F4 Italy: Hamda Al Qubaisi P21 in wet Mugello qualifying
Hamda Al Qubaisi completed two mistake-free qualifying sessions at Mugello in extremely tricky rainy conditions, as the young Emirati driver continues her learning process in the wet.
Abu Dhabi Racing’s Hamda Al Qubaisi completed her first practice sessions at the Italian venue of Mugello yesterday, focusing on learning the new track and improving step by step. She was P25 and P17 after the two Friday practices, making good progress on fresher tyre towards the end of the day.
The young Emirati racer was happy about her improvements and hopeful coming into Saturday morning's qualifying.
After very cloudy yet dry practice sessions, rain was forecasted for the second day at Mugello and, just as the 29 Tatuus Formula 4 cars were heading to the pitlane for Q1, the rain did indeed arrive to mess with the drivers’ strategies.
“It doesn’t rain much in the UAE, so I don’t know anything about driving in the rain!” - Hamda had told us yesterday. “I only practiced three or four times in the wet, so I don’t know much about wet conditions, but I’m learning!”
In the short Q1, Hamda was P21 after a solid session, also interrupted by a red flag with a little over six minutes left on the clock following an off by rookie driver Kirill Smal. Several cars made trips to the gravel as drivers tried to find the edge in the very challenging conditions, on the slowly drying track.
Al Qubaisi didn’t make any mistakes and finished close to the top-20 with a best lap of 2:14.454.
“I think quali 1 didn’t go too bad, I didn’t really expect to get the result I did considering that I really never drove a lot in wet conditions - this is like my third time in such weather.” - she explained.
“I’m getting there, I’m learning. Especially on this circuit it’s very difficult, it’s easy to lose a lot just as to gain a lot. I think I’m improving step by step; qualifying 1 we were P21 out of 30 drivers, it’s not bad for a start.”
Andrea Rosso (Cram Motorsport) topped the timesheets and clinched pole for Race 1, ahead of the Prema duo of Bortoleto Oliveira - very fast throughout the whole weekend so far - and Gabriele Mini. Rosso was an impressive 6 tenths of a second faster than the closer competitor.
In the second 15-minute qualifying session - valid for Race 2 starting grid - Hamda Al Qubaisi was P25 on a drying but still very damp track. Despite finishing a few rows behind her Q1 result, the 18-year old Emirati driver set a personal best lap of 2:11.797, further closing the gap from the top of the grid. Brazilian Bortoleto Oliveira secured pole position, leading a Prema trio of Mini and Beganovic.
“Qualifying 2 was not too good, I expected to do a bit better but I’m still learning in the wet conditions.” - said Al Qubaisi. “Hopefully Race 1 is not too wet because it’s very tricky, especially when the race starts you can’t really see much and it’s kind of chaotic.”
“I’m very happy with how we started and we’ll keep moving forward from there”.
“I’d say that to finish every race is the goal, not to make any crazy moves and try to keep things under control. I’ll definitely do the best I can to get to good positions - just learn and experience, that’s my goal.”
After the qualifying, 11 drivers were called to the stewards room for an infrigement following the red flag restart: when the race direction communicated the re-opening of the pitlane, cars headed out before the fast-lane was declared open - which normally opens two minutes before the green light. Among them it was the #88 Iron Lynx car of Hamda Al Qubaisi.
“I think it was just a misunderstanding, the drivers didn’t really understand because it said pitlane open but they didn’t say fast-lane open, and everyone thought it was fast-lane and many cars went out. I was about to, but then my team said to stop. It was just miscommunication I think.”
The 11 drivers under investigation were handed fines but received no further penalties.
Saturday’s first race of the Italian F4 Championship powered by Abarth will go green at 15:25 CEST, with Hamda Al Qubaisi starting from the eleventh row of the grid. Coming from two very positive race weekends, the girl from Abu Dhabi will again try to progress through the field and avoid the typical scraps of such crowded fields.