A top-15 finish for Hamda Al Qubaisi in Italian F4 season opener
Hamda Al Qubaisi started her rookie Italian F4 full season with a challenging Misano round, but showed glimpses of her potential in a charging third race.
The Italian Formula 4 Championship finally saw the green light for its 2020 season last weekend for the Misano inaugural round.
The Italian F4 Championship, widely considered one of the most competitive junior championships worldwide, again attracted some of the best young upcoming talents on its large grid, despite a clashing round with the German F4 championship at Lausitzring.
After taking part in two rounds in the past season, Emirati lady Hamda Al Qubaisi was ready to make her full season debut in the series, again under the banner of Abu Dhabi Racing team by Iron Lynx.
During the winter months, Hamda showed very convincing performances in the F4 UAE Championship, where she was able to battle for victory in most of the rounds and claimed 12 podium finishes and three race wins.
The #88 Abu Dhabi Racing driver again performed well during pre-season testing and provided glimpses of her potential during Friday's qualifying, where was 11th for the most of the session - but in the challenging final minutes, she was relegated to P18 for the first starting grid of the year.
Two of the most promising Italian talents, Gabriele Minì and Fracesco Pizzi, locked the first row and both were protagonists of a very solid Race 1 start.
Hamda advanced four positions in the opening lap and started to put pressure on Axel Gnos for P12 before the first Safety Car was called out for a contact suffered by Piotr Wisnicky.
At the restart, Hamda Al Qubaisi battled against Freymuth for P14 but, a few corners later, she was out and into the gravel, for an early unfortunate end of the race.
The second half of the race saw the fight for victory unfolding between Gabriele Minì and Francesco Pizzi, but the Van Amersfoort driver could not find the winning move on his rival - whose robust defensive driving won him the inaugural 2020 competition.
Francesco Pizzi crossed the finish line in second, after having to defend his position from the increasing pressure of Filip Ugran, who completed the Race 1 podium.
The second race saw the rise of another Italian up-and-coming driver - Andrea Rosso - who reached the spotlight last year when he finished on top at the FIA Motorsport Games at Vallelunga.
The driver from Turin had a great start off the line and immediately gained the lead from the second row, passing both Francesco Pizzi and Gabriele Minì. The latter dropped from pole all the way down to fifth place after a slow getaway as the lights went out.
Andrea Rosso led the race unchallenged until 9 minutes to go, when Filip Ugran tried an aggressive move on the leader but Rosso's defense was flawless.
Francesco Pizzi took advantage from the battle ahead and completed an amazing overtaking move on Ugran following a close duel in Misano's final sector.
The Italian and the Romanian drivers were back for more side-by-side action in the last lap of the race: this time it was Ugran to find the winning move that allowed him to score his second podium in a row.
The Van Amersfoort entry had to defend third place also from the attacks of Minì, as the two compatriots sprinted incredibly close towards the chequered flag.
Cram Competition's Andrea Rosso won the second race, followed by Filip Ugran and Francesco Pizzi - once again stepping on the Misano World Circuit podium.
It was a challenging second round for Hamda Al Quabaisi: after a prompt starting reaction from the ninth row, she moved up to P15 and managed to run mid-pack throughout the initial stages, until a wheel to wheel scrap against Bence Valint forced the Emirati girl to go offline.
The Abu Dhabi Racing driver recovered some positions when Valint and Cenyu Han made contact, also involving Fornaroli who was forced to pit for front wing damages.
After a Safety Car appearance half-way through the race - caused by Chinese driver Cenyu Han coming to a stop into the gravel - Hamda spun while battling in the midfield and dropped to P19, where she would ultimately finish the race.
The best result of the weekend came on Race 3 for Hamda, as she was able to charge through the field and recover several positions after a difficult start.
The lady from Abu Dhabi started from P17 but lost a couple of places right at the start. Soon after though, Hamda was able to complete some convincing moves and advanced to 14th position.
Francesco Pizzi, who started from the second grid slot behind polesitter Gabriele Minì, was quick off the line and controlled the entire race in dominant fashion. He was followed by Gabriele Minì and other Team Prema's driver Dino Beganovic.
Hamda Al Quabaisi will be back behind the wheel of the #88 Abu Dhabi Racing Tatuus car in Imola for the second round of the Italian F4 season on 29th-30th August.