Hamda Al Qubaisi collects promising results in Le Castellet round of FRECA
Hamda Al Qubaisi didn't give up after a couple of challenging weekends and was able to collect good results at Circuit Paul Ricard, where she scored her best finish to date at the fourth round of the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine.
Hamda Al Qubaisi was back on track last weekend for the fourth round of FRECA, after a couple of challenging weekends in Monza and Imola, where the Emirati racing driver wasn't able to show her true potential. At Monaco, despite the little track time on such a difficult track to learn, Hamda showed good progression through the sessions and was P27.
In the South of France, at circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, Hamda had the chance to return to a track where she had raced at in F4, and thus hopes were higher for a good result.
The sessions started with heavy rain on Friday morning, causing difficult conditions to drive on for the 35 young drivers competing in the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine: Paul Aron (Prema Team) was the fastest, while Hamda was able to do 13 laps and finished the first collective test in 33th position.
Luckily, Friday afternoon was dry and allowed the drivers to improve and set faster times. Aron was still fastest in the session with a time of 1.59.325.
The first qualifying session saw Prema's teammate Dino Beganovic claiming pole position, followed by Gabriel Bortoleto (R-Ace GP) and Paul Aron. Al Qubaisi managed to qualify 15th in her group, meaning she would start race 1 in the 30th grid slot.
As lights went out, she had a great launch and - taking advantage from Eduardo Barrichello stalling and everyone avoiding him - Hamda was able to maintain her position. Almost at the end of the first lap, Joshua Dufek (Van Amersfoort Racing) made contact with the ART Grand Prix Tatuus of Laurens van Hoepen while rejoining the track from one of the escape routes, causing the first and only safety car of the race.
Dino Beganovic meanwhile maintained his lead and, when the safety car went back in the pits, continued his race unbothered, as his rivals Aron and Bortoleto were busy battling each other. Hamda was pushed wide and had to restart her charge from P33, but she closed back in and remained at striking distance to Maceo Capietto (Monolite Motorsport), whom she overtook only a few corners later.
By the end of the race she was able to gain up more places and finished in 29th position. Hamda continues to show good improvements in her rookie season in Formula 3 machinery, making good passes in one of the world's most competitive fields in junior single-seater racing.
The race was ultimately won by Paul Aron, who had a thrilling battle with his teammate Dino Beganovic, second at the finish line and followed by Michael Belov (MP Motorsport).
Sunday morning saw Hamda improving her qualifying time enough to place her on the 28th spot of the grid, being only 1.216 second off Gabriel Bortoleto, the fastest of her group.
Race 2 went underway at 14:30 on Sunday and Hamda immediately made an impression: by the end of the first lap she had overtaken 4 other cars, gaining the 24th place. Gabriele Mini (ART Grand Prix) was on pole and was able to maintain his lead up until the safety car was deployed due to a contact between Capietto, Victor Bernier (FA Racing) and Owen Tangavelou (G4 Racing).
At the restart, Hamda lost out to Noel Leon (Arden Motorsport) and Sami Meguetounif (MP Motorsport), but fought back and climbed the order, initially passing Nicolas Baptiste.
Ultimately, she was able to move up to 26th position until the Safety car was deployed once again due to a crash between Esteban Masson (FA Racing), Pietro Delli Guanti (RP Motorsport) and Joshua Dufek. Race restarted with one minute to go and saw Minì taking the win, followed by Beganovic - who would be later disqualified because his car was found to be non-compliant - and Kas Haverkort (Van Amersfoort Racing).
Hamda ended the second race of the weekend in 26th position, claiming her best finish of the FRECA season so far and showing promising speed for the future weekends.
"So far I think this has been a very good weekend in general", she said. "I worked with the team to improve throughout the whole event and I think I’ve done very good steps especially in qualifying" - she added.
Hamda Al Qubaisi will be back on the grid of Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine at Zandvoort in two weeks' time, targeting even more improvements to build on the momentum . "I’m happy with the improvements and I want to give a big thank you to the team for the support as always!" - Hamda concluded.