F4 Italy: Hamda Al Qubaisi P23 in learning-oriented rainy weekend at Mugello
Abu Dhabi Racing’s Hamda Al Qubaisi completed a trouble-free first race of the weekend at Mugello, as the young Emirati driver targets a learning-oriented experience in the tricky wet conditions.
Hamda Al Qubaisi made her race debut at the Mugello Circuit in the third round of the 2020 Formula 4 Italian Championship powered by Abarth, competing in very challenging wet-weather conditions - something that the young Emirati racer is not used and is just starting to learn in her first full-time European racing season.
After showing constant improvement, the younger of the Al Qubaisi sisters qualified P21 on Saturday morning and thus started the first race of the weekend on the 11th row of the grid.
With Formula 3 Regional race being contested entirely in rainy conditions, the Formula 4 cars went on the grid with a still damp track and the race direction opted for an opening lap behind the Safety Car.
The extreme difficulties of such conditions were proved by a couple of drivers that spun behind the Safety Car, which prolonged the neutralization for two more laps.
When the green flag was waved on lap 3, Rosso bunched up the pack and then led Mini, Ugran and Gnos on the main straight: the pole sitter had the perfect restart and immediately pulled away, leaving the rest of the field in the poorer visibility and in the tight midfield battles.
Romanian driver Filip Ugran (Jenzer Motorsport) attacked and passed Mini, advancing into second place at the first corner, while Ramos Reynoso went off in the gravel in the chaotic first laps. Both Braschi and Chovanek spun at the exit of Turn 1, with more drivers forced to take evasive action.
Hamda Al Qubaisi managed to stay out of trouble and gained four positions, moving up to P17.
Jonny Edgar, battling with Dno Beganovic, made contact with the Prema coming into the last corner and went off track. A few seconds later, fellow Red Bull junior Jak Crawford was spotted in the grass and, subsequently, the American had to come back into the pits to replace a punctured-right rear tyre.
Beganovic, who also received a 10-second time penalty for the incident with Edgar, came under pressure from Axel Gnos after the Swiss had passed Sebastian Montoya. Gnos and Montoya, though, were soon out of the race after a collision on lap 4. Delli Guanti and Cenyu also beached their cars in the gravel and were forced to retire.
Hamda Al Qubaisi continued a her very promising recovery and moved up to P15.
The other Iron Lynx driver, Leonardo Fornaroli, had an impressive run and put pressure on Mini for third place in the first part of the race.
Meanwhile, Cram Motorsport’s Andrea Rosso continued his lonely race in the leadership and could soon put over two seconds between him and Ugran, who preceded Mini and Bortoleto Oliveira - the latter being protagonist of a stunning comeback through the field. The Brazilian overtook Mini for third, before closing the gap to Ugran and strip him of second on lap 9.
After a good first half of the race, Hamda Al Qubaisi started to drop back when the track dried up and the laptimes of the drivers around her became increasingly more competitive. Hamda defended hard, but the struggling Abu Dhabi Racing driver had to give up some more places to finish P23, just behind her starting position.
In clear air, Gabriel Bortoleto Oliveira was quickly catching up with Andrea Rosso, but he ultimately came just short of 1.6 seconds, as the home driver took the chequered flag to win his third race in the championship.
Filip Ugran was third, Mini and Fornaroli completed the top 5 as Beganovic was demoted to seventh after the penalty was applied.
Hamda Al Qubaisi completed a challenging race in P23, but once again was one of the few drivers not making any mistake and continued her steady learning process in the Italian F4 championship and in wet-weather conditions.
“I’m not very happy about it.” - she said after Race 1.
“Just by the time the track gets better, and I get use to knowing how the track is, the conditions change and I don’t know how to manage it yet - but I’m learning.”
“The track was getting better in the end and I was still driving really wide lines so I lost a few positions and I finished three places from where I started.”
“I think it’s good that I didn’t make any big mistake or completely didn’t finish the race, so it’s better that I kept going because every lap is more experience and ultimately one lap more of knowing how to drive in the wet.” - she wisely added.
“I think it’s good for learning: I’ll learn from this, I’ll check my videos and data and try to improve for tomorrow’s race 2 and 3.”
With more rain predicted for tomorrow, Hamda sees the remainder of the weekend as a learning-oriented experience: “I think the weather is going to be the same with the rain, so it’s a good weekend for learning in the wet.”
“The positive thing is that I tried not to risk a lot, because I really want to keep myself on track - the more I’m on track the more I learn. But hopefully as soon as I start to get better in these coditions I can start to take some more risks.”
With two more races scheduled for Sunday at Mugello, the F4 drivers will hit the track again at 11:40.