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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi complete F4 Saudi season

While the closing rounds of the Saudi F4 series proved to be incident-filled, Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi still enjoyed a positive third race to end the championship on a positive note, with Hamda battling for the podium in fourth and Amna close behind in sixth.

Hamda Al Qubaisi, Altawkilat Meritus GP, 2024 Saudi Arabian F4 Championship, Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus

The first ever edition of the Saudi Arabian F4 Championship came to a close last weekend at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, the home of the first ever Saudi F1 GP and home round of the Saudi series which hosted six championship rounds plus one Trophy Round.

After 25 races (21 points-paying contests), the series provided valuable track time to young talents from the region and beyond - with four female drivers collecting mileage for their respective single seaters campaigns.

Among them, Emirati sisters Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi have been among the protagonists since the Trophy Round in Bahrain in December, stepping on the podium numerous times - including for the top honor in Kuwait's third race.

After rounds at Kuwait Motor Town and Lusail Circuit, the series headed to Jeddah for its first triple-header, then followed by a second one last week. Just a few days later, drivers gathered for the season finale, again all held in one night: practice, qualifying and three races in a compact schedule that would assign the inaugural F4 Saudi title.

After a podium finish in round 4, Hamda Al Qubaisi had a challenging fifth round at Jeddah, with two retirements and a sixth place as best finish; similarly, her sister Amna was battling for the podium on two occasions but a contact in race 2 ended her race, although she still fought back to fourth in race 3.

Amna and Hamda - representing Visa CashApp RB and Red Bull Racing respectively in F1 Academy - were thus aiming to finish the F4 Saudi season on a high in the sixth round.

After practice, the official qualifying followed a few minutes later. Title contender Andrej Petrovic set the early pace following a full course yellow for the stricken car of Oscar Wurz.

Hamda was fifth fastest - just ahead of Amna - after their first representative times. Hamda then improved to third on her second run, behind Al Rifai and Petrovic. The Serbian would grab pole position on the final run; Hamda also improved and her 2:07.528 seemed enough for third - but Kirill Kutskov climbed to P3 at the very final second. Amna's 2:08.045 placed the #88 Tatuus on the third row of the grid in fifth.

Race 1

Petrovic retained the top spot at lights out, but Kutskov remained stationary on the grid and everyone had to take evasive action. A brilliant start for both Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi saw the sisters battling for second, as Hamda went side by side with Al Rifai into turn 1 and then fought with her compatriot for the whole first lap, trading positions for second. While Amna was stuck a few positions behind, she recovered well and, by the end of the first lap, she was also in the leading group, ready to contest for a podium.

Unfortunately it all went wrong at turn 1 on the second lap, when Alkabbani hit Hamda, and Saqer Almaosherji crashed into the back of Amna's cars, triggering a pile up at turn 1 which resulted in a safety car and a double retirement for the Al Qubaisi sisters. With little time on the schedule ahead of race 2, they made it back to the pits and retired.

Petrovic, Kutskov, Aldereyaane and Rifai went four wide at the restart and positions changed by the second, before Faisal Alkabbani hit the barriers and brought out another neutralization. Three laps were added to the race duration; Petrovic was under pressure from Kutskov - in what became a three-car battle for the lead once Al Rifai also joined the party.

The fastest lap changed hands between Kutskov and Al Rifai, but Petrovic held on until his rivals battled between each other with 3 laps to go. Al Rifai cleared Kutskov and then attacked Petrovic on the final corner; the leading trio went wheel to wheel into turn 1 and, after another intense lap, Petrovic took victory from Al Rifai and Kutskov at the end of a chaotic first contest. A timing error, though, forced the race to be reverted back to the previous lap - and Federico Al Rifai inherited the win.

Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus
Race 2

The reverse grid race saw Abdullaziz Abuzenadah sharing the front row with Suleiman Zanfari. Despite the incidents from less than one hour before, the whole Meritus crew managed to fix the cars and both Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi could take the start of race 2 from sixth and tenth respectively.

From fourth, Abdullah Al Qubaisi stalled at the start and everyone took avoiding action; her sister Amna had a great launch and slotted into fourth place, although positions changed throughout the first laps for the top five: Hamda had also managed to move from tenth to seventh and tried to find a gap in the final corner, where all drivers almost banged wheels. Amna lost out to Kutskov, who was on a mission to catch back the leading duo - Almaosherji and Zanfari - who attempted to drive away.

The neverending battles continued with Al Rifai and Aldereyaane moving up and both Wurz and Hamda Al Qubaisi joining this car train. Amna defended hard but fair - and eventually had to give up the position to Aldereyaane after running wide. Wurz and Hamda, at the same time, were trading positions for eighth - in a field that had never been closer together.

Ahead, Kutskov and Almaosherji banged wheels for second place - and were caught by Petrovic and Al Rifai. Amidst plenty of cutted corners, Aldereyaane attacked Al Rifai but was then passed by Amna Al Qubaisi - who was driving really solid laps and had ran smartly just behind them, ready to pick up the pieces.

While Amna did complete the move on the yellow #18 car, she lost out to Oscar Wurz, who gained two spots. Unfortunately a contact to no fault of her own again ruined Amna's race, who retired on lap 8 after another hard-fought contest. Hamda therefore inherited seventh place with two laps to go and had Oscar Wurz in her target.

When the chequered flag dropped, Suleiman Zanfari took victory by 2.5 seconds, ahead of Almaosherji, Kutskov, Petrovic and Al Rifai - all separated by tenths of a second. Almaosherji, though, received a 10 second penalty for causing a collision and dropped to 9th. Hamda Al Qubaisi survived the action-packed race and brought home a P6.

Photo credits: Altawkilat Meritus

Race 3

Ten more laps to fight for a podium: the final race of the weekend - and indeed of the inaugural Saudi Arabian F4 Championship - offered one more opportunity to end the season on a high, as Hamda Al Qubaisi would line up on the third spot, with Amna in sixth.

It was a cleaner start at the front, with Petrovic snatching the lead from Al Rifai, while Hamda tried to find a gap on the inside line but had to slot into third. From sixth, Amna had a good getaway and passed Aldereyeaane, then chased Kutskov as the latter also tried to put pressure on Hamda.

Kutskov made a move stick at the end of the second lap, when he could make a move for third around the outside of Hamda - who nevertheless tried to fight back into turn 1. At the same time, Aldereyaane moved up to fifth with an almost identical move on Amna.

Amna also kept up the pace and waited for her chance to retake fifth, also enjoying a safe margin to race 2 winner Suleiman Zanfari in seventh. She closed the gap to under one second to Aldereyaane with two laps to go - in a tense but less chaotic race that therefore saw less position changes. Similarly, Hamda was keeping the pressure on Kutskov - but time ran out and she crossed the finish line in P4, claiming the top five of her season in F4 Saudi. Amna Al Qubaisi also finished the season with a positive result in sixth, scoring 8 points.

Having taken the lead at the start, Andrej Petrovic scored the final race win of the season, preceding championship rival Federico Al Rifai - who nevertheless sealed the inaugural championship crown by 24.5 points.

While the closing rounds of the F4 Saudi championship proved to be rollercoasters for the Al Qubaisi sisters, with plenty of incidents out of their control - the Emirati young women enjoyed a positive third race to end the championship on a positive note. Hamda collected six podiums and a victory, while Amna had two podiums to her name.

They will now turn their focus to the second round of the F1 Academy series, which will be held at Miami International Autodrome on 4-5 May.



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