18-year old Hamda Al Qubaisi leaves Imola with her best Italian F4 result of her young career, as the Abu Dhabi racing driver claimed a P11 in her first full season in the championship.
After the Mugello season opener a few weeks ago, the Italian F4 Championship was back in action for the second 2020 round in Imola - as our eyes were all on young Emirati racing star Hamda Al Quabaisi, in her rookie full season of the Italian-based F4 championship after having previously joined the series in a couple of rounds last year alongside her sister Amna.
Hamda, after Red Bull Ring and Monza in 2019, then went on to compete in the F4 UAE championship, where the youngest of the Al Qubaisi sisters had an impressive campaign crowned by seven pole positions and three race victories, becoming the most successful female F4 driver.
Al Qubaisi lined up on the eleventh row in Imola, in a competitive 24-cars field that saw Prema driver Dino Beganovic and American Jack Crawford leading the group at the start.
It was a very chaotic Race 1 since the start, as Axel Gnos and Mateusz Kapzyk collided at the green light and immediately saw their race coming to an end. Starting from third, Jonny Edgar was protagonist of a great start and took the lead into the first corners before the Safety Car was called out, with pole sitter Beganovic dropping to P3 as he lost one more position from Filip Ugran.
Hamda Al Qubaisi had a good getaway as well and made a big jump ahead to gain P16 in the initial stages.
Half of the 30-minute race went away under the Safety Car and the green light returned with 16 minutes left on the clock. Again, the restart brought more position changes for Hamda, who made two place up through the field and placed the #88 Abu Dhabi Racing Prema in P14.
The three frontrunners Felip Ugran, Jonny Edgar and Dino Beganovic built a gap from the rest of the group and engaged in a compelling fight for the lead: the Romanian driver, though, defended his top spot firmly.
Hamda fought in the mid-field and , while she initially lost one position, she could immediately recover to P14 when Sebastian Freymuth was forced to return in the pit lane for a penalty.
On lap 7 Ugran and Edgar were again busy in side-by-side action but the Jenzer Motorsport young driver defended his lead from the Brit's attacks, while Van Amersfoort Racing American talent Crawford joined the battle for the podium, overtaking Beganovic one lap later.
Filip Ugran crossed the finish line in first after an extremely fought Race 1, followed by Edgar and Crawford.
Hamda Al Qubaisi ended with a very positive P14, reaching her best Italian F4 result so far.
Sunday's Race 2 had a massively delayed start due the difficult rain conditions on the Imola racetrack which forced the drivers to a stop after the warm up lap.
The challenging wet race started under the Safety Car, with only 16 minutes remaining on the clock. Polesitter Jonny Edgar shared the front row with Var Amersfoort Racing teammate Jack Crawford in second, while Hamda Al Qubaisi took the start from 16th place.
The tricky grip situation added to the very poor visibility on track and resulted in a quieter race at the top, as the leading trio held positions. On the other hand, the battle between the three Prema drivers Beganovic-Minì-Bortoleto for P4 was on fire.
Meanwhile, Hamda dropped a coupe of positions and suffered from thee mid-pack chaotic action.
On lap 6, GBR-S Bhaitech driver Dexter Patterson found himself trapped in the gravel at the Imola's Rivazza corner, triggering the Safety Car once again. With 7 minutes remaining, the race went back to green and Jack Crawford tried to attack for the lead and went side-by-side with Edgar, but the polesitter held off the move at Turn 1.
The battle between Pietro Delli Quanti and Iron Lynx member Leonardo Fornaroli was also at its apex, with the two drivers colliding at Imola's turn 2.
In the final laps, Hamda Al Qubaisi and Bence Valint also made contact and were off, retiring from the second race of the weekend. The Safety Car was again deployed and took the way of the pitlane for the very last lap of action: Jonny Edgar still had to defend hard from Crawford's pressure and, just like before, the American was forced to give up to the Brit's tenacity.
The two Red Bull Junior drivers crossed the line to take the chequered flag ahead the entire field, with Cram Motorsport's Italian racer Andrea Rossa finishing third.
Race 3 was arguably the most spectacular heat of the Imola F4 weekend.
The two drivers lining up on the first row of the grid, Crawford and Edgar, were protagonists of a good start and provided a thrilling wheel to wheel battle for the lead coming into the Tosa corner, with Edgar finally able to make the winning move on the VAR teammate. Meanwhile, Andrea Rosso took advantge from that fight to put his Cram Motorsport Tatuus in second place and, one lap later, he overtook Edgar to climb the standings into Turn 1. Hamda Al Qubaisi battled in P17.
The two Red Bull Junior members were again protagonists of more brilliant close racing, just before the Safety Car was called out following a contact between Filip Ugran and Jasin Ferati at Tamburello.
At the restart, the battle for P1 was at its peak once again, but Andrea Rosso showed great defensive skills and maintained the race leadership. Crawfort made a mistake that removed him from the run for the victory.
Starting from sixth, Francesco Pizzi was author of a great comeback and held P3 after the Safety Car restart. Pizzi made a move on Edgar for second just before the second neutralization caused by Simonazzi's car stranded into in the gravel.
The restart brought more exciting racing, this time between compatriots Rosso and Pizzi but once again the driver from Turin was able to defend his leadership, while Gabriele Minì passed Edgar for the third spot.
Al Qubaisi had a very positive run: she charged through the field and defended on the last lap an impressive eleventh place from the attacks of Patterson - showing more glimpses of her brilliant talent.
Andrea Rosso conquered a remarkable victory as Francesco Pizzi finished second after a stunning comeback. Edgar completed the podium after overtaking Minì in the closing laps.
One of the brightest talents from Middle East, Hamda Al Qubaisi crossed the finish line in P11 and brought home her best Italian F4 result of her career to date.
"Race 2 was a bit messy and I was pushed out in the last few laps so I couldn't finish the race, however we ended race 3 in P11 and P8 rookie!!"- wrote Hamda on her social media feeds.
The next Italian F4 round will be at the Red Bull Ring in two weeks time - the circuit where last year Hamda Al Qubaisi made her formula racing debut.