Italian F4: Hamda Al Qubaisi fights in the midfield, difficult round for Maya Weug
In the Italian F4 penultimate round at Mugello, Hamda Al Qubaisi battled hard in the midfield in Race 2 and 3, recovering a few places after a difficult qualifying. Maya Weug endured a challenging weekend, but looks forward to Monza.
Two more Formula 4 races were scheduled at Mugello for Sunday - a sunnier yet chilly day on the Tuscan hills. After showing good pace, a difficult qualifying put both Hamda Al Qubaisi and Maya Weug on the back foot on Friday, as they were 17th and 21st fastest in Q2, which would shape the grid for Sunday's morning second race. On Saturday, they lined up in 18th and 23rd, but an equally challenging race in mixed weather conditions and with light rain as the drivers went on the grid resulted in a tough start of the weekend for the two talented women of the series. Despite a slow start, Al Qubaisi had the pace to recover and climb back close to the top-10, but Samir Ben made contact with the Emirati racer and ended her race on the first lap. Maya Weug was 20th across the finish line. Hopes were higher for race 2, contested at 9:40 on Sunday morning. Joshua Dufek led a Van Amersfoort Racing's 1-2 on the starting grid, as the Swiss driver - for the first time on pole position this year - preceded his teammate and championship leader Oliver Bearman. Sebastian Montoya (Prema Powerteam) and Leonardo Fornaroli (Iron Lynx) followed from the second row. At the start, Bearman made the leap into first place, with also Colombian Montoya sneaking ahead of Dufek. Prema's Conrad Laursen was hit and spun in the gravel at Turn 1 amidst the chaotic opening lap. Hamda Al Qubaisi had a good start and avoided the mess, climbing to P15, two places ahead of Weug, who also had a great launch off the line. On the second lap, Montoya took over the lead after a great battle with Bearman. The son of the former F1 driver started to open a small gap as Dufek tried to put pressure on Bearman, but the race was soon neutralized for the intervention of the Safety Car when Santiago Ramos (Jenzer Motorsport) went off following contact with Andrea Kimi Antonelli (Prema Powerteam). Meanwhile, Al Qubaisi had moved into 13th place already and was battling for P12 with Wisnicki. Maya Weug had recovered to 16th, fourth among the rookies. At the restart on lap 6, Montoya immediately came under attack, but he defended from the fast Van Amersfoort Racing cars. Fornaroli also looked menacing in the wing mirrors of Joshua Duerksen, but also had to keep Tim Tramnitz at bay. The championship runner up - this weekend never in the battles for the victory - eventually overtook Fornaroli. Dufek and Bearman swapped places after a tight but fair battle at Turn 1 and proved to have the pace to catch up with Montoya. Bearman started to struggle for pace and lost out positions to Kirill Smal, Joshua Duerksen, Tim Tramnitz and Nikita Bedrin. Bizzotto and Braschi made wheel to wheel contact and the Jenzer driver went off. There was more trouble also for Samir Ben, who dropped down the order. Hamda Al Qubaisi continued to battle in the midfield: as she tried to find a way around Wisnicki, they were both passed by Erick Zuniga first and by Laursen later, as the Dane completed a great recovery. On lap 11, Montoya made a mistake at the exit of Turn 1 but made a great save and held off Dufek. One lap later, though, the pole man went by on the main straight, as Montoya also had to defend from Smal. In the closing stages, Hamda Al Qubaisi continued to fight for position in the midfield and dropped to P16, but would clinch the 15th post again on the final lap when Valint went off. Joshua Dufek took his first win of the season, preceding Sebastian Montoya - who had to postpone his maiden victory in Italian F4. Smal was third across the line, ahead of Duerksen and Tramnitz. Patrese passed Antonelli at the chequered flag for ninth position. Al Qubaisi completed a positive race in P15, gaining three places. Maya Weug had a battling race as well and was P17, seventh among the rookie entries.
The third and final race at Mugello went underway in a cold afternoon, as the sun was slowly moving behind the hills. When the lights went out for the final time, Dufek - again on pole after a stunning qualifying - retained the lead, but BWT Muecke's Joshua Duerksen moved ahead of Leonardo Fornaroli - who was slower off the line - and Sebastian Montoya after the first corners. Al Qubaisi had a good launch and slotted into P14, while several cars clipped the gravel but rejoined. Maya Weug fought between P20 and P23. Duerksen battled with Dufek for the lead of the race, but Fornaroli also joined the leading pair. The driver from Paraguay made the move stick on lap 4 and pulled away, leaving Dufek in the clutches of Fornaroli and Montoya. On lap 8, Montoya was back in contention and, having cleared Fornaroli, attempted a move on Dufek a few laps later - but the two made contact and the Colombian had to pit for a new front wing. Dufek, on the other hand, was out of the race. The incident left Fornaroli in clear air in the runner up spot: while the Italian initially set the fastest lap and seemed able to catch up with Duerksen, he struggled to reduce the gap to under 5 seconds and Duerksen continued his lonely getaway. Braschi, meanwhile, had a great recovery on fresher tyres and moved ahead of Tramnitz and Bearman. He would climb as high as sixth place. Al Qubaisi found herself in a group of 8 cars, all separated by a few tenths. In the second half of the race, Hamda dropped behind Simonazzi and the recovering Antonelli. In the closing stages, Kirill Smal was struggling to keep up with compatriot Nikita Bedrin, who would eventually move into third place with less than a minute left on the clock. Joshua Duerksen took a controlled victory - his second of the weekend and of the season - ahead of Fornaroli and Bedrin, the latter also winning the rookies' class. Hamda Al Qubaisi was P17 across the finish line, having spent the whole race battling in the midfield. Maya Weug slipped down to P22 - and eleventh among the rookies - after a challenging race for the Iron Dame. "Qualifying didn’t go as planned, so I started quite far back for the races." - said Al Qubaisi. "In the first race, I ended up in the gravel after being pushed off, however in race 2 and 3 I think I had a good pace at the beginning and had some good battles, still didn’t maximize my potential as I thought I would." "I’m taking the positives out of this weekend and will work even harder for Monza." Italian F4 will in fact hit the track for its final round of 2021 on 30-31 October at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. The Temple of Speed is familiar ground for Hamda, who made her debut in a one off appearance in 2019 alongside her sister Amna. In 2020, she scored her best result of the season with a remarkable P9 in race 3, while a few weeks ago, she was consistently in the top-5 in collective testing. After a massive step up from last year, Hamda Al Qubaisi can thus aim for the front-running positions, while Maya Weug will try to finish her positive debut season on a high, scoring her first overall points.