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F4 Saudi: Hamda Al Qubaisi back in the top-5, big progress for Villars in Kuwait

Hamda Al Qubaisi was the protagonist of some good overtakes and was back in the top five at Kuwait Motor Town, which hosted the second championship round of the Saudi Arabian F4 series. On her second weekend in the series, Laura Villars made impressive steps forward: after a reverse grid pole, the Swiss ran within a second to the race's fastest lap and topped her best finish to date.  


Hamda Al Qubaisi, F4 Saudi 2024, Kuwait Motor Town
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus GP

Just one week after the start of the championship, the all-new F4 Saudi Arabian series held its second round in a back-to-back at Kuwait Motor Town.


The centrally-run series featured a non-championship Trophy Round in December at Bahrain International Circuit - where Emirati sisters Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi both showed speed to battle at the front. Hamda stood on the podium - and her sister led one of the races. At the new state-of-the-art Kuwaiti facility, Hamda dominated race 3 and thus claimed her 11th win in F4 - her seventh in mixed-gender series. The 21 year old Emirati remains in fact the most successful female driver at F4 level globally.


Her sister Amna continued to prove to belong to the top positions as well; despite no previous knowledge of the track and no testing in the days leading up to the first round, Amna led race 2 before being tagged into a spin. She had also previously claimed a podium in Bahrain.


Swiss racer Laura Villars joined the field in Kuwait - and scored her first points with a progressive and encouraging improvement throughout the weekend. Villars, 26, raced in the Ultimate Cup single seater championship in 2023, both in F4 and Formula Regional machinery, before making her international debut in 2024. She contested the Abu Dhabi Trophy Round for F4 UAE - and at Kuwait Motor Town kept closing the gaps, eventually finishing ninth and eighth.


The back-to-back weekend was an opportunity to build on this momentum - although it wasn't an easy schedule for the Al Qubaisi sisters, who travelled to Barcelona for the pre-season F1 Academy collective test - as they'll represent Red Bull Racing and Visa CashApp RB respectively in the upcoming all-female championship promoted by F1. F4 Saudi therefore represented a good preparation - and Hamda flew back to Kuwait just in time for testing on Thursday. Amna, on the other hand, would have to miss the second round due to commitments with the F1 team in the US.


Testing was off to a good start for Hamda, who was second fastest in one of the sessions and overall continued to run within the top five - which raised hopes for the following day. Back in the top five in the official practice - which saw different strategies compared to the previous week due to a change in the tyre allocation regulations - the Red Bull junior driver set the pace in the early stages of qualifying, then sat in fourth for most of the session.


In the closing minutes, most of the drivers improved and Al Qubaisi set a 2:02.148 on her final run that would put her on the third row of the grid in P6.

Steadily in the top-ten from the start of the weekend, Laura Villars had clearly made further steps forward and was 10th in qualifying, improving her personal best by over half a second from practice.


Suleiman Zanfari took pole position for race 1 in an incredibly tight session, which saw most of the front runners separated by a few tenths. Zanfari shared the front row with Kirill Kutskov, while Andrej Petrovic and Oscar Wurz followed on the second row.


Hamda Al Qubaisi, F4 Saudi 2024, Kuwait Motor Town
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus GP

RACE 1

The Moroccan had a brilliant getaway and immediately tried to pull away at lights out; Wurz also had a good start and moved up to second place, while Kutskov dropped to sixth. Hamda Al Qubaisi was right in the middle of the pack at turn one and got stuck in the traffic, eventually falling to eighth, as Villars held tenth and, despite a lock up on the first lap, she defended well from Abdullah Al Qubaisi and Juancho Brobio. On the second lap, Villars managed to get ahead of Faisal Alkabbani, as the latter dropped to P12.


Hamda set the fastest first sector and started to put pressure on Omar Aldereyaane; Hamda had a look on lap 4 at turn 2, but had to back out. One lap later, she committed under braking and completed a great pass for seventh. While the battle cost Hamda a couple of seconds to the cars ahead, she immediately started to close in once in clean air.


Laura Villars was holding on nicely to ninth, until a contact with Brobio on lap 6 demoted her to 12th - although the Swiss racer could continue the race.

Al Qubaisi caught the four-car group fighting for third place with two laps to go, but she ultimately ran out of time to attempt a pass. Zanfari led from lights to flag and preceded Oscar Wurz by 4.8 seconds, while Serbian driver Andrej Petrovic came out on top for the battle for third.


Despite a difficult first lap, Hamda Al Qubaisi proved she had the same pace as the front running cars and salvaged a seventh place in race 1, although a five second penalty for track limits resulted in a final 8th place.


It was a positive performance for Laura Villars, who had a very solid first part of the race and then overtook Abdullah Al Qubaisi for 11th place in the final laps.


Hamda Al Qubaisi, F4 Saudi 2024, Kuwait Motor Town
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus GP

Race 2

The first of the reverse grid races was a great opportunity for Laura Villars to showcase her progress: the Swiss driver in fact lined up on pole position, alongside Juancho Brobio.


Villars had a good launch and retained the top spot through the first corner - although Alkabbani had a better exit and took the lead in the run towards turn 2; the safety car, though, was soon deployed for several incidents: race 1 winner Suleiman Zanfari spun at turn 1, Abdullah Al Qubaisi went around after being hit by Abuzenadah and a contact between Oscar Wurz and Kirill Kutskov at turn 6 took them out of contention.


From seventh on the grid, Hamda Al Qubaisi lost one place in these hectic stages but was ready to make up places as soon as the race went back underway on lap 4: Hamda overtook Brobio and soon applied pressure on Almaosherji, but she ended up losing one place to Zanfari during the battle.


Ahead, Laura Villars had a good restart and defended well; although she lost second to Federico Al Rifai, Laura battled with Petrovic for third and continued to run steadily in the lead pack.


While Villars lost a few places over the following laps, Hamda was up to seventh and attacked Suleiman Zanfari. As the Moroccan tried to take advantage of a duel between Aldereyaane and Almaosherji, Hamda seized the opportunity and found a gap on the inside of turn 7, snatching sixth on lap 10 with one of the best passes of the weekend. The Emirati's fast pace resulted in Hamda immediately attempting a pass on Saqer Almaosherji. The Kuwaiti was then hit by Faisal Alkabbani and the latter went off at turn 2, although Almaosherji continued.


On the final lap, Hamda couldn't quite pass her opponent and crossed the finish line in fifth place. Federico Al Rifai took home the win, ahead of Andrij Petrovic and Omar Aldereyaane.


Laura Villars had a very clean race and, while running with the pack, she improved massively her pace: Villars clocked a 2:04.646 which was by far her best lap at Kuwait Motor Town, within one second to the fastest lap of the race. She topped her best finish in the series with a P7 in race 2.


Laura Villars, F4 Saudi 2024, Kuwait Motor Town
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus GP

Race 3

In a mostly identical grid to race 2, Laura Villars unfortunately didn't have as much luck and, while battling in the pack into turn 1, she was hit and spun out of the race by Oscar Wurz - who also had to pit. Saqer Almaosherji had the best launch and took the lead, ahead of Faisal Alqabbani and Omar Aldereyaane; from seventh, Hamda Al Qubaisi was down to eighth place once the safety car was deployed at the end of lap 1.


The green flag waved again with 7 laps to go and the top three tried to pull away, while Hamda followed Zanfari closely, trying to find a gap like she did in the previous contest. Hamda was faster but Zanfari closed the door - and both lost a couple of seconds to the cars ahead. Al Qubaisi eventually made a move stick into turn 2 on lap 9 and moved up to seventh - with Wurz following her.


The Austrian sent a very late move on lap 11 and demoted Hamda to eighth once again, as she tried to push to catch back the group ahead. Meanwhile, Almaosherji had checked out in the lead and led Aldereyaane by over 2 seconds, while the 4-car battle for third was 8 seconds further down the road. A spin by Abuzenadah on the final lap brought out a yellow flag, which got in the way of the battle for third between Alkabbani and Al Rifai, with the former eventually retaining the position. Almaosherji scored his first win of the season in race 3 after a really clean performance.


Once again, Hamda Al Qubaisi was unlucky to get stuck behind some traffic following a tricky start, and despite a very competitive pace she couldn't finish higher than eighth.


Laura Villars, F4 Saudi 2024, Kuwait Motor Town
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus GP

Race 4

The final race of the weekend saw Suleiman Zanfari returning to pole position, alongside the extremely consistent Andrej Petrovic. From the sixth grid slot, Hamda Al Qubaisi would try to turn her weekend around with a strong finish in the final Kuwaiti race.


On the new tyre, Petrovic had a fantastic launch and demoted Zanfari from the top spot, as Al Rifai, Kutskov and Wurz followed. Hamda Al Qubaisi fell to eighth after the tricky direction change of Turn 1, but she was soon on the attack and made a clean pass on Alkabbani on lap 3. Unfortunately this battle had again allowed the group of cars in front to open a 5 second gap and Hamda set her personal best laps as she attempted to close back in.


From 10th on the grid, Laura Villars was temporarily down to P12 but was then able to gain back one position to Abuzenadah and pulled away, running on good times and closing in on Abdullah Al Qubaisi for the final point-scoring position.


Under pressure from Zanfari, race leader Petrovic made no mistakes and it would eventually be Zanfari to focus on defending when he ran wide on a kerb on lap 7; Al Rifai chased the orange car of the Moroccan for a few laps but wasn't ultimately able to snatch second place. Serbian racer Andrej Petrovic claimed a convincing win and preceded Zanfari, Al Rifai, Kutskov and Wurz. In the second part of the race tyre degradation played a bigger part and Hamda Al Qubaisi couldn't catch back Aldereyaane, crossing the finish line in P7.


Once in the half a second gap to Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Laura Villars ran close to the #9 machine throughout the closing stages but would take the chequered flag in P11, just 9 tenths from the top ten. The third round of the F4 Saudi Arabian championship, though, marked a significant development for the Swiss racer.


With 17 points collected over the weekend, Hamda Al Qubaisi now sits 6th in the drivers' standings. The victory in race 4 awarded Andrej Petrovic the lead in the standings, as he now holds a 2 point advantage over Suleiman Zanfari. Al QUbaisi has a 4.5 point gap to the top five - currently Kirill Kutskov. Villars has so far gained 8 points and will enter the third championship round in 10th.


After the double-header at Kuwait Motor Town, the Saudi Arabian F4 championship is set to return to the track on 14-16 March, at Lusail International Circuit in Qatar. 

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