Amna Al Qubaisi makes history and wins in Abu Dhabi
19-year old Emirati racer Amna Al Qubaisi became the first woman to win a F1 support race, as she took victory from pole in the first F4UAE race in Abu Dhabi.
It was today's big story: Amna Al Qubaisi won the Formula 4 UAE first race at YAS Marina, becoming the first woman to take victory in a FIA single seater event.
Al Qubaisi made headlines on most international media and the 19-year old Emirati girl received unprecedented and deserved attention throughout the biggest day of her life as a racing driver.
Amna, racing alongside her younger sister Hamda, led every session this weekend: the two Emirati sisters took a commanding 1-2 in the practice session, while Amna later clinched pole position ahead of other Italian F4 regular Nicola Marinangeli.
Hamda was fifth, while Saudi female racer Reema Juffali took the start from 10th and Scot Logan Hannah was 13th on the grid.
Al Qubaisi had a difficult getaway but managed to stay ahead of Xcel Motorsport driver Marinangeli and defended well in the opening stages. She then got into her own rhythm and started to pull away from the rest of the pack, as the battle for second and third increased in intensity.
Championship winning team Xcel Motorsport dominated the battles behind, with Tijmen van der Helm having to surrender third on the last lap when his suspension failed. The Dutch driver, previously competing in the Spanish F4 championship, had thus to retire, paving the way to the podium to teammate Alex Connor.
After 12 laps, Amna Al Qubaisi crossed the line with a 3.6 seconds advantage over Marinangeli and claimed the first ever victory in formula cars for an Arab woman, under the eyes of her home crowd and of Formula 1 teams and media. She parked her #88 Abu Dhabi Racing F4 car and hugged her mother and father, experienced GT driver Khaled Al Qubaisi, before heading to the podium.
"It means a lot to me, especially winning in my home track, in my home town. It's undescribable how I felt, it's amazing. I felt so emotional because, you know all the hard work, all the travelling, all the practice, blood, sweat, tears and training in Italy, it finally paid off." - commented an emotional Al Qubaisi.
"I had a bad start so I had to block for a few laps and the drivers behind me managed to get the slipstream, but throughout the first few laps I managed to block well and keep my position.
That's when I managed to pull a gap, when he [Marinangeli] was fighting with the competitors behind him."
"This will hopefully open sponsorship opportunities for me, since next year we didn't really have much sponsorship for F3, but now this is going to open new doors for me. Huge thanks to my sponsors, Kaspersky Lab, Abu Dhabi Racing, Renoir Consulting and Omeir Travel Agency. They believed in me and hopefully next year we're gonna stick with them."
Her 17-year old sister Hamda, at her third ever formula race, had a very solid race and, after lining up in fifth, was set for a fourth place finish before being overtaken by Dragon Racing's Manaf Hijjawi, from Jordan. She nonetheless finished in the top-5, an outstanding result for the youngest Al Qubaisi with such a small F4 experience.
Logan Hannah had a great start off the line and managed to further advance during the race to finish eighth, while Reema Juffali was 12th.
"After having a mechanical failure and limited track time, today was all about making up positions and gaining confidence in the car." - said Hannah after a very positive performance. "Off the start I was able to make up 3 positions and after making up another 2 during the race I was able to finish P8. Looking forward to being right in the middle of the battle tomorrow for the race and still looking to make up some more positions!"
Tomorrow's second race from the non-championship event in Abu Dhabi will go underway at 12:00 local time, with Amna Al Qubaisi starting again from pole position.
Cover photo credits: Prema Racing
Other ph: RacersBehindTheHelmet.com