F3 Asia: progress continues for Amna Al Qubaisi, Sidorkova injures wrist
In the third round of the 2021 Asian F3 Championship, Amna Al Qubaisi continued to make progress in her rookie F3 campaign despite being crashed out from the races, while Irina Sidorkova was unfortunately ruled out due a wrist injury
The day after the end of the second round of the 2021 F3 Asian Championship, the cars hit the track again for a back-to-back event at Yas Marina, which saw the drivers tackling six races out of four days.
Home racing hero Amna Al Qubaisi continued her improvements in the Tatuus F3 car, as she showed more performance progress day after day, despite not being able to claim the results she deserved due to a series of unfortunate accidents.
2021 W Series rookie Irina Sidorkova - entering the F3 Asian series in order to prepare and maximize her tracktime for the upcoming all-female championship which will kick off later in June - was also showing encouraging signs in the previous races, was was forced to sit out the entire third round due to an injury to her wrist sustained in an accident on Friday's Race 3, when Italian Alessio Deledda outbraked himself on the opening lap and crashed into Caspar Stevenson and also took out Sidorkova, who had no room to avoid the incident.
As showed by medical examination later, Sidorkova escaped fractures but the injury was severe enough to prevent her from racing in the following days.
“It was the most unexpected contact, I did not expect this at all, and a few seconds after what happened, I did not even understand what had happened. I just took my hands off the steering wheel as it hurt terribly." - said Sidorkova.
"Nevertheless, when I calmed down a little, I thought that I should continue. I started the car and drove on. Then I saw that my car was damaged - perhaps the rods were bent, I don't know for sure - and I had to go into the pits. When I drove back to the pits, the engineer noticed that something was wrong with my hands, my gloves were off. By that time, my hand was already a little swollen, and it was noticeable. After that, I was immediately taken to the hospital."
"To be honest, everything turned out ok, I have no fractures, just severe enough bruises, because of which, unfortunately, we missed racing."
In Saturday's morning qualifying sessions, Mumbai Falcon's Jehan Daruvala claimed the two pole positions, followed by Chovet and Zhou for the afternoon's Race 1, the seventh of the 2021 season. Amna Al Qubaisi was 17th out of the 21 entrants.
When the lights went out, Pierre-Louis Chovet cleared Daruvala and went into the lead in the opening metres, as Beganovic was passed by both Patrik Pasma and Roy Nissany and dropped to sixth. Al Qubaisi had a good start off the line and advanced to P16, but the action was quickly neutralized by the Safety Car following a contact between BlackArts teammates Rafael Villagomez and Lorenzo Fluxa.
The race resumed on lap 3 and former Formula European Championship race winner Chovet held the top of the classify with a prompt reaction at the green flag. Zhou got bigger and bigger in Daruvala's rear view mirrors and the Indian spent the rest of the race trying to defend his second place from the fellow F2 racer.
Most of the action was on the timing screen: with the second race's starting grid being defined by Race 1 fastest laps, the drivers gave it their all to mark the best lap performance. Fluxa, after the incident in the first stages, managed to rejoin the track on new tyres and only narrowly missed out on Race 2 pole position when Hadjar and then Chovet topped his laptimes.
Amna Al Qubaisi moved up to P15 after Pasma hit trouble, checked out from Deledda and almost caught up with Bardinon, before holding P15 until the chequered flag. It was her best performance after she saw her 14th place finish of the day before downgraded to P16 for a post-race time penalty.
Ahead, Chovet took back-to-back victory in front of Daruvala and Zhou, launching his title assault.
In the eighth race of the season, Chovet shared the front row of the grid with Alpine F1 Team development driver Guanyu Zhou and fired into the lead again at Turn 1, leaving his competitors in his mirrors. Zhou's teammate Dino Beganovic also had a blistering start and moved up into third, passing both Fluxa and Hadjar. Amna Al Qubaisi, starting from the 16th grid slot, held position in what was an overall clean start of the race from all drivers.
Young Frenchman Isack Hadjar tried to claim back his position from Beganovic but the two made contact which left the 3Y Evans GP rookie with a terminal damage, while the Swede continued.
Patrik Pasma was also charging through the field and had already made up positions from P20 to P13. Championship contender Jehan Daruvala, on the other hand, struggled a bit more to climb the order and was stuck behind Turkish fan-favourite Cem Bolukbasi, as the duo battled for sixth.
The Safety Car stopped the action when Pinnacle Motorsport teammates Alexandre Bardinon and Matthias Luethen came together and retired. Chovet had to rebuild his lead, having managed to put 1.4 seconds between himself and Zhou.
The race resumed on lap 6 and Chovet initially came under pressure from the two Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema cars right behind him, but then gained a safe margin when Beganovic tried to pull a move on Zhou as the latter went deep into the final corner.
The race was halted again for yet another incident in the midfield, when Nissany and Marinangeli crashed in the final sector. Amidst the chaotic action, Amna Al Qubaisi managed to avoid trouble and had made her way up to P12 after a very solid race in the midfield.
Unfortunately, more contacts occurred in the closing stages: Pasma collided and spun after 4-cars went side-by-side at Turn 11, with Faria cutting across the grass and Deledda hitting the 20-year old Emirati lady. Amna spun and went off in the runoff, but rejoined and crossed the finish line in 14th place.
Chovet held on to the pressure of Zhou and took another victory, further extending his championship lead. Zhou and Beganovic got to step on the podium once again this weekend, while Lorenzo Fluxa completed a very positive race in fourth, ahead of Cem Bolukbasi.
The third and final race of the weekend saw early drama even before the lights for Nicola Marinangeli (Motorscape), who lamented an electrical issue on his way to the grid and took the start from the pitlane.
Mumbai Falcon's Jehan Daruvala defended his pole into Turn 1 and kept Guanyu Zhou at bay while Isack Hadjar jumped ahead of championship leader Pierre-Louis Chovet in third and immediately went on pursuit of the leading pair.
Amna Al Qubaisi moved ahead by one position after the first lap and settled into P15, just before the Safety Car was called out for an incident involving Cem Bolukbasi and Dino Beganovic. Both drivers were fine, despite Beganovic showing wrist pain after the collision.
The restart arrived with 20 minutes left on the clock and positions remained unchanged, with Daruvala and Zhou opening a small gap to Hadjar and the rest of the field.
It was another unlucky race for Amna Al Qubaisi: the lady from Abu Dhabi was pushed out by Roberto Faria - having to retire the Abu Dhabi Racing #88 Tatuus T318 car for the damages sustained.
Chovet, struggling for grip on the used tyres, came under increasing pressure from Pasma but held on to fourth. Kush Maini and Lorenzo Fluxa also battled hard but clean, finishing eighth and ninth respectively.
Daruvala just about managed to extend his lead by over a second on Zhou when the latter came under attack from 16-year old rookie Hadjar. With his third win of the season, the Indian racer returns in the mix for the title fight and is now 10 points behind Chovet in the points standings.
With two rounds to go, Amna Al Qubaisi showed more progress on her race pace - a promising sign after the one-year hiatus from the young lady driver.
"It’s been very tough but still improving race after race", she said after Race 1. "I’m overall happy that I still have what it takes to be within the pace after not racing for more than a year."
"[In race 2] I’ve made it up to P12 but got pushed out and continued to complete the race with a broken wing. [in race 3] I was in P15 and got pushed out again and car was badly damaged so I had to retire."
The series will return to Dubai Autodrome for Round 4 from 12th-14th February.