F4 Italy: Maya Weug and Hamda al Qubaisi battle for P14 in challenging Imola race 2
The challenging weekend for the women of Italian F4 continued into the second Imola race, as Maya Weug and Hamda Al Qubaisi battled for P14.
It certainly wasn't an easy start of the Imola weekend for the two women of the Italian Formula 4 Championship powered by Abarth. On Saturday, Hamda Al Qubaisi finished 18th despite having stalled from P25 on the grid. The young Emirati star – a consistent point scorer in 2021 and a podium finisher – has been struggling to find speed since Friday practice, while she was among the front-runners in the pre-event test. After her difficult start, she was still able to recover 7 positions, but an unfortunate qualifying meant she had to do it all again in the two Sunday races. Iron Dame and FDA driver Maya Weug had a really strong Friday, where she was 7th and 8th in practice – second in both sessions among the rookies – and qualified P11 for the opening race. An off-track in the final minutes of Q2 meant that the 16-year old racer couldn't do better than 16th in Q2, as she lined up on the grid just ahead of Hamda Al Qubaisi – 18th in Q2. Van Amersfoort Racing's Oliver Bearman dominated the qualifying and stormed to victory in race 1, but Italian Leonardo Fornaroli (Iron Lynx) was on the front row for both the opening races. Sebastian Montoya – among the pace-setters in practice – had a difficult first race and was out after a technical issue while he was in second place, as the Colombian seemed the only rival able to challenge Bearman. In another very hot day in Imola, the lights went out for Sunday morning's race and again several cars remained stationary on the grid: while on Saturday both Al Qubaisi and Weug had a rough start, it was now Zuniga to stall off the line and was avoided by the whole pack. Hamda Al Qubaisi had a great start and immediately gained two positions, with Maya Weug also advancing to P14. Bearman again had a great run towards Turn 1, controlling Fornaroli, Bedrin and Braschi – with Sebastian Montoya going off at Turn 2 and dropping to 13th place. He would then battle Prema teammate Conrad Laursen and both almost came together at Variante Alta. Maya Weug passed series newcomer and French F4 regular Maceo Capietto, making his debut in the Italian series with Prema. Hamda Al Qubaisi also tried to find a way around Capietto, but the Frenchman was out soon after. The first Safety Car was deployed when Braschi and Smal made contact at Tamburello, involving other cars along the way. Braschi was out, while the Russian continued, albeit in 12th position. After a lengthy neutralization, the race was resumed with 15 minutes left on the clock. When the green flag waved back again, the action was non-stop and cars were off in almost every corner: Bedrin attacked Fornaroli for second, but the Italian held on and was switched back at Turn 2. Van Amersfoort drivers Durksen and Dufek were also on the charge – but their recovery was halted by another Safety Car when Eron Rexhepi and Samir Ben were off in two separate incidents, that also involved Baptiste and Ried. At the second neutralization, Maya Weug and Hamda Al Qubaisi were sitting in P13 and P16 respectively – as Catino and Patrese made a few positions potentially under yellow flags. Amidst all the chaos, Sebastian Montoya was able to recover to sixth after his off-track excursion on the opening lap. At the restart, Fornaroli tried the outside line at Tamburello but had to slot behind Bearman once again. Kiril Smal was in the gravel at Turn 2 and rejoined in the mid-pack, as both Weug and Al Qubaisi gained a position. The Russian was visibly struggling with some problems, as he also straight-lined Variante Alta in the grass and rejoined. Montoya overtook both Dufek and Durksen for fourth place – but there was action also in the midfield, where Hamda Al Qubaisi attacked Maya Weug on lap 13, eyeing the 14th place. Unfortunately, Hamda went deep at Turn one and, despite she managed to avoid the gravel trap, she lost momentum and dropped to P19. Weug lost two positions to Catino and Zuniga in the closing stages, as the Belgian-Dutch racer crossed the finish line in P14 – sixth among the rookies. After a good recovery and having avoided all the incidents, Al Qubaisi's late error relegated the young Emirati to P21. Oliver Bearman continued his record-breaking run in Italian Formula 4 and claimed his seventh race victory in a row, further extending his championship lead. Behind Bearman, Fornaroli denied Van Amersfoort Racing another potential 1-2, with Nikita Bedrin taking third place overall and the Rookie's victory. Montoya was fourth after a remarkable recovery and preceded Durksen, Valint, Dufek and Laursen. The third and final race of the weekend from Imola will get underway at 17:15 local, with the skies over the Romagna racetrack turning grey and with an increasing chance of rain in the afternoon.