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Hamda Al Qubaisi scores fifth podium in F4 Saudi at Jeddah

Hamda Al Qubaisi returned to the podium for the fifth time of the season at the fourth round of the F4 Saudi championship, with a third place that keeps the Emirati in the top-5 in the standings. Amna Al Qubaisi was among the fastest drivers on track in race 2 and just missed out on a podium. Laura Villars enjoyed her best weekend to date, scoring points in all three races and collecting her personal best of fifth.

Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus

Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi returned to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit fresh of their F1 Academy experience in support of the F1 Grand Prix - this time tackling the fourth round of the 2024 F4 Saudi Arabian Championship.

Into its inaugural season, the series promoted by Altwakilat Meritus made its first appearance on Saudi soil, for a back to back that will wrap up the season next week.

Following rounds in Kuwait, Qatar - and a non-championship season opener in Bahrain - the centrally-run series hosted in fact a triple-header at the home of the Saudi F1 Grand Prix in Jeddah, with practice, qualifying and three races condensed into a single night.

Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi were coming off a podium each at the Lusail round two weeks ago - in a weekend that saw Hamda securing second place in race 4 and Amna battling at the front and also claiming a runner up spot in race 2. Despite having missed a round - the second meeting at Kuwait Motor Town - due to F1 commitments, Amna has been running among the front runners since the non-championship Bahrain races, but has so far not quite capitalized on her pace as she would have deserved.

Her sister Hamda - also a race winner and third place finisher in last year's F1 Academy championship - established herself as one of the leading drivers in the series and, with a win, a second and a third place in Kuwait she aimed to keep momentum.

Also joining the Red Bull athletes were Aurelia Nobels in Qatar - who secured her first podium of her F4 career - and Laura Villars. The Swiss driver is contesting her first full campaign in F4 machinery and has shown big improvements since her debut. Villars - who had raced in the Ultimate Cup single seater championship last year - made important steps forward pace-wise and managed to collect points in all but one round so far.

Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus

Drivers had the chance to familiarize themselves with the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in a pre-event test on Wednesday, with plenty of mileage being collected by the 15 racers.

Race day started with the official practice session - and Andrej Petrovic set the pace ahead of Suleiman Zanfari and Kirill Kutskov. Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi were seventh and eighth fastest, - in a format that rewards tyre saving for the following sessions. Laura Villars also completed only five laps and was P12.

Hamda and Amna were soon up to pace in qualifying, setting the second and third time at their first push lap; Hamda was just 0.076 of a second behind Suleiman Zanfari as representative times started to be posted. Hamda improved on her second run, but Andrej Petrovic moved on top of the leaderboard 1ith 20 minutes to go, clocking a 2:07 for the first time in the session. Kutskov followed, ahead of Hamda Al Qubaisi who had moved ahead of Zanfari, before they pitted for new tyres midway through the 30 minute session.

Traffic on their first push laps on the new tyre brought small a small improvement for both sisters; as most drivers pitted with a few minutes left on the clock, Hamda found more time in clear air and set her best and second best laps at the end of the session, with a 2:08.192 that placed her third on the grid of race 3, as well as fourth in race 1. Amna Al Qubaisi also improved on her very final lap and would line up from P7 and P8.

At each lap, Laura Villars was gaining confidence and her 2:10.671 put the #55 blue car in 12th position. The only driver under the 2:08 mark, Andrej Petrovic was unbeaten and set a double pole position; the Serbian would share the front row with Kirill Kutskov in race 1 and Saqer Almaosherji in race 3.

Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 1

Al Rifai fired into the lead from the third row with an exceptional - almost too good to be true -  launch at lights out, going around the outside of Petrovic at turns 1 and 2. While Hamda Al Qubaisi was down to fifth, her sister Amna made up positions to slot into sixth on the first lap. Laura Villars also gained a couple of positions and soon moved into the top ten.

Hamda tried to put pressure on Kutskov, as Al Rifai, Petrovic and Wurz were fighting hard for the lead just ahead. Petrovic fought back on the final corner of lap 2 and a brilliant three-wide battle saw the Serbian eventually getting back the top spot at the end of the main straight. This brought Hamda and Amna back into the leading pack as well; Saqer Almaosherji attempted a pass on Amna Al Qubaisi and the two cars banged wheels, but Amna's powerful defense resulted in the Emirati retaining sixth.

Just ahead, a wheel to wheel duel between Kutskov and Wurz gave Hamda the perfect chance to snatch fourth - virtually third, as Al Rifai was handed a 5 second penalty for jumping the start.

Wurz, though, continued to put pressure on Hamda - and these skirmishes for third and fourth played in favor of Al Rifai, who despite the penalty managed to open a gap to Kutskov, Al QUbaisi, Wurz and Zanfari.

With 15 minutes to go, Amna Al Qubaisi dropped all the way down the order before coming back to the pits to retire for a technical issue.

After a few laps, Wurz found a way past Hamda Al Qubaisi for fourth at turn 1, with Hamda now having to deal with tyre deg. Zanfari and Almaosherji also got ahead - both overtaking outside the track limits.

Ahead, Petrovic was being caught by Al Rifai - but time ran out and the Serbian took victory, preceding Kutskov once Al Rifai's penalty was applied and dropped to third. Oscar Wurz was fourth - but Hamda Al Qubaisi was able to reclaim fifth after both Zanfari and Almaosherji received penalties for the pass off-track.

While it was a slightly lonely race for Laura Villars - who had settled on her 2:10m pace and ran seven seconds from Aldereyaane and seven seconds clear of Abuzenadah - the Swiss racer took the chequered flag in a very solid ninth place, returning to the points-paying positions since Kuwait round 2.

Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 2

The reverse grid race saw Althani sharing the front row with Laura Villars, as Amna Al Qubaisi and Hamda lined up in P7 and P11 respectively.

Al Saud had a blistering start and fired into the lead, while Villars was boxed in and hit at turn 1, still retaining third.

Villars brilliantly defended until she was eventually under pressure from a big group of cars and dropped to seventh. Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi followed in ninth and tenth - but every driver was separated by tenths of a second across the finish line of the second lap.

Al Saud and Kutskov made contact and the former was sent into a spin at the first corner on lap 3, which triggered the safety car following one of the most action packed first laps. Omar Aldereyaane led the pack from compatriot Faisal Alkabbani and Andrej Petrovic; Hamda Al Qubaisi was up to seventh, having just passed Laura Villars.

The race resumed on lap 5 and there were more contacts into turn 1, with Petrovic and Almaosherji picking up damage. The chaos that followed resulted in Zanfari and Hamda Al Qubaisi also getting front wing damage - and the former hit the wall leading towards turn 3. Hamda continued, but was overtaken by her sister Amna, who had meanwhile cleared Villars straight at the restart.

Aldereyaane and Alkabbani pulled away - although they would run deep at turn 1 on the following lap. Alkabbani snatched the lead, then stretched his legs and opened a small gap on his rival.

Amna Al Qubaisi made the most out of the hectic situation and she soon moved up to fourth. Hamda, meanwhile, was trying to hold on but eventually had to settle in eighth, having continued with the broken front wing.

Amna was on a mission and, being the fastest driver on track, she caught up with Kutskov and started to put pressure on the Serbian for third place. Albeit five second behind, Laura Villars was safely in fifth place and ran on highly competitive times: she set a personal best of 2:10.577 on lap 11, not far from the cars ahead.

Amna Al Qubaisi, though, remained the driver closer to the car ahead and further closed in on the final lap. Half a second behind, the F1 Academy race winner tried until the very final corner to end her birthday with a podium, but fell just a few tenths short and scored an equally positive fourth place.

Laura Villars kept her nose clean and completed arguably her best race in the series with a fifth place, having made a good step forward pace-wise. The wing damage in the opening laps unfortunately prevented Hamda Al Qubaisi from finishing higher than eighth, but the Emirati still managed to get to the end of the race with a damaged car, scoring four points.

Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 3

The race with the full points saw Andrej Petrovic sharing the front row with Saqer Almaosherji; Hamda Al Qubaisi will have the chance to bounce back from her previous race with P3 on the grid of race 3, alongside Oscar Wurz - who had to miss the second race due to a technical issue in this tight racing schedule. On the older tyre, Amna Al Qubaisi started from sixth, while Laura Villars in P12.

Patrovic secured the lead after a strong start, while Wurz and Hamda Al Qubaisi fought over third place - with the Emirati coming out ahead of turn 2 and then defending into turn 3.

Hamda then chased Almaosherji, but still had to keep Wurz at bay over the first laps. While most positions behind were unchanged, Amna Al Qubaisi had a tricky start on the tyre deficit and dropped to eighth, losing out to Al Rifai and Zanfari. From 12th, Laura Villars had gained one spot over Al Saud.

Hamda gained a few tenths on lap 2 when Kutskov passed Wurz for fourth - and Al Rifai joined the battle with more position changes into turn 1, when Kutskov cut the chicane and kept the position. Kutskov went on to overtake Hamda as well for third - but he received a 5 second penalty for gaining a lasting advantage in the previous manoeuvre. Aware of the penalty, Hamda didn't fight and tried to follow the Kyrgyz driver.

Petrovic pulled away from Almaosherji - who was being caught by Kutskov and Hamda Al Qubaisi; all the latter had to do was keep her gap stable to Kutskov in order to virtually retain the position. Hamda ran on competitive times - a couple of tenths from the car ahead - and settled in fourth on track.

Despite the old tyre, Amna was also improving her best laps, although she had dropped to ninth, behind the recovering Aldereyaane. In yet another great showing, Laura Villars managed to break into the top 10 and, despite having Saud Al Saud right behind, she could also count on a time penalty for her rival, who had made contact with Abuzenadah in the opening stages.

The battle for the podium heated up with 2 laps to go, as Oscar Wurz closed in on Hamda Al Qubaisi - now 2 seconds behind Kutskov. Having pushed in the opening laps, Hamda was starting to feel the tyre deg in the hot and humid conditions but held on brilliantly and, having crossed the finish line in fourth, she picked up the third place once penalties were applied, scoring a podium in the final race of the weekend.

Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus

Andrej Petrovic took a comfortable win, 7 seconds clear of Almaosherji. Oscar Wurz and Federico Al Rifai completed the top five.

With ninth, Amna Al Qubaisi scored a couple of points, having still shown competitive pace. She has so far finished in the top-ten in every race she has completed.

Tenth across the line, Laura Villars scored points for the sixth time this season - and for the third consecutive time, making round 4 undoubtedly her most competitive one to date.

With one round to go - which will feature again four races - Hamda Al Qubaisi retains fifth place in the championship standings, just two points behind Saqer Almousherji. Having scored the most points over the last weekend, Andrj Petrovic took the top of the leaderboard with 173.5 points, 5.5 ahead of Federico Al Rifai.

Drivers will return to the 27-corner, 6.174 km-long Jeddah Corniche Circuit in a week's time for the season finale that will crown the inaugural F4 Saudi Arabian champion.



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