but there were wide-eyed comments from Ferrari's Felipe Massa early in the Abu Dhabi weekend.

The Brazilian joined team-mate Fernando Alonso for a ride on the world's fastest rollercoaster at the new Ferrari World theme park that has opened near the Yas Marina track.

Videos of the pair of them on YouTube caused a few giggles in the paddock - especially Alonso's face as he hurtles up to 240km/h - while Massa reckoned the experience was probably more intense than his actual F1 car.

"It is fantastic, really, really fantastic," said Massa when asked by AUTOSPORT about the rollercoaster. "It is really, really great. There are so many things to do at Ferrari World, with the simulators and the stuff for the kids - there is so much about the story of Ferrari, some nice cars - but then the rollercoaster is something really amazing.

"It was the best rollercoaster I've been to in my life because it is different to a normal rollercoaster that has loops and everything. This one is everything to do with speed - so the acceleration. It is 4.8G acceleration - while our acceleration in the car in 1.6G. Our braking can be up to 5G.

"So the acceleration is there, with a 240km/h speed - so for me it was amazing. The feeling you have from the speed is really amazing. And anyone who goes there becomes really, really impressed with this experience, and for me it was really one of the best feelings I had to enjoy myself.

"The best thing is that when you go there for the first time you are really impressed, but when you go for the second or third time, the most incredible thing is to see the people going for the first time who enjoy it so much. So everyone needs to go there and try it."

Karun Chandhok may not have raced for the whole F1 season, but in the short spell in the cockpit he made a pretty quick impression and fast became one of the most popular drivers in the paddock.

As well as proving his expertise in the commentary box with some appearances for BBC Radio 5 Live this year, he also kept in contact with all the news and gossip that was going on - as well as what fans thought - through Twitter.

But a fortnight ago in Brazil, Chandhok's jealousy at not being there while a lot of the F1 paddock got to see the new Senna film got the better of him.

As a big Senna fan he tweeted that if a single person from the paddock tweets him with how good the new Senna film is, then he will have to stalk its write Manish Pandey until he gets a private screening.

It opened up a floodgate of tweets to Chandhok, with any further comments he made over the course of the weekend all being linked to the Senna movie. Poor bloke!

But he took the abuse in great humour and at Abu Dhabi over the weekend he presented the guilty journalists who had wound him up with special T-shirts. Emblazoned across the front was: I saw the Senna movie before Karun!

The T-shirts were a huge hit in the paddock - and there were even a few fans who loved them so much that they want to get hold of copies themselves. You had better be quick though, because Chandhok has finally been promised a screening soon.

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