Hamda Al Qubaisi: The birth of a new star?
Looking back on the winter championship that presented us with the rise of a potential new star: a chat with F4 UAE race winner Hamda Al Qubaisi.
In the wake of a global pandemic that has paralyzed the whole world, motorsport - as the entire sports industry - is facing uncertain times.
Every championship has either cancelled or postponed all its events in the foreseeable future, targeting the public and competitors' safety.
With those - certainly sensible - measures leaving racing fans craving for the long awaited on-track action, we decided to look back on one of the most interesting formula championships that went underway in winter time, providing quality racing and ultimately shining a light on a specific upcoming driver.
The Al Qubaisi sisters are among the most interesting prospective of the current motor racing scene: Amna,19, is starting to become a recognized face in the sport. After some important experiences in Europe and a Formula E test, her big breakthrough performance came in late 2019, when she claimed a historic victory in the Trophy round of the F4 UAE championship, a support event of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In front of the biggest audience and on her home track, Amna became the first woman to win a F1 support race. But in the same field, a record-breaking four women had taken the start: racing for the same Abu Dhabi Racing team, it was also Amna's younger sister, Hamda.
In 2019, 16-year old Emirati lady Hamda Al Qubaisi moved her first steps in formula cars, after some years spent in karting. Last summer, Hamda made her Formula 4 debut in the Italian championship, one of the most competitive junior series in Europe. Alongside her sister, she entered two rounds at the wheel of the #88 Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema Tatuus F4 T014: Hamda drove on two of the most iconic racetracks in Europe, the Austrian Red Bull Ring and the Temple of Speed, Monza.
We had the chance to meet and talk with young Hamda for the first time at the Italian venue, during the final round of the F4 season where she impressed for her consistent progresses.
After the Trophy round of the Emirati-based F4 championship, Hamda went on to compete in the full season, unlike her sister. She showed convincing pace in the opening round, but it was following the first points-paying race at Dubai Autodrome that it became immediately clear that Hamda could have been a real potential contender.
In all the 5 championship rounds, Al Qubaisi consistently fought for podiums and victories, showing blistering speed in qualifying. She completed an impressive campaign finishing fourth in the driver's standings, claiming 12 podiums, 9 pole positions and three race victories out of 19 races, in what was effectively her maiden full-season formula championship.
With the two race wins secured at the last round in Dubai a few weeks ago, Hamda Al Qubaisi became the first woman to ever clinch three Formula 4 victories.
An outstanding achievement that will now put the young Emirati under the spotlight. Are we witnessing to the birth of a new racing star? It might be early to say, but her results are certainly proof of a natural talent that could be up for a bright future.
We had the pleasure to ask her some questions regarding her exciting start of the 2020 season.
"As soon as I got my first pole position I realized that I had potential in me to even win a few races"
RACERS: The F4 UAE Championship was your first full F4 season after two selected races in the Italian championship. How was to race in your home soil? Did you find any difference in racing with a championship goal in mind rather than on a single-race basis?
HAMDA: For my first full season in the UAE all I had in mind was to finish in the top 5 at least and I didn’t expect even getting close to finishing on the podiums, but as soon as I got my first pole position I realized that I had potential in me to even win a few races.
I think for the first few races of the championship I didn’t really think about my championship standings and I think that’s what I lacked in the beginning.
R: You dominated almost every qualifying session during the championship. Do you think you've found something special, as a qualifying approach? What do you think it was your biggest strength?
H: I feel like for every qualifying this season I never really stressed about it and it was just me and the car against the time, so for me it was the best way to show the best in me and to be able to put all my focus on that gave me the result of the pole position. Also, while driving, my mind was never on what the others were doing but more on what I was doing and I think that’s what made the difference.
R: At the beginning of the season, starts probably costed you some points, but then you improved towards mid-season. Where do you think you still have room for improvement and what will you focus on in the future?
H: Yeah, I’ve been struggling a lot with my race starts, especially with the pressure starting in pole position made it even harder. But I found a way to improve that and then I had really great starts. Having that switch made my races a bit easier on me to finish in the top steps and for future races I need to focus on my race strategy and race pace.
R: Is there any additional pressure on racing in a short-calendar championship, where you race almost every weekend?
H: I think that the F4 UAE championship was really challenging because the races were back to back and I really wish there were more rounds because I really enjoyed the season.
R: Which was your favourite track - or track layout?
H: My favorite track was the full layout of the Yas Marina Circuit: I qualified P1, almost one second faster than the rest of the field, a 2:11.4 and a track record for F4.
R: Describe the feeling of the first victory in your formula racing career.
H: My first victory in Formula 4 was the best feeling ever. It was as if I was in a dream, I felt as though it’s not true, all the doubts I had during that race disappeared and I was able to win that race with a 10 second gap and the fastest lap time of the race. It was the longest 30 minutes of my life but was definitely worth it [she laughs].
R: After your experiences in the Italian F4 championship, this winter series has definitely put you on the worldwide radar as one of the most interesting upcoming drivers. What are the plans now?
H: The F4 UAE championship definitely prepared me well and I’ve learned a lot in such a small amount of time and I think that I’m starting to understand the car more. I was able to improve very fast as well, so it’s really good.
My plans are to race in Europe but nothing is confirmed yet.
"My first victory in Formula 4 was the best feeling ever. It was as if I was in a dream"