F1 Academy: Hamda Al Qubaisi unbeaten in Barcelona day 1
The Emirati star completed the first day in Barcelona as the driver to beat, having finished both practice sessions on top, ahead of an impressive Bianca Bustamante and Nerea Marti.
MP Motorsport’s Hamda Al Qubaisi has ended the first day of the Barcelona weekend, third round of the inaugural F1 Academy championship, on top of the timings after leading both 40 minute practice sessions scheduled on Friday at Circuit de Catalunya.
Hamda’s 1:42.775 lap was two tenths faster than Bianca Bustamante’s best lap, as the Filipina was the best placed Prema in both sessions and showed very promising pace ahead of tomorrow’s first races.
Al Qubaisi, Bustamante, Marti and Buhler were the drivers who traded the top spots in the first session in the early afternoon – and they confirmed to be the fastest racers in FP2, this time locking out the top four, as Marta Garcia couldn’t improve towards the end of the session, unlike in FP1.
Maite Caceres was the first driver to set a fast time in a session that started in dry conditions but with a grey, menacing sky. Megan Gilkes then improved her time, before Carrie Schreiner took the top of the leaderboard at the 10 minute mark. Schreiner improved again, as the German racer is showing big improvements at each outing in her return to single-seaters.
13 minutes into the session, Bianca Bustamante set the new benchmark, improving all sectors; her lap time was only beaten by Hamda Al Qubaisi, who grabbed the top spot with 10 minutes left on the clock – just as a very light rain had made its way onto the track.
The rain, though, intensified and drivers struggled to improve in the final minutes; several teams opted to pit and end the session prematurely. Among them was Léna Buhler, who was once again among the front runners all session but didn’t have the opportunity to challenge Al Qubaisi at the end.
Bustamante was the only driver to venture out on the wet weather tyres, but to no lap time improvements.
Lola Lovinfosse was a highly promising fifth – in one of her best sessions, having also finished seventh in FP1. Amna Al Qubaisi also improved significantly from the first session and was up to sixth, ahead of Carrie Schreiner and Marta Garcia – who also opted to sit out the final minutes. Emely de Heus has shown some good pace so far and was again well within the top ten, which was rounded out by Chlo Chong, in an overall positive first day for the youngest driver on the grid.
Megan Gilkes led the Rodin Carlin trio in 11th, 12th and 13th – as Abbi Pulling was 2.5 seconds off the leader. The British team’s cars were the only out on track in the final minutes, still on slick tyres.
Maite Caceres completed the first day in P14, ahead of Chloe Grant, who had all her lap times deleted for track limits at turn 8 and 13.
Drivers will battle out on track on Saturday in the two qualifying sessions that will set the grids for race 1 and race 3 – while race 2 will feature a reverse grid from the top 8 of Q1. The first 15 minute session is scheduled for 11:20, followed by Q2 at 11:40 and the first two races in the afternoon, at 15:05 and 19:00 respectively.
With the weather possibly playing a major role, drivers will have to get ready for both dry and wet setups and strategies.