ABU DHABI // Thousands of residents flocked to the Formula One FanZone on the Abu Dhabi Corniche on Friday to take part in a series of activities.
Long queues lined up on the Corniche as visitors of all ages impatiently waited to experience virtual car races and simulators.
From virtually driving the fastest car on the F1 tracks of the Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island to painting and piano playing, young children and adults alike enjoyed a number of activities at the F1 FanZone.
“When I was driving [the car], it felt real to me, as if I was controlling the entire car manoeuvring, speeding, breaking and then again accelerating,” said Naser Al Zaabi, a 15-year-old Emirati who took part in the driving test at the Virtual Reality Zone. “It was a truly amazing experience as I was driving an F1 car on the track. It is the first time I try such a simulator and the sounds and shakes felt real. Sometimes I was afraid of hitting the corners or the other cars.”
Abdullah Al Zaabi, a 16-year-old Emirati, called the experience exciting. “Now I am going to watch the F1 race on Saturday and Sunday at Yas Island,” he said. “I didn’t imagine that it was going to be that fun but it was.”
Yousuf Mahmoud, 10, enjoyed bursting electric fire balls on the screen. “It was a fun game,” said the Kenyan. “I enjoyed [the part] when I had to protect myself from fireballs.”
Others said they considered the F1 as one of the greatest sporting events to happen in the capital.
“Abu Dhabi is doing a great job in promoting this sporting event,” said Mahmoud Saleem, a 49-year-old who came with his family. “People wait for this event each year in November when the weather is good.”
A 25-year-old Kenyan said the Fanzone was improving every year. “All of Abu Dhabi’s families and youngsters gather to experience and learn about the race,” he said. “Now you can [see] so many simulators which we didn’t have before. They have stalls for health awareness and fitness as well this time.”
The games and simulators on display offered entertainment and lessons on safety and security while driving behind the wheel.
“I learnt not to speed too much if I can’t control the curves,” said 16-year-old Emirati Ali Al Hosani, who tried the F1 car simulator. “It also helps [learn] how to judge speed, breaking and control behind the wheel.”
The Emirates Driving School also explained to people about the safety aspect when a motorist is buckled up by staging a car rolling upside down with people wearing seatbelts.
Vaibhav Lamba, a 16-year-old from India said: “The experience was quite good and thrilling and it taught me the importance of wearing a seatbelt. It showed us what would happen if we don’t wear a seatbelt in case of an accident when a car rolls over.”
Jovian Monterio, also from India, said he tried the fitness stalls. “It’s good to try different kinds of sports pertaining to the F1,” said the 16-year-old. “While others tell us about safety while driving.”
As thousands flocked to the open air theatre where popular singers belted out songs, fans danced and chanted for more.
Al Sahil Beach on the Corniche has been buzzing since Thursday with a line-up of international superstar performances, including Sean Paul, Arabian songstress Nancy Ajram, Filipino mega-star Yeng Constantino, former X-Factor Arabia finalist Adham Nabulsi and charismatic hip-hop star Travis Scott as well as fast-rising British urban duo Krept and Konan.
They will be performing at the Corniche until Saturday.