Hamda Al Qubaisi sets the pace in Zandvoort FP1
Hamda Al Qubaisi is on a mission to recover points in the championship: the Emirati kicked off her team's home race by setting the pace in the first practice session at Zandvoort, ahead of Abbi Pulling - the only other driver under the 1:37 minute mark.
Hamda Al Qubaisi set the pace in F1 Academy's first practice at Zandvoort, beating Abbi Pulling by two tenths of a second after the first 40 minute session. They were the only two drivers under the 1:37 minute mark around the technical and physically challenging circuit, which represents the half-way point of the inaugural F1 Academy championship. Al Qubaisi, who topped the two test days at Motorland Aragon last week, is on a mission to recover a 41 point deficit to championship leader Marta García, determined to return to the top step of the podium after an unlucky weekend at Barcelona. Hamda is recovering well from an arm fracture and, despite the highly demanding nature of the Dutch track, the Emirati is looking to be the driver to beat. Hamda is also the only driver on the field to have previous experience at Zandvoort in F4 machinery, having raced in a one-off round in the ADAC German F4 championship in 2021 to two strong 12th place finishes. Léna Bühler and Abbi Pulling also have mileage in formula cars under their belt, having both raced in Formula Regional machinery, respectively in FRECA and W Series. In the first practice session, drivers with knowledge of the track were soon up to speed and all finished in the top three, in an incident-free session throughout the field. Home hero Emely de Heus set the first representative lap time around, as the now race winner will be trying to carry momentum from her remarkable Barcelona weekend. Abbi Pulling, who also has a history of being fast around the Dutch track, then set the new reference, improving in every sector - but Hamda Al Qubaisi could top her time by one tenth of a second half way through the session. With a 1:38.106 at her following flying lap, Hamda further raised the bar and extended her gap to over half a second to Pulling and De Heus – the latter then moving ahead of Pulling with 13 minutes to go. The Prema drivers were the last cars to leave the pit lane and championship leader Marta García was up to fourth after her second push lap, demoting Bühler to fifth. Rodin Carlin's Abbi Pulling put in a fast lap that allowed the Alpine Academy driver to claim second place back – but with two new purple sectors, Hamda Al Qubaisi restored a half a second gap in the final minutes, becoming the first driver under the 1:37 mark. Léna Bühler and Emely de Heus traded third place, leaving Marta García in fifth place, ahead of a promising Chloe Grant and Nerea Martí, who made it in the top ten in the final minute. Coming off a great testing performance in Aragon, Schreiner is emerging as a strong contender for the top ten and spent the majority of the session just outside the top-five, eventually finishing eighth fastest. Bianca Bustamante and Amna Al Qubaisi rounded out the top ten, ahead of Jessica Edgar, Lola Lovinfosse and Chloe Chong. Megan Gilkes and Maite Caceres were 14th and 15th; the Uruguayan also had promising tests at Aragon and improved by over two seconds in her first session in Zandvoort. With Hamda Al Qubaisi looking to be the driver to beat, drivers will now analyze data ahead of the second practice session, scheduled for 16:55 local time this afternoon. Due to a rule change ahead of the fourth round, all drivers will now receive two extra dry tyres, bringing the total up to 4 new sets of slicks per car, against the 3,5 of the first three rounds.