Hamda Al Qubaisi sets the pace in F1 Academy first practice at Barcelona
In a dry FP1, Hamda Al Qubaisi topped the first practice session at Circuit de Catalunya, carrying momentum after scoring the most points than anyone at Valencia.
After collecting the most points of everyone at the previous round in Valencia two weeks ago, Hamda Al Qubaisi is looking determined to keep momentum at Barcelona, as the Emirati driver opened the weekend by topping the timing sheets in a dry FP1.
On an overcast first day at Circuit de Catalunya, rain was forecasted for most of the day – and indeed had started to fall approximately one hour before the start of the first practice session.
The shower eased just in time as drivers were strapped into their cars and by the time the lights went green, the track was almost dry. While cars completed a few installation laps on wets, everyone bolted on slicks soon after, as times started to drop.
Nerea Marti (Campos Racing) set the early pace, before Abbi Pulling (Rodin Carlin) – who is sporting a new helmet this weekend – could improve in most sectors and set the new lap reference.
Within the first ten minutes of the session, though, Léna Buhler (ART Grand Prix) claimed the new fastest lap and the Swiss racer remained on top of the leaderboard for most of the session.
Marti and Hamda Al Qubaisi – who was among the last drivers to set a representative flying lap – improved in the first and third sector, before the Emirati, now second in the driver standings, clocked a 1:42.495 that gained her the top spot.
Nerea Marti also improved her personal best – and was faster than anyone in the second sector – but wasn’t enough to dethrone Al Qubaisi.
Marti – who took pole in Valencia, scored two podiums and was dominant in the post-event test on her home track – finished second fastest at the end of the first 40 minute session, just 1 tenth of a second off the MP Motorsport car of Al Qubaisi.
Bianca Bustamante had a strong session, albeit shortened by an electrical issue: the Filipina was stationery in pit lane for most of the first half of the session, but once the issue was fixed, she soon made it to the top positions and eventually finished third, having also set the fastest first sector overall.
Championship leader Marta Garcia set her first representative laps towards the end of the session but still finished fourth, one hundredth of a second ahead of Léna Buhler – as the top five were covered by three tenths.
Emely de Heus was also showing good speed and the Dutch driver ran steadily in the top five, until she hit traffic and couldn’t improve her times. She then pitted and did not go out in the final minutes again. Lola Lovinfosse was an encouraging seventh, just ahead of Abbi Pulling – the first of the Rodin Carlin cars in eighth – Chloe Chong and Carrie Schreiner.
16 year old Chong is looking competitive at Barcelona and will be targeting more points after two six place finishes at Red Bull Ring and Valencia. Amna Al Qubaisi was P11 and preceded Chloe Grant, Jessica Edgar and Maite Caceres – who improved her times towards the end of the session. Megan Gilkes rounded out the timing sheets, as cars will hit the track for the second practice session at 17:00 local time.