Al Qubaisi recovers 7 positions despite slow start, Weug misses opportunity in Imola race 1
In a very challenging race for both the female drivers of the Italian F4 championship, Hamda Al Qubaisi recovered 7 positions despite a slow start off the line, while Maya Weug couldn't capitalize after a good qualifying and was P21 after a rough start.
Having entered the last rounds of the ADAC Formula 4 Germany to build more experience alongside their full-season in the Italian F4 powered by Abarth, Hamda Al Qubaisi and Maya Weug made their return to the Italian-based series this weekend for the fourth round of the 2021 calendar, contested at Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari at Imola. Al Qubaisi and Weug – currently two of the most promising female racing drivers in single-seaters – enjoyed a very positive first half of the season: the Emirati driver, at her second full-time campaign in the Italian F4, has often qualified in the top-10, was three times in the points and famously claimed her first podium in Misano. Weug, winner of the inaugural FIA Women In Motorsport's "Girls on Track: Rising Star" program, was awarded the prestigious contract with Ferrari Driver Academy and was granted a seat in Italian F4 to make her single-seater debut following a world-class karting career. The Belgian-Dutch racer has made incredible steps forward race after race: she was quickly within the top-15 – in a over 30-car field featuring some of the most promising up-and-coming talents in formula racing – and claimed her first top10 finish at her first entry in the German series. At Vallelunga, one month ago, Weug was closer than ever to score her first championship points – but in such a elite field, the FDA driver has to watch the "Rookie" standings, which better conveys her achievements: Weug is fifth in the classify for rookie drivers, having stepped on the podium in three occasions. At the pre-event test at Imola, Hamda Al Qubaisi confirmed her pace in the high-end of the classify, leaving the young racer with high hopes for the race weekend. Unfortunately, she hasn't been able so far to find that confidence and struggled into practice and qualifying. On Friday, an issue was discovered on Al Qubaisi's Prema Tatuus after the afternoon's session, but still Hamda was able to finish P13 in FP1, six tenths off the pace-setter. On the other hand, it was a really strong start of the weekend for Maya Weug, who was seventh and eighth overall – second among the rookies. On Saturday morning, the Iron Dame was P11 in Q1, while a mistake in the second session terminated her run with 2 minutes left on the clock in the gravel at Rivazza – bringing out the red flag. The session was not restarted and she couldn't improve her 16th place. Hamda Al Qubaisi had another difficult day and couldn't do better than P25 in Q1 and P18 in Q2. While the Emirati star couldn't get in the rhythm in qualifying, her strong race pace and racecraft was surely going to move her up the order. Throughout the weekend, Oliver Bearman and Sebastian Montoya traded positions at the top of the timing-sheets, with the Briton claiming pole positions – ahead of an impressive Leonardo Fornaroli, second in both sessions. The start of the first race turned out to be a messy one for several drivers on the 30-car field: unfortunately, two of them were Hamda Al Qubaisi and Maya Weug, who both stalled and dropped to the tail-end of the grid. Bearman got away well and led Fornaroli and Montoya. At the second corner of the second lap, though, Fornaroli attacked the Colombian and was deep into Tamburello, locking up his front wheels and cutting across the gravel run off. The cloud of dust ignited a series of contacts behind, with Bizzotto running into the back of Bence Valint. Cenyu Han was also off as he tried to avoid the accident. Inevitably, the Safety Car was deployed, with Bearman continuing to lead over Montoya and Smal. Amidst the chaos, Al Qubaisi managed to recover to P25 after only one lap, just ahead of Weug. But the drama wasn't over yet: at the restart, Kiril Smal hit his Prema teammate Montoya after the Rivazza corner: the Russian damaged his front wing but continues, while the son of the former F1 driver was apparently unharmed. Smal came under pressure from compatriot Nikita Bedrin, but held on. Soon after, though, Bedrin lost his front wing and, when it got stuck underneath his SMP-sponsored Prema, he had to pull off after Tosa. Further down the field, Hamda Al Qubaisi and Maya Weug battled hard for P22, as the Prema driver wasn't ready to give up the position. Hamda worked her way up to 18th place, in a quick progression. There was more chaos in the midfield, as Durksen spun at Variante Alta, Ried was pushed off in the gravel at Rivazza and Weug got caught in the messy action, dropping back a few places to 24th. Montoya was looking like the only driver able to challenge Bearman today – but not for long: the Colombian also slowed down for a technical issue – reportedly not linked to the previous contact. Montoya retired and left a Van Amersfoort 1-2-3: Bearman extended his lead from Bedrin and Dufek – with only Braschi close enough to the third-placed car to worry the Dutch team. Braschi set the provisional fastest lap of the race on lap 6 and put pressure on Dufek, until a technical issue put the Italian out of contention for the final podium spot with three laps to go. This promoted Erick Zuniga to fourth, but the Van Amersfoort drivers could sail to a triumphant 1-2-3 across the finish line. Oliver Bearman, over three seconds ahead, took a solitary win preceding Nikita Bedrin and Joshua Dufek, as Conrad Laursen was fifth – the top-placed Prema driver and second in the rookies. Hamda Al Qubaisi swapped positions with Cenyu Han before settling for 18th – gaining seven places despite her difficult start off the line. In what felt like a missed opportunity after all the chaos unfolding ahead, Maya Weug was P21 at the end of the first race, after another off-track excursion in the latter stages while she battled with Cram Motorsport's Georgios Markogiannis. Both Hamda and Maya certainly have what it takes to turn around their weekend tomorrow, with two more races scheduled on Sunday.