Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi: The world's largest indoor theme park

Any second now I'll be feeling what it's like to accelerate off the Grand Prix grid in pole position in a Formula One Ferrari. Intimidated? Of course not. How tough can Ferrari World's main attraction – Formula Rossa – be? Sure, it's renowned for being the world's fastest rollercoaster, but it's just an amusement park attraction, right?

The previous evening, as friends and I had dinner at Abu Dhabi's Yas Viceroy – the only five-star hotel in the world to straddle a Formula One circuit – our Italian alfresco meal had been rudely interrupted by an ear-abusing roar.

With just days to go before the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – "the Duel in the Desert" – Sebastian Vettel's red Ferrari was being put through its paces.

We'd strolled over to a deck looking down on the Yas Marina Circuit.

"Formula One cars go much slower than I thought," said one member of our party, sipping her champagne. "They seem to spend most of their time braking," said another.

Perhaps that's why I had been overconfident when I'd arrived at Ferrari World.

But now I'm sitting nervously in one of the rear seats of Formula Rossa, ready for adventure.

Excitement mounts as the sleek red rollercoaster moves slowly to the start line. Ahead lies the starting straight, followed by a steep ascent, an equally dramatic descent and a series of twisting loops – inspired by Monza, the Italian Formula One circuit.

Then, SO suddenly, we're off...

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The abrupt acceleration is far beyond anything I had been expecting. From standstill to 100km/h takes us two seconds – faster than any commercially available Ferrari. After five seconds, we have reached the maximum speed – 239km/h.

The woman in the next seat is screaming her lungs out, but I'm terrified into silence. I later read that Formula Rossa's Swiss-designed and built hydraulic launch system produces the same kind of release velocity as the catapults which fire planes off an aircraft carrier.

Our bodies are subjected to 1.7Gs on the initial straight, but just when I think we've endured the worst, we reach the first summit and start plunging down, twisting as we go.

Now the screaming gets deafening. As we hurtle through these loops and bends, we're feeling 4.8Gs. Apparently even space shuttle astronauts feel only 3Gs on take-off.

Our entire two-kilometre ride takes just 92 seconds, and I've never felt more nauseous in my life. Yet fellow passengers – including the screaming woman next to me – break out into spontaneous applause when we stop.

Some are even talking about immediately heading over to Flying Aces, Ferrari World's latest attraction (two more rides are planned for 2017) which boasts the world's steepest and fastest cable lift and the world's steepest inverted loop.

Not for me, I'm afraid. From now on I'll stick to the tamer versions of Ferrari World's 20 attractions.

Any first-time visitor soon discovers Abu Dhabi is obsessed with cars. It's no coincidence the world's largest BMW showroom – selling everything from Rolls-Royces to motorbikes – opened in the United Arab Emirates capital in 2012. Even "collectable" number plates go for obscene amounts: a 32-year-old paid the equivalent of $A11 million for the vanity plate "Abu Dhabi 1" while we were there.

Since the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009, it has always been the final event of the season, and the only Formula One day-night race – making it a drawcard for local and international fans alike. At other times of the year you can ride a bike or run a half marathon around the Yas Marina Circuit, even drive a variety of elite cars or attend a Formula One driving course.

But it's Ferrari World – the world's largest indoor theme park – that has become the city's biggest tourist attraction since it opened in 2010. It is housed under an enormous, futuristic red dome inspired by the famous Ferrari marque and sleek car designs.

There is something for most ages. "Fast fun", like the Fiorano GT Challenge (where you race your friends in competing coasters) or the Scuderia Challenge in state-of-the-art racing simulators.

"Family fun", such as "Speed Of Magic" (a 4D fantasy adventure) and the Tyre Change Experience (where you try your hand at being a pit stop mechanic). Shows like Red, which includes BMX biking and acrobatic dancing. Plus an array of kitsch Italian-themed restaurants and shops selling every kind of Ferrari memorabilia.

Do you have to be a Ferrari enthusiast to enjoy it? No, though you'll need to love red.

One tip: queues are shorter when Ferrari World opens at 11am, but make sure you've digested breakfast before you line up for Formula Rossa. I wish I had.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

visitabudhabi.ae

traveller.com.au/abu-dhabi

GETTING THERE

Etihad Airways flies twice daily to Abu Dhabi from Sydney and Melbourne, and daily from Brisbane and Perth. Economy from $1966.59. See etihad.com

STAYING THERE

The five-star Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi is a resort-style hotel built over part of the Yas Marina Circuit, an ideal place to watch the Grand Prix. There are seven restaurants, three bars, a nightclub, two swimming pools and a spa. See viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/abudhabi

PLAYING THERE

Ferrari World is open 11am-8pm. Some attractions work on a timed ticket system, so book when you first arrive. See ferrariworldabudhabi.com

Yas Marina Circuit has a range of events and experiences throughout the year. See yasmarinacircuit.com/en/events

Steve Meacham was a guest of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, Etihad Airways and Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi.

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