Amna Al Qubaisi scored her first points in F3 with a tenth place in the second race of Formula Regional Asia, then escaped unhurt from a scary crash at the start of race 3. Her sister Hamda was unlucky with technical issues that resulted in a DNF and a P14.
Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi were protagonists of a really positive first day of racing at YAS Marina Circuit on Saturday, as the two sisters kicked off their 2022 season in Formula Regional Asian Championship with a P12 and P14 in Race 1. Hamda, 19, made her very first start in Formula 3 machinery and was immediately close to a top-10 finish, ultimately crossing the line in P12 after a late Safety Car neutralization.
Amna, 21, also impressed with a solid race and equalled her personal best F3 result with P14. The first Emirati female racer was in fact returning to racing after a year, having last entered a race in the 2021 Asian F3. Her last full time season was in the 2019 Italian F4 championship, as she unfortunately sat out 2020 due to the challenges of the pandemic. On Sunday morning, the second race of the weekend was therefore looking promising for Hamda and Amna, who lined up on row 6 and 7 for the reverse grid race. Gabriel Bortoleto and Joshua Dufek - respectively tenth and ninth in Race 1 - shared the front row of the grid: the Brazilian had a perfect start and held the lead into Turn 1; Amna Al Qubaisi also had a good getaway, but then got stuck in the fierce midfield battles and both the Abu Dhabi by Prema drivers dropped to 14th and 15th position after one lap. Their father Khaled had no luck and was hit at the end of the first lap, causing an early retirement of the #66 car. Bortoleto was able to open a small gap in front, while Isack Hadjar (Hitech GP) snatched second from Dufek, having started seventh on the grid. Fluxa and Leclerc rounded out the top five in the early stages. Cem Bolukbasi was also eager to make up positions and passed both Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi as he tried to reach the point scoring positions - Amna would overtake Morales for 17th a lap later. On lap 5, Beganovic, Minì and Montoya went wheel to wheel at Turn 9 and made contact; both the Swede and the Italian were out of the race and the Safety Car halted the action. Hamda Al Qubaisi had just been attacked by Pepe Marti and Oliver Goethe, but held on to the 15th place. The race resumed with 15 minutes left on the clock, but Hamda Al Qubaisi pitted soon after and retired due to technical issues. "[It's] my first weekend in F3, I'm really proud of that. It's been fun so far, I've been getting into the pace and already scored a P12 in my first race. It could have been P10, so I'm happy about the pace. In Race 2 I had a technical issue", explained Hamda after the race, as she was getting ready to bounce back. Positions continue to change in the top-10; Hadjar set the fastest lap and closed in on Bortoleto, while Montoya advanced to fifth with a remarkable pass around the outside. The race would see a second neutralization with 7 minutes to go when Cem Bolukbasi, Pepe Marti and Hadrien David collided at Turn 6, triggering the second Safety Car. The stricken cars were recovered quickly and there was time for one more lap in racing conditions: Fluxa moved into second place, displacing Hadjar - the Frenchman would then pit with issues and retire. 12th at the restart, Al Qubaisi defended from Iwasaki and crossed the finish line in P11 - topping her best ever result in F3. The race victory went to Gabriel Bortoleto, followed by Fluxa, Leclerc and Montoya. Fornaroli came out of a three-car battle to finish fifth and preceded Dufek and Crawford. After the race, Oliver Goethe (3Y Technology by R-ace GP) was handed a 10 second penalty, promoting Amna Al Qubaisi to tenth place. The result gave the young Emirati her first point in a F3 race. From such an outstanding achievement to the scariest moment of the day: the third and final race of the first round followed a few hours later. Gabriele Minì preceded Jak Crawford on the front row, with Hadjar and Bortoleto behind. The result of Q2 brought Hamda Al Qubaisi to 15th place, while Amna started further back in P22. The start was a messy one, with Cem Bolukbasi stalling on the grid; Amna Al Qubaisi went on the left-hand side of the track as she battled for position and unfortunately could not avoid the stationary Evans GP Tatuus. The impact was massive and Bolukbasi's car bounced in the air, then was hit by compatriot Salih Yoluç as well. The red flag was quickly waved and drivers were attended on the scene. Luckily, all drivers were unhurt; Amna Al Qubaisi was assessed and released with "lower back pain", but fortunately escaped serious injuries. The session was resumed under the Safety Car, with Minì - who had lost the lead at the first corner - back into first place. Three laps later, the green flag effectively started the race, as Minì slowly pulled away from the battling Red Bull junior drivers Jak Crawford and Isack Hadjar, as well as Race 2 winner Bortoleto who was looking at the opportunity to take advantage from the fighting duo. When Hadjar went for the move at Turn 9, Bortoleto got around the outside and made up a position. The following lap, Hadjar responded back and tried to catch Crawford as well, but never had a clear chance to get into second. In the final stages, Bortoleto dropped down and was passed by both Pepe Marti and Arthur Leclerc, who would finish fourth and fifth. Race 1 winner Sebastian Montoya battled hard with Hadrien David; the Frenchman received a warning for waving. The Colobian, though, had to settle for tenth. Hamda Al Qubaisi was still hampered by the technical issues that had terminated her second race, but was still able to fight in the midfield. Down to P17 at one point, she was able to bounce back to 15th place in the final laps, in a race no more interrupted by Safety Cars. A 10 second penalty for Dufek meant that Al Qubaisi finished her first ever weekend in F3 in 14th place - a very encouraging first step. "Still had some technical problems but managed to finish P15 [then P14]", commented Hamda. "Overall I think we had a good pace all weekend however some things are out of my control" "I’m just glad that my sister is okay after an incident today and hoping we can do even better at Dubai Autodrome for round 2" Minì took a controlled victory and now leads the championship standings by three points over Arthur Leclerc. Sebastian Montoya follows in third, five points behind the leader. The second championship round will in fact go underway in just a week's time at Dubai Autodrome, with three more races on the schedule.