Italian F4: tough first race for Hamda Al Qubaisi, but encouranging pace for Sunday at Mugello
The first Italian F4 race at Mugello was contested in drizzling conditions: Hamda Al Qubaisi was crashed out on the first lap, but the Emirati might have enough pace to finish around the Top-10 on Sunday. After a difficult qualifying Maya Weug was P20 on Saturday.
Just like in 2020, Italian Formula 4 Championship powered by Abarth made its return to Mugello in a overcast and chilly Mugello, with the dark clouds menacing the Tuscan hills and dripping sparse rain drops over the famous Italian circuit. In similar conditions, Hamda Al Qubaisi – Emirati’s top single-seater talent – had tackled one of her first race weekends in the rain last year, as she entered her first full-season in F4. One year later, Hamda’s progress has been impressive, scoring points on multiple occasions and clinching an historic podium in Misano. In a short time, Al Qubaisi has climbed the order of one of the world’s most competitive junior championships.
At her first season in the series, Maya Weug is having a similar campaign. The first ever female Ferrari Driver Academy member was quickly on the rookies’ podium and came impressively close to her first overall point finish at Imola, where she had an unlucky round despite showing plenty of race pace. Nevertheless, Maya is laying the foundations for a successful single-seater career with the support of Iron Lynx and Iron Dames. Ahead of round 6 of the Italian F4 season, Hamda Al Qubaisi had a positive test day close to the top-10, but the difficult conditions on Friday shuffled the order. Low temperatures and the damp track proved to be an extra challenge for the drivers, and Al Qubaisi completed Friday practice in P20 and P15. Maya Weug was on a similar pace, finishing in P19 and P21 after the two 40-minute sessions. Drivers hit the track again on Friday afternoon for the two qualifying sessions. Joshua Dufek claimed a surprising triple-pole position for Van Amersfoort Racing, ahead of Leonardo Fornaroli (Iron Lynx) and Sebastian Montoya (Prema Powerteam) – the Colombian starting alongside championship leader Oliver Bearman on the second row. The first Qualifying session was neutralized with a Full Course Yellow when Maya Weug went off and damaged her front wing – but was able to rejoin the track and return to pitlane for repairs. She would finish in P23. Hamda had a good session, with a very competitive first sector – which would have surely brought her in the Top-10. In the second sector, though, Hamda hit traffic and lost enough time to drop to P18. Drivers went on the grid of Race 1 – the only one contested on Saturday – in difficult conditions, as again some drops of rain fell from the sky. The race was declared wet, but everyone stayed on slicks and heavy rain was never to be seen. At the start, Fornaroli had a great launch and managed to get alongside Dufek at Turn 2, but the two made contact and the Italian lost his front wing tagging the rear-left of Dufek – who continued without a puncture. A few corners later, Samir Ben overshoot the braking and hit Hamda Al Qubaisi, taking the young Emirati out of the race. Hamda had a difficult start but was starting to make up positions when her race suddenly came to an end. With pace close to the top ten, though, we can surely expect her to put up some fight in the Sunday's second and third races of the Mugello weekend. Maya Weug recovered to 20th place after the opening lap, when the Safety Car was deployed. Fornaroli pitted for a new front wing and thus rejoined from the back of the pack. His pit stop left Joshua Duerksen and Sebastian Montoya in second and third respectively. At the restart, 19 minutes were shown left on the clock: Duerksen went into the lead on the main straight, but lost out again to one lap later. Montoya was happy to pick up the pieces and the leading three went side-by-side for first place before Turn 1. To make the most out of the situation was Oliver Bearman, who completed a double pass and went into second place, behind Dufek. Leonardo Fornaroli was on a charge and made several positions until 20th place. Unfortunately, he dropped back again and ultimately retired. Montoya did not give up and, with 5 minutes to go, he re-claimed third from Bearman after a good battle. But the leading duo was already pulling away and Duerksen got under the 1 second gap to Dufek with 2 minutes left. The pole man defended, but Duerksen eventually made the move stick at Turn 1 on the penultimate lap to take his first win of the season. One and a half second behind, Sebastian Montoya secured the third step of the podium, preceding Bearman, Bedrin and Smal. Tim Tramnitz – Bearman's closest rival in the points standings – was seventh. Maya Weug battled in the midfield throughout the race and finished in 20th place, 9th among the rookies. The Italian F4 second race at Mugello is set to get underway at 09:40 CEST, with Hamda Al Qubaisi and Maya Weug lining up in 17th and 21st positions.