The founder of F1 FanZone, Carlo Boutagy, shares his usual Formula 1 race day schedule with the Paddock magazine.
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No two races are the same for me but as the home of the most established F1 FanZone event, Abu Dhabi is one of the highlights of the race calendar for me.
The night before: With its waterside location and stunning state-of-the-art facilities the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has fast become one of the jewels in the F1 crown, people fly in from all over the world to experience the atmosphere and extravagant parties. After a busy day hosting my interactive F1 experience on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, however, I party less than most on Saturday night. I spend some time with some old friends and run through the plan for Sunday with a quick pitstop at the Corniche before heading to my hotel and to bed.
The morning always starts at 7.30 am, no matter what time my head hits the pillow, I have a coffee whilst checking my emails then hop in the shower. As I spend most of the day on my feet going between my event and the F1 paddock, I dress for the climate which is usually warm. I work with every team so I never wear anything that shows favouritism.
My first port of call before heading to the paddock is the Corniche to check that everything is in place ahead of the gates opening to the public. The vision behind the F1 FanZone™ is to create a unique interactive event space for people to experience the excitement of F1. We have driver autograph sessions, simulators, official merchandise and a whole raft of other ways in which people can really see behind the scenes of their favourite sport. The aim is to make F1 even more accessible and to create a fun-filled family day out. Once I’ve spoken with my onsite team and I have the all-clear that everything is running to schedule I jump in my car and head over to Yas Island and the F1 Paddock.
Once in the paddock, I make a beeline to my home from home, McLaren. I’m lucky in that I have great working relationships, and friendships, with all the teams but I’ve been a guest at McLaren since I was at my father’s side aged eight so I have a special affinity with the team. I have a quick espresso, check my emails and messages and then have my first meeting of the day. Race day for me is usually about two things: making sure the F1 FanZone™ is perfect and planning for next season which means lots of meetings with partners and sponsors – the F1 Paddock provides the perfect relaxed environment for this.
Throughout the pre-race build-up, I bring key F1 team personnel over to the event, usually, we have drivers, team principals and other key team people participate giving an insight into their world but on race day certain people are understandably otherwise engaged.
Before the race starts, I try to soak up the atmosphere with the crowd, it helps me stay inspired and understand the most important elements of the sport for fans and it’s where I get my best ideas. Then I usually have a quick and light working lunch at McLaren followed by my guilty pleasure, a sneaky bowl of chocolate Häagen Dazs – everyone has their vices!
As soon as the race starts, I’m already thinking ahead to the next event so I’m usually working during the race and I dip in and out of the action. I love to watch a tense race as much as the next F1 fan but when you are close to the people involved, it’s different, you want a strong race with lots of competition but you don’t want anyone to get hurt. It’s testimony to the incredible work of the teams and the FIA that remarkably few drivers are seriously injured these days.
Post-race, I check in with my event management team to make sure that everything is wrapping up well and I start planning the evening ahead. Sunday nights once the work is done are generally about relaxing and catching up with old friends before it begins all over again at the next race but as the final race of the season, we really let our hair down in Abu Dhabi. F1 is the world’s biggest travelling circus, we’re one huge family and we know how to party when the season comes to an end, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.