Published April 23rd, 2009 - 12:01 GMT

Ferrari F1™ driver, Felipe Massa, roared into Abu Dhabi this week on a quick pit-stop that included a visit to Yas Marina Circuit, the venue for the final race of the 2009 Formula 1™ season and potentially the FIA Formula 1™ World Championship decider.

Massa was the special guest of Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates and sponsor of the famous Ferrari F1™ team for whom he drives. The Abu Dhabi-based airline is also the three-year title sponsor of November's inaugural ‘Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’.

As well as hosting a F1™ question and answer session with Etihad staff at the airline’s new head office, Massa enjoyed a helicopter flight over Abu Dhabi’s new Yas Marina Circuit.  Later in the day, Massa joined one of the airline’s pilots on the flight deck of an Etihad Airways flight simulator where he was given a more unusual aerial view of the track.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ chief commercial officer, said: "These are exciting times in Abu Dhabi as the date of the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gets ever closer. We were extremely privileged last September to get an opportunity to host Massa’s Ferrari team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, so Felipe’s visit represents a fantastic ‘one-two’ for Etihad.

Felipe Massa said: “"It's the most incredible circuit. Abu Dhabi will definitely become regarded as one of the best in Formula 1. I am also really looking forward to coming back here in November. It's a fantastic place with great facilities here for the drivers."

Ferrari is already developing a close association with Abu Dhabi, through a new USD 600 million, 2,500 acre theme park being built in the Emirate, also on Yas Island. The team is also sponsored by Mubadala Development Company, the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government. The company purchased in 2005 a five per cent stake in Ferrari.

Tickets have already gone on sale for the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which will take place in Abu Dhabi between 30 October and 1 November. The five Etihad Holidays shops in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain have been kept busy, with many fans queuing outside before the shops opened during the first few day after tickets went on sale.

Etihad’s partnership with the inaugural F1™ Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi has continued to gather speed with the recent addition of a special Formula 1™ logo near the tail of its fleet of more than 40 aircraft. The airline has also painted two of its aircraft, an Airbus A320 and A340, with an iconic special F1™ livery.

Mr Baumgartner added: “Hosting the final race of the 2009 Formula 1™ season and potentially the FIA Formula 1™ World Championship decider is a great honour and tremendously exciting for Etihad as the race’s title sponsor. The three days of practice, qualifying and racing will provide a wonderful opportunity to showcase our airline and Abu Dhabi to the rest of the world.”

Etihad's involvement with the Ferrari F1™ team is one of a growing number of high-profile sports sponsorships for the airline, and complements existing partnerships with Chelsea Football Club, Harlequins Rugby Football Club, the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championships and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. The airline has also recently secured the naming right for the famous Telstra Dome stadium in Melbourne, which from March became the Etihad Stadium.

Photo caption:  Felipe Massa takes a tour of the new Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, as part of ‘Massa Day’ organised by Etihad Airways, sponsors of the famous Ferrari F1 team for which he drives.

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