Exclusive interview with Hamda Al Qubaisi, as the Emirati sisters get ready for the F4 UAE season opener in Abu Dhabi.
When in 2018 18-year old Amna Al Qubaisi made her single seater debut, she probably wasn't aware she was about to become a breakthrough personality in the Arab sport world.
As the first Emirati woman to pursue a career in professional motor racing, Amna quickly realized she wasn't just a Formula 4 driver: she was a role model for young women.
Among the ladies inspired by Al Qubaisi, it was her younger sister Hamda.
A bright personality, funny and smart, 17-year old Hamda started karting in the Emirates following in her sister and father's footsteps in 2015 and, after some successful years in international competitions, she made her debut in the Italian Formula 4 championship at the Red Bull Ring earlier this year.
Racing under the banner of Abu Dhabi Racing Team alongside Amna, Hamda focused on a testing program in the first part of the season, to better prepare for a 2020 full time campaign. "Given the excellent results in testing, we decided to anticipate Hamda's debut on the Austrian track, which is easier, safer and less physically demanding." - commented Andrea Piccini, team manager of the Iron Lynx Motorsport Lab operation.
Hamda was later entered also in the final round of the very competitive Italian F4 championship in Monza: under very challenging wet conditions, the young lady performed well and had mistake-free races, finishing ahead of much more experienced drivers.
But Hamda's 2019 season isn't over yet, as both the Al Qubaisi sisters will take to the racetrack once again this weekend on home soil, during the non-championship round of the upcoming F4 UAE season. The Emirates-based championship will in fact make its racing return in the prestigious venue of YAS Marina circuit, under the big spotlight of the Formula 1 event.
One of the most interesting open wheels winter series, the F4 UAE will feature 4 women racers at this weekend's season opening: Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi will also be joined on the grid by Saudi Reema Juffali and Brit Logan Hannah. A first for circuit racing in the region.
“The F4 UAE Championship has grown to be one of the best platforms for new talented drivers to expand their careers, and we are very proud that it now has four women willing to be a part of this historical event supporting the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization and FIA Vice President for Sport.
“Drivers that come to F4 UAE are usually karting champions with international experience, and these young women have done a great job in earning credibility through karting and open-wheelers in Europe, the UK and the UAE to be prepared for racing in front of a huge F1 crowd." - added Craig Thompson, category technical director.
A small yet very significant wave for Arab women in motorsport, coming one week after Juffali's debut at the Riyadh ePrix.
Motorsport is certainly in the Al Qubaisi family's blood and Hamda is set to make the most out of this further learning opportunity. We had the chance to meet and chat with the youngest of the Al Qubaisi's sisters during her second ever Formula 4 appearance, in Monza:
"I've only raced in Europe and to be in my home Country, with my home crowd, it's going to be amazing."
RACERS: How would you describe your debut season in Formula 4 this year?
HAMDA: I've only done 2 races this year so far, but I think it's been amazing and extraordinary!
R: You did really well in your last race weekend in Monza, under difficult conditions.
H: Monza's races were very wet: I enjoyed racing in those conditions because it was my first time racing in the wet in that car. It was very slippery out there and very hard, but it was all a learning experience in the end and I'll take it with me to other races.
From now on, I expect to learn some more, getting in there and fight with the others.
R: You'll be racing with your sister in Abu Dhabi in the F4 UAE round in Yas Marina. What does it mean to you to race in your home Country?
H: I think it's going be a great experience to race in my home town, I've never raced there before, I've only raced in Europe and to be in my home Country, with my home crowd, it's going to be amazing.
R: And obviously under the eyes of the F1 audience.
H: Yeah, F1 is great and always has big crowds. I enjoy going to F1 races and I enjoy everything about it. I think it's going to be great to race in front of that kind of audience.
R: What do you think are the main differences, character-wise, between you and your sister Amna?
H: I would say I'm more smooth and she's more aggressive.
R: That's exactly what she had told us as well.
H: Yeah, she likes to get stuck in there and overtake, she likes to fight with others. On the other hand, I'm more smooth and cautious, I would say. That's pretty much the difference.
R: Since you're very young, how do you combine school with being an athlete at this high level of motorsport?
H: Right now I'm in New York University Abu Dhabi. It's a very hard University back home in Abu Dhabi and I think that they are very understanding and they help me when I have to leave or I have to go for races, they really take that into consideration and it helps me a lot.
It's really hard to balance, because the work is very tough and it's a lot of workload. But in the end, you know, that's the only way to balance both ends: I cannot go full racing and miss school, as school is very important to my family and to me.
R: What are your interests besides motorsport?
H: I enjoy running, I do it with my dad a lot and I also used to do gymnastics before I started karting. And of course I also do a lot of karting! That is motorsports, but I enjoy karting so much, I've been doing it for five years and I just got into cars this year. I really loved karting, it was amazing: every race it was so fun for me to do.
R: Have you ever had a racing idol, apart from your father?
H: Yeah, I would say that my idol would be Sean Edwards. He used to race in GTs with my father and he has had a big impact on us, in our journey to join motorsport. Obviously my father was my first idol, but if I should say a second one, it would be both my sister and Sean Edwards.
He really was an amazing person, may he rest in peace. He was very close to my family and he would help us a lot, so kind and so nice.
R: Great that you mentioned Sean. Speaking of safety in motorsport, the helmet of a racing driver is always something very personal. Do your graphics and colours represent something to you? By the way your helmet design looks stunning.
H: Thank you! I have my helmet with the Arabic line at the back: it's a quote that our leader Shaikh Zayed said, may He rest in peace. It's an amazing quote and it really means a lot to me. But right now I have a new helmet and I think it's also gonna be great to show: there are a lot of bright colours and I like the bright pink and yellow.
I also have the falcon at the back that represents our Country.
"Obviously my father was my first idol, but if I should say a second one, it would be both my sister and Sean Edwards."
Ph credits: Racers-BehindTheHelmet.com