F4 Italy: Hamda Al Qubaisi fights hard in Imola race 3
In the third race of the Italian F4 meeting at Imola, Hamda Al Qubaisi continued her learning process and further improved her pace, as she finished a hard-fought race in P22.
The third race of the weekend at Imola saw the Italian F4 Championship cars taking to the track for the final racing action of the day at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, with the sun already starting to set.
In one of the most crowded fields in recent F4 times, 34 Tatuus lined up on the grid - a result from all the other European series already rounding out their seasons. This brought the very top upcoming drivers to the Italian-based championship, as the title battle entered its final stages.
18-year old Emirati racing driver Hamda Al Qubaisi endured a battling round at Imola and, after making good steps forward on Friday, she saw her weekend turning into a disappointing one when she was hit and crashed out of both Race 1 and 2.
Following a rough qualifying on Saturday morning, Hamda was P29 and P26 in Q1 and Q2 respectively, but could then take the start to Race 3 from the 20th grid slot.
It was Gabriele Mini - the Italian Prema ace that with one victory and one second place finish was really getting closer to claiming the top honor.
Alongside Mini, Dino Beganovic started from second, with Leonardo Fornaroli in third for Iron Lynx, who shared the second row of the grid with Jak Crawford (Van Amersfoort Racing).
As the lights went out, the race turned hectic once again and, just like in the previous heat, the Safety Car was quickly deployed for a first lap incident that involved Russian driver Yaroslav Shevyrtalov, who had ended his race into the barriers at Variante Alta.
More early collisions saw Sebastian Ogaard and Francesco Braschi retiring, with also Mateusz Kaprzyk having to pit.
Hamda Al Qubaisi had a great start off the line and moved up to P19, but when the Safety Car neutralized the race action, the young Emirati was back to 22nd position.
At the green flag, Mini and Beganovic battled out for the lead and the championship leader held on to his first place. But the big mover was Jak Crawford, who could move up to third position by passing Fornaroli.
Other Red Bull-sponsored driver Jonny Edgar overtook Fornaroli for fourth, just as Francesco Pizzi closed in on the duo on lap 6.
There were battles all through the field: Sebastian Montoya - who had his car fixed in time for Race 3 after a big shunt in the final minutes of the morning race - fought hard with Gabriel Bortoleto: the two Prema drivers swapped positions several times, before the Colombian had the better hand.
Further down the field, Hamda Al Qubaisi was protagonist of another exciting battle that involved Jasin Ferati, Sebastian Freymuth and Axel Gnos. The group of four drivers overtook each other on a lap-basis, as Hamda’s position fluctuated between P21, P22 and P23.
Up ahead, Jak Crawford made the winning move on both the Prema cars and took the lead in commanding fashion. With 11 minutes left on the clock, Mini tried to respond back, but the Italian simply didn’t have a clear enough chance to make the move stick.
In a less Safety Car interrupted race, Jak Crawford took home his second win of the season - the American also having competed in the German F4 series, where he finished runner-up.
Mini was second and, with Francesco Pizzi fifth across the finish line, he could finally claim the 2020 Italian F4 title.
Beganovic, third at the chequered flag, jumped ahead of Andrea Rosso in the points standings - the latter having endured a torrid weekend in Imola.
Hamda Al Qubaisi was P22, four tenths of a second behind Jasin Ferati, in a good fighting race.
“Honestly, after Race 1 and 2, I think it was an ok race.” - she said. “This weekend was definitely not the best that I had, but there were like 35 cars on the grid so it was very tough, and it’s a tough grid.”
“Imola is also a tough track, I improved my pace throughout the weekend - I didn’t have much time on track because I was pushed off, but in this last race we tried to improve my driving and I gained back a lot of missed time from the practice days.”
“I fought very hard, I made a few mistakes because I really wanted to get past, but as soon as I did that I made a mistake and they got past. It was always forward, backward.” - explained the youngest of the Al Qubaisi sisters.
“At least I finished the race, I don’t really care about the results, all that matters is that I’m learning for my last two races before leaving back to the UAE and gaining the most experience.”
It was unfortunate what happened in Race 1 and 2, but it’s such a hard grid and anything can happen. A lot of incidents happened, every driver has their reasons. I think we’ll go into Vallelunga much stronger, hundred percent. I havem’t been to the track yet for testing, but we have the two test days before the race and hopefully we’ll be good there. I’m looking forward to that.”
The final race meeting of the 2020 Italian F4 season will in fact be held at Autodromo di Vallelunga on 5-6 December, which will round out Hamda Al Qubaisi’s rookie season in the championship.