From a broken arm to the top step of the podium: Hamda Al Qubaisi stuns Valencia and wins F1 Academy race 1
The first race of the F1 Academy round at Valencia was off to a thrilling start, after track limit penalties had mixed up the order on Friday night.
Valencian racer Nerea Martí inherited pole position - after also topping free practice and showcasing impressive speed throughout the sessions.
Martí lined up alongside another strong contender, Emirati talent Hamda Al Qubaisi - who was promoted to second but also saw all her laptimes deleted in Q2. Hamda, who had already displayed some of the most exciting action at Spielberg last week with amazing charges, had the chance to finally show her pace staring from the front. And it didn’t take long before the 20 year old Emirati was up into the lead.
At lights out, Hamda fired into first place with a spectacular start that left Nerea Martí defending the inside also from Amna Al Qubaisi, who got ahead of Chloe Grant at the start and looked confident to keep momentum from her first win in Austria.
Martí, though, held on to second, as also Léna Bühler was in the mix for a podium spot.
From the back of the field after having their times deleted, Marta García and Abbi Pulling had to quickly recover on a track where it is notably hard to pass on. García soon completed a few pass and was in the top ten, while Pulling struggled a bit more to make up ground.
García overtook Caceres - who had a spectacular qualifying on Friday, and held her position for several laps in the race.
Hamda Al Qubaisi tried to pull away, but Nerea Martí was the only driver able to keep up with her pace. The home hero set the fastest lap on lap 5 and remained within the one second gap, putting pressure on the leading MP Motorsport driver. A few seconds behind, Amna Al Qubaisi was defending well from Bühler for third place. The two traded fastest sector times, but Al Qubaisi had her eyes firmly set on another double sister-podium.
Marta García gained a few more spots and caught her Prema teammates Chong and Bustamante, in a three car battle. Chong held her own but eventually García was through with a clean pass.
Pulling also passed her Rodin Carlin teammates and grabbed tenth place.
Ahead, Hamda Al Qubaisi had it under control: midway through the race, the Emirati pulled away and extended her gap to Martí.
Amna Al Qubaisi received a 5 second penalty for track limits - that would promote both Bühler for third and Grant to fourth.
García and Bustamante battled for sixth place and the Filipina star was able to keep her teammate at bay until the end with a confident run. They would both gain another position after the chequered flag, when Amna Al Qubaisi received a further 5 second penalty for track limits, demoting her from third to seventh.
After 17 flawless laps, Hamda Al Qubaisi took a spectacular win - her first of the season, her seventh in Formula 4 and her first after a wrist fracture only two months ago, that saw the young athlete succeeding in a truly remarkable sporting achievement.
Megan Gilkes and Jessica Edgar were eighth and ninth - both leapfrogging again Abbi Pulling, who finished eleventh, just outside the points paying positions.
Lola Lovinfosse bagged the final point in P10.
Carrie Schreiner had all her times deleted in both qualifying and, from the back of the pack, completed race 1 in P12, ahead of Maite Caceres and Emely de Heus - also hit with more track limits penalties during the race.
Chloe Chong was contesting a solid race in eighth place until an off track moment. She rejoined and pitted, but eventually retired from race 1. The British-Canadian will have the chance to bounce back soon, though: in a few hours, the 20-minute race two will in fact feature an all Prema front row: Bianca Bustamante and Chloe Chong.
Race 2 is set to get underway at 16:10 local time.