Hamda Al Qubaisi returns to the Top-10 in Monza race 1
Hamda Al Qubaisi returned to the Top-10 with a remarkable recovery in Race 1 at Monza, at the Italian Formula 4 season finale.
The final round of the 2021 Italian Formula 4 season was off to a great start on Friday, as Hamda Al Qubaisi scored her second-best qualifying result of the season with three starts in the top-10 and a sixth place in Race 3.
The Temple of Speed has historically been friendly soil to the young Emirati driver. In 2019, Hamda made her second ever start in Formula 4 at Monza, in a very wet weekend where she shared the Abu Dhabi Racing garage with her sister Amna, who had contested the full season.
Hamda had strong weekend and went on to claim her best result of her F4 career one year later, when she finished 9th in Race 3.
Having been competitive in every test session at the famous Monza circuit, Al Qubaisi knew she had a good chance to finish again in the points, as she has often proven during her second full season despite not always capitalising due to a series of unfortunate circumstances.
Al QUbaisi became the first woman to step on the overall podium in Italian F4 at Misano, claiming an outstaning third place in Race 1, before carrying momentum into Vallelunga, wehere she scored more points.
On Friday, Al Qubaisi was P10 in Q1 and further improved to ninth place for the starting grid of Race 2.
“I went into qualifying with that mindset and I just wanted to stay away from traffic as much as possible.” – she told us. “Even if I had no draft, it wouldn’t matter. My most important point was to get a lap in – and I actually found a really good position, with also a really good distance from a few cars in front, which didn’t bother my lap.”
“In Q1 I still had more in me for the last few laps, but I hit traffic at the end. Still, I feel like it would have been an easy P8 or P7.”
“I’m really happy with P10 and P9 in the two qualifying sessions, and also the start of race 3 will be in P6, so it was my second highest qualifying position.” – said a very happy Al Qubaisi.
In cold and damp conditions – significantly different from Friday – Lorenzo Patrese started from pole position for the first time in his F4 career, preceding crowned champion Oliver Bearman and the BWT Mucke Motorsport cars of Joshua Durksen and Erick Zuniga.
Maya Weug, the first ever female driver to be signed to the Ferrari Driver Academy, was P24 after a challenging Friday at Monza.
When the lights went out, it was a close battle for the lead into the legendary Prima Variante; Bearman seemed to have the better hand on Patrese, but the Italian tried to fight back at La Roggia and went deep, allowing past the Van Amersfoort driver. Behind them, Durksen and Zuniga straight-lined the first chicane and dropped back, as US Racing’s Tim Tramnitz made the most of the situation.
In a rather difficult first lap for Mucke Motorsport, Jonas Ried went off at Lesmo 2 and crashed. Hamda Al Qubaisi was cautious in the first hectic laps and dropped to P13, but was crucially able to kept her nose clean. Weug advanced to P23.
On the second lap Patrese moved back into first place at La Roggia – but battles were constant throughout the field: Bedrin was briefly off in the gravel at Turn 1 after some skirmishes with Kirill Smal, Lomko retired after contact with Dufek and positions changed by the second in the mid-pack, with slipstream playing - as expected - a big role. Armanni was pushed on the grass on the main straight by Maceo Capietto, but both continued.
Al Qubaisi passed Simonazzi with a strong move and continued to fight for positions, moving up until eleventh place.
With 19 minutes to go, Patrese had opened a small gap on Bearman – who was then passed by Tim Tramnitz and was under threat from rookie Andrea Kimi Antonelli.
Revesz and De Haan collided, bringing out the first Safety car of the day. Maya Weug also was caught in the chaos and dropped to the tail end of the field, but was then able to recover to 28th.
On lap 10, the restart was a rather messy one: Patrese bunched up the field before Parabolica and had a good getaway, but Bearman, Tramnitz and Antonelli battled on their run towards Prima Variante. In what was an exciting duel, Antonelli was ahead at the second chicane, but Bearman fought back at Lesmo 1. Ultimately, the action was halted once again by a second Safety Car due to the accidet between Braschi and Capietto at Turn 1.
Al Qubaisi had retained 11th, while Weug was quickly up to P24.
At the second restart, Patrese was under pressure from Bearman and went deep into Prima Variante. The Italian rejoined ahead but, A few laps later, they inevitably collided at Curva Biassono: Bearman continued without damage, but Patrese had lost his winning chances.
Amidst the drama, Joshua Durksen moved into the race lead, but slipped behind Bearman and Antonelli in the closing stages. The final lap was one of the most action-packed in this year’s championsip: Antonelli went wide at the chicane but remained in contention until the final corner, as Bearman crossed the finish line to take victory in Monza. Mercedes-sponsored Kimi Antonelli was second – and first among the rookies – and Dursksen helf off Tramnitz for third.
Prema Powerteam’s Montoya, Smal and Laursen were fifth fourth and sixth.
Hamda Al Qubaisi was up to ninth at one point and finished tenth to score another important point for the championship.
“Race 1 went pretty well. I had a good start off the line but in the first laps I don’t know what I was doing – but then I finally clicked and I was able to make it from P17 up to P10 again.” – summed up Al Qubaisi.
“I think if I hadn’t done those first few laps probably I would have been around the top-six or seven. It’s definitely possible to be there and I want to score some more points. Anyway it was a good result in the end, scoring points again.” – she added.
“Overall I had a good handling with the car. I would like to thank Prema, Strata, Abu Dhabi Racing and also Kaspersky Lab for their support”.
Maya Weug also recovered in the final stages and was P21, with 30 cars out of the 35 entries taking the chequered flag.
The forecasted rain did eventually arrive for the start of Race 2, which started behind the Safety Car due to the worsening conditions. Patrese led the field, with Fornaroli ahead of Montoya, Antonelli and Tramnitz. Hamda Al Qubaisi was even further ahead compared to race 1, as she had ended ninth fastest in Q2 on Friday.
When the race eventually got underway, Patrese had a slower start but initially held off Fornaroli and Montoya – who both had faster reactions at the green flag. On the second lap, though, the Italian spun at the exit of Ascari, paving the way to Montoya and Antonelli, who went around Fornaroli.
The latter, though, also spun at Parabolica, followed by Tramnitz. Al Qubaisiwas caught in the first lap chaos and dropped down to P12. Maya Weug, started from 23rd on the grid, also had to give up one position.
On lap 4, Montoya went wide at the exit of Parabolica and gave the opportunity to his Prema teammate Andrea Kimi Antonelli to get into the lead: the rookie made the move stick at Prima Variante, and Montoya quickly had to defend from the recovering Bearman.
The new series champion overtook the Colombian at La Roggia with 15 minutes left on the clock – just before Leonardo Fornaroli went off and into the tyre barrier at Ascari.
Conditions remained tricky and, after a few challenges laps, Hamda Al Qubaisi had a contact with another driver which put her out of the race.
“In Race 2 I was maybe a bit too conservative in the first two laps with these conditions.” – she explained. “I’m not so confident [in these conditions] and starting so far in the front I expected not to keep up with them that much, but I did learn a lot in the first laps”.
“Unfortunately I had some contact with the car in front of me and I bent my steering column so I couldn’t continue.”
“However I think it was a good step, especially with these conditions. I was a bit more reactive than I normally am, and that’s one positive thing I can take from it.”
Antonelli’s chances of a first win were looking good until the final Safety Car, which came with 5 minutes to go when Samir Ben got stuck into the gravel at the second chicane. Antonelli, in fact, was slower at the restart and was attacked by Bearman. In another action-filled finale, Montoya and Antonelli were deep into the second chicane and Bearman moved into the lead.
The British driver crossed the finish line to take his second win of the day, ahead of Montoya and Antonelli, while Joshua Duerksen was fourth and Kirill Smal fifth.
Maya Weug was crashed out at the final restart, when she was hit from behind by Oliver Gray while cars where bunching up. Gray received a 5 second time penalty after the race.
Race 3 on Sunday will round out the 2021 Italian Formula 4 season. Hamda Al Qubaisi will start from sixth on the grid – her second highest starting place of the year. Maya Weug will line up in 29th position.
“For the upcoming race tomorrow for sure the track is not going to dry out, so it’s going to be same conditions.” – concluded Hamda. “I think I just have to learn as much as I can, make the most out of it”.