Latest FDA addition Maya Weug completed a remarkable debut in Italian F4 with a P15 in race 3 – which grants her the lead in the Rookie standings after the first round.
Hamda Al Qubaisi spent the whole race in the top-10 and ran as high as eighth before she had to retire for the aftermath of another contact.
The season opener of the Italian F4 Championship powered by Abarth saw 37 cars on the grid at Circuit Paul Ricard, to kick off one of the most competitive junior feeder series in the world.
Our spotlight will be on two of the best up-coming female drivers in single-seaters: Hamda Al Qubaisi and Maya Weug.
Hamda – the most successful woman in any F4 championships globally – comes from a strong season in the UAE, where she added three more race victories to her resumé – showed great progress in pre-season testing and proved that she can battle within the top ten at every round in her second full-season in the series.
Maya Weug made headlines earlier this year when she was selected as the winner in the FIA Women in Motorsport program “Girls on Track: Rising Stars”. In doing so, she became the first ever female driver in the exclusive Ferrari Driver Academy. With the support of the famous F1 team, Maya made her racing debut in single seaters this weekend at Le Castellet, where she was entered by Iron Lynx / Iron Dames.
Free practice on Friday confirmed Al Qubaisi on top-10 pace, but an unfortunate qualifying meant she had to start the races from P19, P13 and P12.
Weug continued her progression and improved each run. She was P26, P19 and P17 after the two 15-minute qualifying sessions, coming progressively closer to the higher end of the classify.
Racing in the Prema Powerteam #88 entry, Hamda charged through the field but was ultimately P30 and P27 in the two opening races after a spin on Saturday and a series of accidents on Sunday morning.
Maya Weug finished within the top-20 in both her debut races – respectively in 19th and 17th position. A really remarkable debut for the Belgian-Dutch lady, who was also fifth in both the competitions among the rookies.
In the third race of the weekend, the starting grid was shaped by the second-fastest lap in qualifying – meaning that Oliver Bearman was again on pole after a disastrous start in Race 2, where he stalled off the line.
Alongside the Brit was his US Racing teammate Tim Tramnitz, who had just won his first race in the series in the morning.
Hamda Al Qubaisi was 12th, with Maya Weug 17th on the grid.
When the lights went off for the final time this weekend, Oliver Bearman had another slow start and allowed Tramnitz to fire into the lead at Turn 1, followed by Sebastian Montoya.
The German immediately pulled away, leaving the son of the former F1 driver battling for the runner up spot with a train of cars eager to make up positions in the tight field.
Everyone cleanly made it through the first corners, until Race 1 winner Kirill Smal made contact with his compatriot Nikita Bedrin – in an accident very similar to the one that saw Bedrin being hit by Sami Meguetounifi in Race 2.
Smal was out of the race, while Bedrin limped back to the pits with damages and rejoined one lap down.
Both the ladies had managed to gain a few places after one lap of racing: Hamda Al Qubaisi was eighth and Maya Weug was up to P16.
With Tramnitz opening a safe gap, Montoya was heavily under pressure from Browning and Bearman – with also Simonazzi and Hamda Al Qubaisi joining the group of cars battling for the podium positions.
After a first attack at the chicane, Browning finally made it stick for the runner up spot, as Montoya tumbled down to sixth after the Colombian was also passed by Lomko and Fornaroli.
Hamda completed a stunning move on Simonazzi and looked strong among the pace-setters. Weug also moved into 15th place, as she once again showed great racecraft in the wheel-to-wheel battles.
With 16 minutes left on the clock, Zuniga and Revesz made contact at the last corner, with a decent amount of damage for both cars. Nevertheless, the race remained green.
On lap 8, the two Cram Motorsport teammates Vittorio Catino and Nicolas Baptiste came together at the chicane, bringing out the Safety Car.
The race was freezed when Tramnitz enjoyed a solid lead ahead of Browning, Bearman and Lomko.
After a long neutralization, action was resumed with two laps to go.
Tramnitz had a great restart and was never under threat from his teammate – who came under pressure from Van Amersfoort Racing’s Bearman. The latter made a move stick into Signes after an exciting side-by-side battle, but the two made light contact in the long right-hander and Browning dropped to sixth.
There was more drama when Hamda Al Qubaisi was also hit and pitted with damage.
The race 3 retirement rounds out a nightmare weekend for the Emirati star, who was finally up to where she belongs for the whole final race.
“Race 3 was really good up until the last laps.” – she explained. “I had made it to the top ten, I was fighting around eighth place and then the Safety Car came in for the incident. After the restart, the driver in front of me was not really close to the other guys in front, so we didn’t have a great run down the straight but I was really close to him and I decided to go for an overtake.”
“I went around the outside, but didn’t manage to stick and I run a bit wide, while he still made it through ahead of me. The driver behind, though, did a risky move and knocked me out in Turn 5. My car was sideways and after that I couldn’t really restart as my rear tyre was gone.”
“I don’t think it was my weekend: the pace was there all weekend, starting from free practice. But it just didn’t go well for me from the beginning and all I can do now is learn from it and hopefully next round will be much better.” – concluded Hamda.
After 14 laps, Tim Tramnitz took his second dominant victory, ahead of Bearman and Lomko. Iron Lynx’s Fornaroli was fourth and preceded Montoya.
In a very chaotic finale, a four-car photo finish saw Maya Weug claiming P15, holding off Braschi, Bizzotto and Cenyu Han.
Weug was second in the rookies – her first class podium at her series debut. The 16-year old former karting star now leads the Rookie standings with 38 points, one point clear of Ried.
Maya was finally happy about her performance, even though she had to endure difficult conditions after the Safety Car restart.
The second round of the Italian Formula 4 Powered by Abarth will be contested in a month’s time at Misano World Circuit, where Maya Weug will target more improvements – closer and closer to the top10 – and Hamda Al Qubaisi will try to bounce back and capitalize on her pace.