Lewis Hamilton goes racing on an Abu Dhabi helipad

The St. Regis hotel hosted the three-time world champ in a quite extraordinary F1 sponsor event.

Neil Churchill November 27, 2016

While F1 drivers are often said to have the best jobs in the world, it’s not all fast cars and parties.

Being one of the world’s most expensive sports, F1 relies on sponsorship from a very varied group of consumer brands to keep it going. Which means the drivers have to make appearances, endorse products and shake a lot of hands on race weekends to help keep those sponsors happy.

With its status as a global city, guaranteed good weather and as the final race of the season, Abu Dhabi is a hotbed for sponsor activity, and this weekend has been no different. 

The two names on everyone’s lips, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, can testify to that with Hamilton unveiling Mercedes-AMG’s new GT R track car last Thursday and Rosberg taking part in an open Q&A with watch sponsor IWC the day before. But it was another event Hamilton took part in just last night that really caught our eye. 

It was only the other day we were telling you about the St. Regis Abu Dhabi turning its helipad into an exclusive venue for sunset dinners. But on Saturday evening it became the venue to something else entirely. 

In partnership with the Mercedes AMG F1 team, the hotel’s parent company Starwood hosted an ultimate ‘SPG Moment’ with the British driver, in another UAE helipad first for the luxury brand. 

At 255-metres high and with the stunning backdrop of Abu Dhabi’s skyline, the three-times Formula One world champion took part in a high-tech simulation race, with only a few lucky fans for company.

The stunt was part of the hotel’s global loyalty programme, Starwood Preferred Guest, which has been a strategic partner of the Mercedes team since 2012, and often hosts the team as they travel around the world.

But it was every bit as extraordinary for its unique location and stunning views as it was for the wider scenario; just a few hours earlier, Hamilton had qualified on pole at the Abu Dhabi GP, and around 18 hours later would be defending his world championship. 

“The energy on the helipad of The St. Regis Abu Dhabi was incredible, and the views were spectacular.  It was a fantastic evening with our partners at SPG and some amazing fans,” Hamilton said afterwards in a statement.

The event was also a great advert for Abu Dhabi and its stunning cityscape. Daniel Kerzner, vice president of digital, loyalty and partnership marketing at SPG, said as much: “Tonight’s event at The St. Regis with Lewis Hamilton was literally over the top, suspended high over the magnificent Abu Dhabi skyline. We were able to capture some breath-taking social first content that will support a massive online campaign in the coming days. We’re thrilled to be able to showcase Abu Dhabi to the world like never before.”

It goes to show that the hottest F1 ticket in town isn’t always the one trackside. If you know the right sponsor, you can get even closer to the action at one of the many partner brand events. Suddenly it makes a lot of sense to be on a luxury brand's loyalty programme.