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Formula One Finale, Fighters and Fireworks in Desert

Your Monoposto Middle Eastern correspondent at large in Abu Dhabi

Etihad A380 with escort from MB339s of the Al Fursan (Knights) aerobatic team

I think I annoyed the FIA last year in 2014 when I was working as a circuit doctor.  One of the strict rules for circuit staff at F1 is No Mobile Phones.  It was a rule that I found a little difficult as a local working doctor with a practice to run and some very demanding, rich and tiresome patients.  To my embarrassment I had to take a call from a senior figure in the Pakistan government (like you do…) during a  discussion about why both the Red Bull drivers had been chosen for mandatory drug tests.  This came as a major insult to the team as both cars had just been relegated to the back of the grid for some other misdemeanor.  They were not happy bunnies.  So this year when I was informed that I was surplus to requirements  I wasn’t surprised.  My surgical skills were no longer needed on stand-by. To my amusement, my friend who is a dermatologist was asked to attend so I imagine any nasty F1 rashes could be sorted.

Despite this disapproval I was keen to be involved again so I joined the pit lane marshalling team.  I had worked with many of them at the Dubai 24 Hour race and they are a good bunch. My wife Jane and I duly did the training which involved an exam on everything involving the pit lane.  How to sweep up spills, how to ensure a safe release etc.  As usual I failed all the questions about the sequences of the red lights and their timing.  As a driver I just drop the clutch and drive off when the Reds go out, apparently there is more to it than that.  We did the mandatory training during the summer and practiced retrieving stranded cars from the grid in 45C sunshine.  For that exercise we had a couple of old Formula Palmer Audis to push around.  If you ever wondered where all those cars ended up,  they are in Abu Dhabi with three litre Mondeo V6 engines fitted. They are used at the race school and they are very nice little racing cars.

Being of a generally lazy nature I volunteered to work in the support pits for the race weekend.  Like Silverstone the support races work out of a different paddock and pit boxes. For those who know the circuit this section is down by the Marina, opposite  the big boats.  When I was a younger person back in the days when Formula 1 cars made a noise and were driven by blokes with sideburns and moustaches the support races were a big deal.  We used to get Formula 3, Historic racing, both single seater and saloon, Touring cars, even silly celebrity races where Blue Peter presenters and the like took to the track.  I remember some mad person in a JCB tractor called the ‘JCBGT’ doing wheelies down Hanger Straight one year.  Nowadays it would appear that these support races are no longer deemed suitable to grace a Grand Prix weekend.  We get GP2 and GP3 and that’s it. I remember a visit to Monaco in 2008, it rained all day, we had a Porsche Cup race and a World Series by Renault race and the Grand Prix of course.  Not a great deal of entertainment for the price of a small house in Yorkshire.  Well nothing has changed in 2015, three races on Grand Prix days and that’s the lot for the paying spectator.

GP2 and GP3 are very worthy series to be associated with the Formula 1.  GP2 cars are what I would call proper cars.  Four litre normally aspirated V8s producing about 650BHP.  No messing around with turbos, hybrids or energy recovery systems. The only thing they have in common with F1 is the DRS option and some very soft tyres. They make a noise that makes your ears bleed.  They are so loud that permanent deafness would be the result without decent ear defenders.  Bolting that much hot metal onto the back of what looks like a very workman-like bit of carbon fibre Dallara is the recipe for a truly superb racing car.  All that is then needed is to drop in a bunch of 50kg talented teenagers with an attitude problem and trouble is not going to be far away.  GP3 cars are very similar only with 400BHP V6 engines and even younger pilots.  Wouldn’t it be nice if one day these cars found their way down the motorsport food chain to us in Monoposto?  I think Messrs Watts, Venn, Timms, Cater et al would put on a great show for us. (And Blockley & Sergison- asst ed)

As workers in the support pits our main task was to ensure that the trains of buggies taking the team personnel  and pit lane kit to the proper pits got away safely.  The buggies  go the ‘wrong’ way around the track to reach their destination. Then getting the cars started and driven the ‘right’ way around the track and finally getting the last few mechanics on a bus to the F1 pitlane, again the ‘wrong’ way.  This was quite a logistic feat as several times we had the GP2 teams going one way and the GP3 people coming the other.  Many of the mechanics are of a Latin temperament and are not naturally suited to the discipline that this requires.  In the end only one mechanic was found crossing the track on foot during a live session.  He was given counseling as were the local flag marshals. Single seater race cars move very fast even when going slowly to the grid.  I think the man concerned has worked this out now.

In the end, the second GP2 race was abandoned. A third of the cars were involved in the Mother of All Shunts at turn one, lap one.  Eight flat bed trucks brought these rather heavily modified cars back to the support pits.  Fortunately none of the drivers were hurt.  One young wannabe F1 star collapsed when he got back to us but I think that was when the team manager showed him the cost estimate for the repairs.  The Dallara company occupy a whole pit box and bring enough spares to build several new cars.  The nice Italian lady with a laptop who spent the whole weekend at her desk in the pit box was very busy that night. How did all the other sub-F1 race car manufacturers like Lola, Ralt, Reynard and Van Diemen ever let Dallara get all the business?

Stoffel Vandoorne  is clearly the class of the field in the GP2 pack, his McLaren liveried car was easily the best prepared, run and driven.  Stoffel won the GP2 race at Abu Dhabi in 2014 as well as in 2015.  One wonders what he needs to do to get into Formula One.  It is clear that the lack of progression from the feeder series to the main series is not actually happening very often .  Considering the huge budget needed for GP2 they are questioning the value when so few drivers get taken onto the top tier.  Pastor Maldonado still has a drive though.  As usual it was turn one problems for our favourite Venezuelan during the Grand Prix.

A bunch of layabouts on a lorry

Once the support races were run we had to get all the cars and teams back in their garages and shut their doors.  FOM let us know that they didn’t want any scruffy support cars and mechanics visible on the TV during the main event.  Considering many of the support drivers and crews are fans as well as competitors banning them from actually viewing the race seemed a little harsh.  So once GP2 lockdown was complete our jobs were done and we could relax and watch the Grand Prix.  Jane took up her place on the wall and I watched from the start gantry above the support grid.  This open box is over the track with the cars coming under it, it also afforded a view through several turns and the marina sequence.  I don’t suppose it’s actually possible to get any closer to the action.  It was a couple of hours to remember.  My view was superb but the race was a bit dull though.  Why Lewis didn’t go for some super softs and give it a real go during the final part of the race - I don’t understand?  It was sad to watch Fernando Alonso pottering around at the back of the field in a car that was just so slow in a straight line.  That Honda V6 just isn’t up to the job is it?

The race may have been uneventful but as always Abu Dhabi put on a spectacle.  The Airbus 380 and fighter jets in formation at a couple of hundred feet were quite a sight and the fireworks and fog horns from the boats at the chequered flag very spectacular.  The stunning images of racing cars running hard into the desert sunset are as real and picturesque in life as they are on the TV.

I caught up with the medics after the race.  I think I had a lucky escape, apparently they were also on lock down throughout the event.  They were stuck in the medical centre with nothing but a fuzzy, silent TV and some curly sandwiches for company. I think I had a better deal even though the pay for marshals is only 10% what it is for doctors, I can cope with that for a weekend.  Three twelve hour days were a tough call in the desert heat and we were  so tired that we never made it to the free concerts (Enrique, Florence and Blur this year) but there is no doubt that whatever our local GP here in the UAE  is, it isn’t like Mallory park on a rainy day.

Steve Griffin


 Disclaimer: The above represents only the unofficial view of the writer and not of the Monoposto Racing Club in any way whatsover. Subheadlines and captions are not necessarily originated from the named author. If any pictures are copyright and the owner wishes them removed please email us.



The Viceroy Hotel Yas Marina (they do a very nice lunch).
A proper noisy F1 car.
Another proper noisy F1 car.  Points for identifying the engines.

Our Nige with suitable aero- 'tashe.
Emerson with go-faster sideburns.
JCBGT, sheer silliness.
Mrs G keeping the riff raff off the pit wall to please Bernie.

A proper car. Stoffel Vandoorne's GP2

The Honda engine that McLaren should be using, they might even win something if they use this one.
The engine McLaren are using (artist's impression)