Italian F4: Hamda Al Qubaisi scores P7 in strong Valleluga weekend, Weug takes best result with P11
The third round of the Italian F4 season proved to be a positive one for the two ladies of the series: Hamda Al Qubaisi secured one of her best results in the series with a P7 in race 3, as Maya Weug stepped on the rookie podium and gained 9 positions to finish P11.
At the last Italian F4 Championship round in Misano, Hamda Al Qubaisi made history by claiming her first podium in the series and becoming the first woman to do so in what is considered one of the most competitive junior championships worldwide. The young Emirati driver - the most successful female racer in all F4 championships worldwide - scored points once again in Misano and converted her race pace into strong results. Hamda is joined on the grid this year by Maya Weug, the first female Ferrari Driver Academy driver in the history of the prancing horse. Competing for Iron Lynx/Iron Dames, Maya is making her debut in single seaters after a remarkable international karting career. In the first rounds, Weug was closer and closer to a point finish, and had great battles in the rookie standings that also gained her a few class podiums. Ahead of the Vallelunga round - third meeting of the Italian championship - both Hamda and Maya headed to the Red Bull Ring for the opening round of the ADAC F4 Germany, with no clashing calendars allowing a one-off entry for many drivers of the Italian series. While Al Qubaisi had a really challenging weekend in Austria, Maya Weug had her first big breakthrough performance in formula cars: with a ninth place in Race 3, she conquered her first top-10 of her career - at only her third weekend in F4. Although she didn't score points due to her guest driver status, the Belgian-Dutch driver eyed another similar result in Vallelunga. On the Italian circuit at the outskirts of Rome, it would be Hamda Al Qubaisi to show again promising speed in practice and qualifying: the 18-year old Emirati put the #88 Prema Powerteam Tatuus F4 car in P10 and P6 in the two 15-minute qualifying sessions on Saturday, confirming the progress made in a pre-event test at the same venue.
Race 1 On Sunday morning, Van Amersfoort Racing's Oliver Bearman took off from pole position ahead of Sebastian Montoya, as Cenyu Han had a great start and slotted into third. Starting from tenth, Hamda Al Qubaisi was passed into the harpin by Vlad Lomko and dropped to P11, as Maya Weug made up several positions into the first lap and advanced into P17 from 20th on the grid. Making his series debut was Charlie Wurz - son of former F1 driver Alex - who had a great qualifying and, starting from fourth, was looking strong on the opening lap, until a contact that dropped him all the way down the order. Tim Tramnitz was up to third after a good pass on Cenyu on Lap 4 - the latter trying to respond back but having to defend on Dufek behind. The Van Amersfoort driver started to struggle to keep up the pace with the front runners and had to give up two places to Joshua Dufek and Joshua Durksen. Maya Weug attacked Iron Lynx teammate Pietro Armanni for P16, but the two made contact and ended up in the barrier with significant damage to both cars. The accident brought out the Safety Car. The race went back to green with 5 minutes to go: in the final laps, Montoya tried all in his power to attack Bearman for the lead but the Brit held on. In the hectic restart phases Hamda Al Qubaisi battled in a compact group of cars and dropped behind Fornaroli and Patrese. Oliver Bearman cut across the finish line to take his third back-to-back win in the championship, ahead of Sebastian Montoya and Tim Tramnitz. Hamda Al Qubaisi was P12 at the chequered flag and held off Bence Valint on the final lap. Wurz managed to recover to P19 in his first race in the series.
Race 2 The second race saw several plot twists and accidents, but the main protagonist at the top remained unchanged: Bearman was able to take advantage from a penalty for race leader Montoya and take another dominant victory. The Colombian, in fact, had moved into the lead at the start - but his reaction was deemed irregular and received a drive through for jumping the start. On the first lap, Armanni was once again out after a crash that also involved Nico Baptiste and Jorge Garciarce. Having started from sixth, Hamda Al Qubaisi battled throughout the whole race with Prema teammate Kirill Smal around P7 and P6. Faster than the Russian driver, Hamda tried to find a way past but made a small mistake that would reveal costly, as she put two wheels on the grass under braking and spun at Turn 4. The young Emirati rejoined the race in P17. On the other hand, it was a very positive race for Maya Weug: after the first race incident, Maya started from P17, kept it clean and avoided the incidents unfolding ahead of her, making up positions steadily. With a little over 10 minutes left on the clock, Nikita Bedrin and Vlad Lomko tangled on the straight leading to Turn 8. The two Russian drivers banged wheels and both damaged their suspensions, cutting across the track and collecting Jenzer Motorsport's Francesco Braschi, while Leonardo Fornaroli was quick to steer onto the grass to avoid the crash. The incident brought out the second Safety Car. The race was concluded behind the neutralization: having crucially passed Dufek and Tramnitz in the opening stages, Bearman grabbed the top step of the podium following Montoya's penalty, ahead of US Racing's Tramnitz and VAR's Dufek. Maya Weug navigated through the midfield chaos to take a 12th place - which would later become P11 after Jonas Ried was handed a penalty for a jump start. It was Maya's best finish to date in the series and gained the Iron Lynx driver the rookie podium, behind Laursen and Revesz. Hamda Al Qubaisi was P17.
Race 3 For the final race, Bearman and Montoya lined up once again on the front row, just ahead of Charlie Wurz and Tim Tramnitz. Al Qubaisi slotted into eleventh place, with Weug in P17. Bearman remained ahead of his main rival, as Wurz tried to close the door on Tramnitz after a slow start. The leading pair went side by side during the first lap as Montoya tried to find a gap, but had to back off. The fourth Safety Car of the day was triggered by an accident between Samir Ben and Erick Zuniga on the first lap that left debris on the track. Positions were freezed with Hamda Al Qubaisi in ninth place and Maya Weug already up to P14 after a remarkable first lap. The race restarted on lap 5, but not for long: a monumental crash at Turn 2 saw Joshua Durksen attempting a move at the fast right-hander; when the gap closed, the BWT Mucke Motorsport driver hit Cenyu Han, who went off at high speed into the gravel and rolled several times in the air before coming to a halt upside down. The race was soon red flagged, but both drivers were luckily unhurt. The driver that mostly took advantage from the red flag was surely Bearman, who had just slipped down the order after an off-track moment at Turn 4. With the starting grid for the restart being set to the lap before the interruption, Bearman was able to line up again at the top of the 30-car field. Following the lengthy stop, the Safety Car led the pack before the restart: Bearman came under pressure from Montoya - the latter also setting the fastest lap - but the championship leader remained unbeatable at Vallelunga. Hamda Al Qubaisi had a stunning race and recovered to seventh place - her best result in the series after the podium in Misano and her third point-scoring finish of the season. "In qualifying, I struggled with track position, but I was able to score a P10 and a P6 which was quite good." - rounded up Hamda after the weekend. "Then in race 1, I had a good pace and put up some great battles but didn’t manage to finish within the points. In race 2, I had a really good pace again and was fighting around P7 before I made a mistake that cost me the race." "However, I was able to bounce back for race 3, and get a P7 from P11. I would like to thank Kaspersky Lab and Strata for their ongoing support and also the team for an amazing job this weekend." To prove Maya Weug's notable progress in the series, the 17-year old FDA driver was again 12th across the finish line, having gained 5 positions during the third heat. She finished fourth among the rookie category, just missing out on another class podium. Rookie Charlie Wurz led the rookie category - and was fourth overall - with Laursen and Bizzotto finishing ahead of Weug. With a hat-trick in Vallelunga, Oliver Bearman extends his championship lead over Tim Tramnitz by a remarkable 66 points - almost double the points of Sebastian Montoya in third place, as the Colombian's elusive first victory leaves him at 99 on the points table. Hamda Al Qubaisi is 12th having bagged 6 more points; Maya Weug sits fourth in the championship standings of the Rookie class. The F4 Italian Championship will now head to the iconic Imola track on 24-25th July for its fourth round of the 2021 season.