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F4 Saudi: Amna, Hamda Al QUbaisi and Aurelia Nobels score podiums in Qatar

The third round of the F4 Saudi Arabian championship featured three female podiums: Amna Al Qubaisi battled elbows-out to claim a second place in race 2, while her sister Hamda and Aurelia Nobels shared the overall podium in race 4 - in what was Nobels' first ever podium in F4.

Aurelia Nobels, Amna Al Qubaisi, Hamda Al Qubaisi, F4 Saudi Arabia 2024, Losail, Qatar
Photo by: Altawkilat Meritus

Female participation in the inaugural edition of the F4 Saudi Arabian Championship has delivered podiums and victories since the beginning - and the third championship round at Lusail International Circuit was no exception - as three of the four female drivers on the grid stood on the podium in Qatar and battled at the front in every race.

Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi both secured a second place finish, while Ferrari Driver Academy and fellow F1 Academy racer Aurelia Nobels, at her first entry in the series, claimed her first ever podium in Formula 4, following a action-packed yet clean weekend of racing.

With 26.6% of the grid being female, F4 Saudi provided again a great opportunity to collect valuable track time - which is set to be particularly helpful for the F1 Academy drivers, as the F1-promoted all female championship will host its sixth round at the Qatari venue in November and therefore the third round of the Saudi series offered the perfect opportunity to learn the track. Alongside Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi - who have also contested the previous rounds - Aurelia Nobels also joined the grid for the first time.

The Brazilian was coming off a positive F1 Academy debut in Jeddah, where the PUMA-sponsored entry battled in the top ten throughout the weekend and scored points with a positive P7 in race 1. MP Motorsport's teammates Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi, on the other hand, had a more challenging start of their F1 Academy campaign in Saudi Arabia, but were still able to make the most out of the situation and completed great recoveries - with Amna gaining six places in race 2 and Hamda charging back to score a top-five.

Back in the F4 Saudi series, they aimed to return battling for podiums - as proven since the non-championship round in Bahrain in December. Also returning to the series was Swiss racer Laura Villars - who had a significant step forward last time out in Kuwait - where she scored points on three occasions and got to start twice on the front row in the reverse grid races, thus collecting experience in the battles for the top positions,

With four races and a format that features one of the highest amount of track time among F4 series, drivers had the chance to get up to speed in the pre-event test and the official practice, where Oscar Wurz topped the times with a 1:59.433 lap that put him 0.022 of a second clear of Andrej Petrovic. The format, though, also heavily relies on tyre strategy, as limitations to the set of new tyres make for very strategic weekends where drivers choose which session to prioritize.

The first representative times emerged in qualifying - although a very disrupted session saw multiple red flags resulting in a bigger challenge for the drivers and their strategies.

Hamda and Amna set the early pace, then it would be Hamda to continue running at the front throughout the 30-minute session and consistently improving on her time. She beated Suleiman Zanfari's lap at the chequered flag - but a few seconds later she was demoted to P2, when Federico Al Rifai claimed pole position by four tenths. Aurelia Nobels had a very strong first qualifying in P7, followed by Amna Al Qubaisi in P10 and Laura Villars in P12.

Race 1

All the races were contested under the lights; the sun set over the Lusail circuit and the green flag waved on Friday night for the first contest of the weekend.

From the front row, Hamda Al Qubaisi had some wheelspin and had to defend from both Wurz and Petrovic, as Al Rifai retained the lead. Hamda seemed initially able to hold onto second, but Wurz went past at the exit of turn 1 as the top three tried to pull away.

Aurelia Nobels also lost one position - but the most unlucky first lap was for Amna Al Qubaisi, who was spun around into the first corner and dropped all the way down the order. Al Rifai, Wurz and Hamda Al Qubaisi were joined by Petrovic, who set the fastest lap on lap 2 and tried to find an opportunity to pressure Al Qubaisi. Hamda, at the same time, was faster than Wurz - who went wide on a kerb but kept position.

Amna caught back the back of the field and overtook Villars on lap 3, then hunted down Al Thani. When Al Rifai and Wurz started to battle, Hamda was smart and let her rivals hold each other up, as she waited for her chance to pick up the pieces. Hamda was the fastest driver in sector one - in a 8 car train that also included Aurelia Nobels, third fastest on track.

Amna Al Qubaisi, meanwhile, cleared Al Thani and closed in on Abuzenadah, in an attempt to catch back the rest of the pack. She passed both Almaosherji and Brobio in a matter of two laps, but then had 7 seconds to close to catch AlKabbani.

With four laps to go, Hamda had to defend, having asked too much from her tyres in the first part of the race. She ended up losing two places to Petrovic and Zanfari - who were trading places for third. Hamda tried to get back in the mix for the podium - but she ultimately ran out of time and crossed the finish line in P5.

Federico Al Rifai took a lights-to-flag victory in a very clean, uninterrupted race, ahead of Oscar Wurz and Andrej Petrovic. Aurelia Nobels had great pace throughout the race and ran in the leading pack until the last lap, eventually taking the chequered flag in P8, just one tenth behind Kirill Kutskov.

Amna Al Qubaisi's charging drive ended with a P10 - having recovered from the tail end of the field after being spun around on lap 1. She had almost closed the gap to AlKabbani - finishing only two seconds behind - and displayed front-running pace in clear air. Laura Villars rounded out the field in P15.

Amna Al Qubaisi, F4 Saudi, Qatar 2024
Photo by: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 2

The second race featured a reverse grid - with Laura Villars lining up for the third time this season on the front row, alongside pole sitter Al Thani. Following an unfortunate first race on Friday, Amna Al Qubaisi would have another chance by starting fourth; Aurelia Nobels and Hamda Al Qubaisi were seventh and 13th respectively.

Villars had a sterling start and led the pack in the opening metres - but AlKabbani made a move stick into turn 1, with Amna Al Qubaisi also having a spectacular getaway and following through in second.

The Emirati female racer put pressure on the race leader and pushed hard over the first lap, eventually having to defend from Aldereyaane, who had closed in on the battling duo ahead. While Aurelia Nobels lost a couple of positions, Hamda Al Qubaisi moved from 14th to tenth in one lap - and had Nobels and Villars in her target on lap 2. Kirill Kutskov, though, found a way past the Red Bull F1 Academy driver on lap 3, as the four cars battled closely. Both Hamda and Aurelia overtook Villars - who was nevertheless defending well.

Ahead, Amna had successfully held off Aldereyaane and was again putting pressure on Alkabbani when the race was neutralized.

Villars was in fact unfortunately collected by Abuzenadah on lap 4, as the latter made an over-optimistic move into turn 1 that triggered the Safety Car mid way through the race.

Once the #55 and the #99 Tatuus were cleared after the collision, the green flag flew again with 2 laps to go and Faisal Alkabbani retained the top spot from Amna Al Qubaisi and Omar Aldereyaane, the latter also being under pressure from Oscar Wurz. A spectacular three-car battle followed, with Al Qubaisi, Wurz and Al Rifai constantly switching places at every corner. A stellar defensive drive for Amna Al Qubaisi played in her favor and, one lap later, the Visa CashApp RB driver was back in second place.

Almaosherji and Kutskov collided and retired - which brought out another safety car, now with 2 laps to go. Meanwhile, Nobels and Hamda Al Qubaisi had climbed the field up to sixth and seventh. The race ended behind the pace car and Faisal Alkabbani took victory, ahead of a brilliant Amna Al Qubaisi and Oscar Wurz.

Aurelia Nobels and Hamda Al Qubaisi scored good points following their recovery drives.

Amna Al Qubaisi, F4 Saudi, Qatar 2024
Photo by: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 3

Race 3 featured a very similar grid to race 2, with Al Thani and AlKabbani sharing the front row and Amna Al Qubaisi - fresh off her podium and best result in the series to date - lining up from third alongside Laura Villars. Aurelia Nobels slotted into sixth place but targeted a defensive race on very old tyres, having saved the final set for race 4, where she would start from further up. From tenth, Hamda Al Qubaisi had a very similar strategy.

Amna Al Qubaisi had a great launch but had to lock up into turn one to avoid Aldereyaane who dived on the inside; she still managed to turn in P3, with Faisal Alkabbani leading just half a second ahead. Despite the old tyres, Nobels was also on the move and completed the first lap in the top five; Laura Villars, on the other hand, fell through the order and spun as she tried to avoid Zanfari.

While temporarily up to ninth, Hamda Al Qubaisi battled Kirill Kutskov. The top three opened a small gap to Wurz and, behind them, Petrovic set the fastest lap as he chased Almaosherji, having passed Aurelia Nobels who was now hanging on.

Tenth, Hamda was running on the same times as Federico Al Rifai, thus couldn't quite attack him despite following the white #10 car closely. Also on very used tyres, Hamda then had her mirrors full of the orange car of Suleiman Zanfari.

Amna improved her personal best lap and held third - as Omar Aldereyaane became more of a threat to Alkabbani. On the penultimate lap, Alkabbani and Aldereyaane battled for the win and survived a small contact at the exit of turn 1, when Aldereyaane eventually snatched the top spot.

The final lap featured another elbows-out battle for Amna Al Qubaisi, who was now struggling for tyres and fell just one lap short of another podium: she was in fact caught by Andrej Petrovic, who found a way past after almost an entire lap of position changes. She unfortunately lost fourth just across the finish line, when Oscar Wurz beat the #88 purple car by less than a tenth of a second. Amna's pace was nevertheless really good until the final lap, and completed the race with the third fastest lap.

Aurelia Nobels held on masterfully and was seventh at the chequered flag, while Hamda lost the final point scoring position to Zanfari on the final lap.

Race start, F4 Saudi, Qatar 2024
Photo by: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 4

The final race at Lusail was Hamda's chance to match her sister's podium tally this weekend; from second and on the fresher tyre, Hamda faced Federico Al Rifai on the front row, with Aurelia Nobels and Oscar Wurz right behind. Amna Al Qubaisi would have to comeback from ninth on the older tyre, while Villars took the start of race 4 from 12th.

Al Rifai had a blistering start - while Hamda retained second from Aurelia Nobels and Kirill Kutskov. The latter went wide and was then back behind Oscar Wurz - which allowed Nobels some breathing space in third. The FDA driver, in fact, was fastest overall in the second sector and closed down on Al Qubaisi. After a fast first lap, Al Rifai couldn't drive away and Hamda kept the pressure on her compatriot; the top three cars were covered by one second, and Hamda gained again a few tenths on the race leader.

Following a really strong first lap, where Laura Villars caught the top ten, she settled in eleventh, running solidly behind Amna Al Qubaisi - who was chasing Petrovic after the Serbian driver recorded the fastest lap of the race.

Nobels' new tyres worked well and the Belgian/Brazilian was almost a tenth faster than the top two; their battle, though, facilitated the return of Kutskov - who took advantage from a small mistake from the Ferrari driver to fully join the leaders.

With Nobels checking out her mirrors, Hamda Al Qubaisi gained some crucial metres - although Al Rifai's new fastest lap gained him over a second. With two laps to go, positions settled and Federico Al Rifai took his fifth win of the season, ahead of Hamda Al Qubaisi and Aurelia Nobels. For the first time ever in the championship, two female drivers stepped on the podium. It was also Nobels' first ever podium finish in F4 machinery.

Amna Al Qubaisi managed her race on older tyres in tenth, scoring a valuable point; Laura Villars was 12th and took the chequered flag in a race with no incidents that highlighted her pace improvement after more challenging races 3 and 2.

Hamda's strategy paid off perfectly and, having managed in the first half of the race, she secured her fourth podium in the series - fifth including the non-championship season opener. With 85.5 points, she now sits fifth in the drivers' standings.

Two rounds and eight races are now left to crown the first F4 Saudi champion; the next round is scheduled for 28-30 March at the Jeddah Corniche circuit.

Hamda Al Qubaisi, Aurelia Nobels, F4 Saudi, Qatar 2024
Photo by: Altawkilat Meritus



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