Emirati Hamda Al Qubaisi sealed her first ever formula victory in the third round of the F4UAE championship, having claimed all pole positions so far in the season.
17-year old Hamda Al Qubaisi, the youngest of the famous racing family, wrote her chapter in single-seater racing history on Saturday, as she secured her first ever victory in the Formula 4 UAE championship.
Hamda had so far claimed every pole positions in this 2020 edition of the Emirati-based championship but the much coveted victory had always slipped away from her, until race 3 of the third round of the championship in Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi.
Hamda Al Qubaisi succeeds her sister Amna, who won the "Trophy" round in support of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November last year, becoming the first woman to win a race in a Formula 1 weekend. Hamda is now only the fourth female driver to ever score a Formula 4 victory.
The weekend of the young Emirati driver, at her first full season in formula cars (she entered two rounds of the Italian F4 Championship in 2019 alongside her sister) started with yet another pole position: the driver of the #88 Abu Dhabi Racing signed a 1:09.680 lap around the shorter North Circuit configuration of the Yas Marina facility. Championship leader Francesco Pizzi lined up alongside her, with Nico Göhler slotting-in in third.
Friday's race saw Hamda Al Qubaisi slightly struggling off the line, with Göhler having the best start from third. The BWT Mücke Motorsport driver grabbed the lead with a decisive move on the outside of turn one, ahead of Pizzi and Al Qubaisi.
The young lady kept putting pressure on her rivals, until an engine issue forced Francesco Pizzi to drop down the order and ultimately to retire. This gave Al Qubaisi the chance to chase Göhler for the victory, as the local driver quickly closed in on the race leader but could not find a way past the German.
Another lady made good progresses throughout the race: Saudi Reema Juffali started in 10th and advanced to sixth until the final stages of the race.
After 26 laps, Nico Göhler crossed the finish line half a second ahead of Al Qubaisi, claiming his second F4UAE victory and gaining 25 points over his championship rival Pizzi.
Lorenzo Fluxa took third for Xcel Motorsport, preceding his teammates Marinangeli and Chovanec. Juffali was eighth, after dropping behind Zuniga and Hadjar in the closing laps.
The reverse grid race saw Mexican Erick Zuniga sprinting away in the first half of the race, as the BWT Mücke Motorsport driver tried to hold off Chovanec and Al Qubaisi.
Nicola Marinangeli dropped to seventh, but later started an impressive comeback up through the field.
Zdenek Chovanec and Nico Göhler made contact in turn one, with the race-1 winner managing to continue despite a steering damage to finish the race. After the chequered flag, Chovanec was deemed guilty and handed a 10 seconds post-race penalty.
On lap 18, Marinangeli climbed into the lead with Al Qubaisi following closely. Behind them, Zuniga settled for third.
When the chequered flag fell, it was Nicola Marinangeli to take his maiden formula victory, after his debut season in the 2019 Italian F4 championship.
Fluxa led Pizzi and Göhler at the finish line for fourth, while Reema Juffali signed another solid eight place. After the penalty was applied, Chovanec was demoted to seventh.
Hamda Al Qubaisi and Francesco Pizzi shared the front row for the third race of the weekend, as the Emirati girl had again signed the second best lap in qualify to claim another pole position.
Hamda had a clean start and held the lead, as Pizzi, Fluxa and Göhler battled for the runner up spot behind her.
The 17-year old from Abu Dhabi, finally in clean air, showed her pace and opened up a gap of over 10 seconds over her nearest opponents: she completed 26 laps flawlessly and crossed the finish line with the greatest margin of the weekend. Fluxa and Pizzi were second and third, sharing the podium with the first time winner Al Qubaisi.
Newcomer Isack Hadjar was an impressive 5th, while Reema Juffali brought the #18 Dragon Racing car once again to eighth place. It is the ninth top-10 finish for the Saudi racer, as she enters her second F4 season.
Three months from her sister's historical victory, Hamda Al Qubaisi joins the exclusive club of single-seaters race winners: "The view up there on the top step of the podium is a different thing, it's amazing that I've had three pole positions in a row this year but now I have the race win that I've been waiting for." - she said.
"It's really hard to convert pole position to a race win because all the nerves, and the pressure of starting from pole is massive. But to also have my family and my sister here watching me win is amazing."
"When I started the race I made sure I just focused and saved my tyres and got the gap over the other drivers. Hopefully now that I've been able to make the switch in my mind of knowing what to do to win I'll be able to keep going and get more." - concluded a thrilled Al Qubaisi.
The fourth race from Yas Marina was interrupted by a red flag on the fourth lap, when a collision between Chovanec and Reema Juffali sent the 28-year old Saudi driver airborn, as her Tatuus car rolled over. Luckily, both the drivers escaped unhurt.
Shortly after the restart, the Safety Car was deployed again for a second incident involving Hamda Al Qubaisi and Erick Zuniga, which forced both the competitors to retire.
After 5 laps, the field was cut short to eighth cars. At the restart, Xcel Motorsport teammates Francesco Pizzi and Nicola Marinangeli held off Nico Göhler, as the top three drivers sprinted away from Lorenzo Fluxa and Isack Hadjar.
At the end of the 30 minutes time, Pizzi resumed his winning streak and signed another 1-2 for Xcel Motorsport as Marinangeli finished second by an incredibly close 0.182 margin.
Göhler was third, less than half a second behind the race leader.
With two rounds to go and 11 races contested, Francesco Pizzi still holds a relatively safe advantage over Nico Göhler (190 to 156). It was a positive weekend for the German though, who will try to extend his momentum to Dubai Autodrome.
Hamda Al Qubaisi currently sits fourth in the standings, 16 points behind Marinangeli and 60 points to championship dominator Francesco Pizzi. Despite an unlucky fourth race, Hamda has now six-podium finishes under her belt and will look forward to add more race victories to her resumé in the final six races of this riveting F4 UAE Championship.
In Hamda's words:
"Hopefully now that I've been able to make the switch in my mind of knowing what to do to win I'll be able to keep going and get more."
Ph Credits: Adriano Coutinho - F4UAE