F4 Italy: Hamda Al Qubaisi makes Mugello debut in positive friday practice
Young Emirati racer Hamda Al Qubaisi clocked her first laps at Mugello after a positive Friday practice sessions. Despite uncertain weather for Saturday, Hamda "keeps her hopes high" after showing good improvements on new tyres.
The third round of the uber-competitive Italian F4 Championship powered by Abarth heads to the world-famous Mugello Circuit, few weeks after the Tuscan venue hosted its first Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Young Emirati racer Hamda Al Qubaisi returned to the Italian-based F4 series after making a one-off appearance in the ADAC F4 Germany at Hockenheim. Hamda, coming from two top-10 finishes at the Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim, is quickly establishing herself a one of the most interesting Formula 4 upcoming drivers and this weekend she will be put to the test in the extremely challenging Mugello circuit.
After the first practice session, the 18-year old racing under the banner of Abu Dhabi Racing clocked a best time of 1'50.092 which put her in P25 on old tyres.
“FP1 was positive, but at the same time we have a big margin to improve." - she said after the morning session. "It’s my first time racing in Mugello, it’s a really hard track - very difficult corners, quite long and demanding on the arms.”
“In practice I started to learn a bit; in the first session we didn’t have new tyres, we were on old tyres, so I think our pace is not too bad, but I have to improve a bit as soon as I get out on track and I start to push from the beginning.”
In the days prior to the race event, Al Qubaisi completed a two-day testing program with Iron Lynx (which runs the Abu Dhabi Racing operation), but her learning process was slowed down by some technical troubles - which have been since then fixed.
“I had two test days here, but I struggled with electrical issues and I didn’t have many laps, which was kind of disappointing. But now we have solved it, so in these few days that we had, between the tests and now, I’m more confident with the car”.
Ferrari Driver Academy youngster Gabriele Mini topped the first session, as the Prema driver edged Red Bull protegé Jonny Edgar by just over a tenth of a second. Bhaitech’s Jesse Salmenautio was third, ahead of the first Van Amersfoort car driven by Francesco Pizzi.
After Friday’s afternoon session, Hamda showed noticeable improvements and ran consistently around the top-10, only to drop to 17th in the final minutes. With a best lap of 1:49.292, Hamda focused on extracting the performance out of the new Pirelli tyres.
“I think that was an improvement from last session, I started to maximise the use of the new tyres that I had.” - she explained.
“I struggled a lot in the last sector, especially on my last lap, I had some traffic and the window for the new tyres is not very big - it’s like two laps - so if you don’t get it right, it’s really hard to recover. But I think that it’s positive, P17 for the second session, it’s a step forward from the last session so I think it’s good and we’ll be working forward from here.”
Gabriel Bortoleto Oliveira went on top of the timesheets after the 40-minute session, edging teammate Gabriele Mini by 14 thousandths of a second. Edgar was third - 0.040 behind the leader - in yet another very tight field.
All the teams, though, will look to the sky tomorrow, as rain is forecasted for the remainder of the weekend.
“Tomorrow there’s qualifying, I don’t know about the weather, maybe it will rain, but we will keep our hopes high.”
“It doesn’t rain much in the UAE, so I don’t know anything about driving in the rain! I only practiced three or four times in the wet, so I don’t know much about wet conditions, but I’m learning! I think step by step I’ll learn how to drive in the rain - it’s part of racing, especially in Europe, the conditions change a lot, much more than in the UAE, where it’s sunny the whole year!”
“But it’s good that I’m learning, it’s good experience. Maybe if I’ll go back to the UAE and decide to do also the championship there, definitely I’ll be much stronger after this season”.
Italian F4 drivers will hit the track again tomorrow for their qualifying sessions at 09:30 and 09:55 CEST.