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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Amna Al Qubaisi back to the top-5 in Jeddah round 5

Despite a rollercoaster of a fifth round, Amna Al Qubaisi was again close to a podium finish in the final race of the Jeddah meeting and ultimately claimed her fourth top-5 of the season, bouncing back from an unfortunate race 2 where she was again in the battle for the podium.

Amna Al Qubaisi, 2024 F4 Saudi Arabian Championship, Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus

Just a few days after the fourth round of the 2024 F4 Saudi Arabian Championship – where the series held its first race meeting on Saudi soil – cars hit the track once again at the scenic Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the fifth round.

The brand-new Saudi series has seen a noteworthy female presence since its non-championship Trophy Round in Bahrain, where Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi both stood on the podium. They would continue to battle for the top three and for outright wins throughout the season, with Hamda indeed taking victory at Kuwait Motor Town. With a podium at Lusail, her sister Amna was again a few tenths away from another top3 at Jeddah last week – and scored another fourth place a few days later, in a compact schedule that saw practice, qualifying and three races all in one night of frantic action.

While Aurelia Nobels only took the start in Qatar, Swiss racer Laura Villars had been making big improvements throughout her campaign – and scored points in all three races in Jeddah, with a personal best of fifth. Unfortunately, Villars was not back for the fifth round on Monday.

The usual pre-event open test day saw drivers collecting extra mileage before the Monday marathon, kicked off by the official practice. Hamda Al Qubaisi clocked a 2:08.717 that placed her fifth, showing that she would be again contesting for positions at the top.

Saqer Almaosherji took pole position in a closely fought qualifying, minutes after the official practice – where drivers had mostly limited their running to save tyres.

Amna Al Qubaisi was eighth fastest in the 30 minute qualifying, having improved in her two final runs. She was followed by her sister Hamda, ninth, who also improved on her final lap but couldn't quite put a lap together. In her first runs, the Emirati had been running in the top four, echoing her pace from the previous round where she had stepped on the podium.

Amna Al Qubaisi, 2024 F4 Saudi Arabian Championship, Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 1

Pole sitter Almaosherji stalled on the grid and left the sister car of Kirill Kutskov in the lead, as everyone took evasive action at lights out. Amna Al Qubaisi had a good start and challenged Omar Aldereyaane and Faisal Alkabbani, eventually slotting into seventh after the first lap, while her sister Hamda - who also had a great initial getaway - was involved in a first lap collision. Hamda dropped down the order and, having made it to the pits, she sadly had to retire from race 1.

The safety car was deployed, and the race resumed on lap 3; Kutskov had a great restart while Wurz and Al Rifai almost banged wheels at turn 1. The Austrian had to cut the corner but gave up the position gained without losing out to Petrovic as well. Amna Al Qubaisi hunted down Faisal Alkabbani and launched an attack into turn 1, but had to postpone her move. Alkabbani's defense also allowed Almaosherji – who had the chance to catch back the pack under safety car – to close in on the battling duo, and he found a way past Amna on lap 5.

With Petrovic and Wurz also losing time in a duel, Al Rifai set the fastest lap and caught Kutskov, ultimately grabbing the lead into turn 1 with a move outside the track limits. Al Rifai thus had to hand over the position – and Wurz was back in the mix for the top three. Wurz indeed found a gap and moved up to second one lap later.

Further down, Amna Al Qubaisi found again more speed and was a few tenths faster than Almaosherji and Alkabbani by lap 7. She would gain seventh place back when Almaosherji spun off, bringing out the safety car.

Action resumed for one last lap and Amna was glued to the back of the #7 silver car, fighting for sixth. With a last second move, Amna ended just 0.071 of a second behind Alkabbani, crossing the line in seventh place.

Kirill Kutskov survived the restart to win his first race in single seaters, two tenths ahead of Oscar Wurz and Federico Al Rifai.

Amna Al Qubaisi, 2024 F4 Saudi Arabian Championship, Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 2

Abdullah Al Qubaisi started for the first time ever on pole position in the reverse grid race, lining up alongside Abdullaziz Abuzenadah. From sixth and seventh on the grid, her sisters Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi had another chance to bounce back after the challenging start of the weekend.

Amna had another great launch but had to take a cautious line into turn 1, having been pushed to the outside. Amna still managed to find a way past Suleiman Zanfari for fifth, before having to defend from the recovering Federico Al Rifai. Hamda also got boxed in at turn 1, where she almost got pushed against the barrier and lost a few spots as a result.

While Abdullah Al Qubaisi initially lost the lead, he fought back with a beautiful pass on Abuzenadah on the second lap – before Alkabbani and Al Rifai got around him one lap later, in a three wide battle for the lead where Al Qubaisi defended well. Falling back to P11, Hamda made up more positions before the safety car was deployed for a contact between Oscar Wurz and Abdullaziz Abuzenadah. Amna, meanwhile, had kept her nose clean and reclaimed fifth, ready to pick up the pieces from the battles in the top three.

Alkabbani led the pack at the restart with 14 minutes to go, but was under pressure from Al Rifai, while Petrovic cleared Abdullah Al Qubaisi. Amna tried to find a way around her brother but unfortunately the siblings made contact and Amna crashed quite heavily into the Tecpro barriers.

Ahead, Al Rifai, Petrovic and Alkabbani had gone three-wide on the start finish line – and the driver of the white #10 car could grab the lead from Petrovic just before the safety car was deployed to recover Amna's vehicle. Abdullah was handed a 10 second penalty for the incident.

Hamda, on the other hand, had cleared a few more cars and advanced to sixth when the race resumed, although she wasn't quite close enough to take the fight to Kutskov. With a fast final lap, Petrovic pressured Al Rifai but the latter held on to win race 2. Hamda had her mirrors full of Omar Aldereyaane, but held on to P6 until the chequered flag.

Amna Al Qubaisi, 2024 F4 Saudi Arabian Championship, Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 3

Championship contenders Al Rifai and Petrovic lined up in second and third place for the final race of the fifth round, just behind Saqer Almaosherji who had shown impressive pace in qualifying.

Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi would have to fight up the order from eighth and ninth; despite the very compact weekend schedule, Amna's car could be fixed in time ahead of race 3 following her crash less than one hour before. Suleiman Zanfari's crash on the other hand resulted in the Moroccan having to miss race 3 and the sixth grid slot remained empty.

There was drama already at lights out with Andrej Petrovic stalling and being luckily avoided by the whole pack. Federico Al Rifai found a way past Almaosherji at turn 1 and had the chance to try to run away with the lead. Hamda Al Qubaisi had a good launch and was up to sixth, two places ahead of Amna who also gained a position over the first lap before completing another pass over Faisal Alkabbani for seventh on lap 2.

The bright green car driven by Oscar Wurz hit trouble and slowed down, triggering the safety car on lap 3. The Austrian had battled wheel to wheel with Kirill Kutskov – in a close duel that saw Hamda Al Qubaisi making up positions with opportunistic moves. At the race neutralization, in fact, Hamda was already up to fourth place, followed not so far away by Amna in sixth.

Al Rifai accelerated away at the restart and Hamda had her eyes firmly set on third – in a three car battle that saw Adereyeaane ahead and Almaosherji behind. The safety car had played in favor of Andrej Petrovic and the Serbian, now back with the pack, cleared Amna Al Qubaisi and then joined the battle for third. A double pass on Almaosherji and Hamda with 15 minutes to go brought him back in contention. Having lost two places, Hamda dropped to sixth – but a 10 second time penalty handed to Aldereyaane meant she remained in contention for the leading positions.

With four cars fighting for the same piece of real estate into turn 1, Aldereyaane turned into Petrovic – and Hamda Al Qubaisi had nowhere to go to avoid the spinning cars just in front of her. All drivers luckily emerged unhurt from the resulting big crash that obviously required the intervention of the safety car to clear the tangled cars, with the purple #8 Tatuus ending on top of Petrovic's red car.

Amna Al Qubaisi somehow avoided the pile up and grabbed fourth – and defended hard in the final lap of green flag racing. With her trademark hard but fair defensive drive, Amna brought home a valuable fourth place, behind Al Rifai, Kutskov and Almaosherji.

It was her best result of the weekend – echoing a fourth place in round 4, and a second best following a second place in Qatar.

Round 5 was not as prolific for Hamda Al Qubaisi, who recorded a best finish of sixth over the three races and will aim to fight back in a week's time, when drivers will gather again at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for the final race meeting of the season on 6-7 April.



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