Preview: four women at F4 UAE season opener
The UAE-based Formula 4 championship will feature a record-breaking four female drivers on its grid during the YAS Marina season opener, as the series will support the Formula 1 GP in Abu Dhabi.
During this weekend's Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Tatiana Calderon won't be the only woman competing under the spotlight of the most prestigious motorsport supporting schedule: the Emirati-based F4 UAE is in fact set to hold a non-championship event featuring four female drivers.
Started in 2016 as the most important single-seater series for young hopefuls in the Middle East, the F4 UAE has seen many high-profile drivers taking part in its championship rounds: benefitting from its winter calendar, it attracted drivers from some of the most competitive junior categories around the world.
Following her second season in the hyper-competitive Italian F4 championship, Amna Al Qubaisi is getting ready to compete for the first time on home soil. The first Emirati woman to race internationally is among a small yet significant number of female racers from the Arab countries to have recently started their journeys into high level motorsport.
Amna showed remarkable progresses this year and finished the season with a best result of 13th at Mugello, alongside ten top-20 finishes in a 30-cars field.
A real Arab sports icon, Amna Al Qubaisi is a quiet yet incredibly determined young woman: the highly intelligent and educated 19-year old from Abu Dhabi inspired her younger sister Hamda to start karting in 2015.
The Al Qubaisi sisters, daughters of the world-renowned GT driver Khaled Al Qubaisi, will thus share the racetrack this weekend for the third time, as 17-year old Hamda enjoyed her formula debut earlier this year at Red Bull Ring and Monza.
Racing for the Abu Dhabi Racing Team by Prema, the Emirati sisters will be joined on the YAS Marina grid by Saudi Reema Juffali, who contested this year her debut season in the British F4. Juffali made history last weekend, when she became the first woman to race in an international racing series inside her country's borders, as the 27-year old from Jeddah drove the VIP entry in the Jaguar iPace eTrophy, supporting Formula E in the Diriyah ePrix.
Juffali, driving this weekend for championship-winning team Dragon Racing, comes from a very positive season in the UK: 10 top-ten results and some very valuable track time on the fast and technical British circuits. Reema started racing in 2018, literally months after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving. But the Saudi racer is now focused on using the F4 UAE platform to gain some more experience and keep learning in another highly competitive environment.
“If you told me then that I’d be a part of an F1 support race I wouldn’t have believed you” said Juffali last week, when she was announced for the opening round of the series.
Last but not least, Great Britain's Logan Hannah will make her return to F4 UAE after an appearance in the 2017/2018 season. An experienced karting driver in the Emirates, 20-year old Hannah is a member of the Arden Young Racing Driver's Academy and has recently competed in the most prestigious Formula Ford competitions in the UK.
“Last time I was racing in the UAE, it was my first proper car race and I had an awful lot to take in." - she commented. "But over the last two years I’ve been doing FF1600 in the UK and coming away with podiums and lots of close racing. To be given the chance to have another go in the F4 car on such a big weekend in front of F1 is a massive opportunity and one that I couldn’t say no to.”
With a woman driver missing from the F1 grid for more than 40 years, junior championships like the Formula 4 UAE are now leading the way in developing the next female F1 hopefuls.
“The UAE has a long history of motorsport success that is recognised around the world, and we are proud to lead the way in giving every driver the opportunity to be a successful racing driver no matter if they are male or female. It’s very exciting to have the women part of the championship and we wish them a lot of success.” - said the President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization, Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
Category comms manager Filippa Guarna, a long time supporter of women in motorsport, echoed that "the four women racing in F4 UAE send a positive message to other women and young girls who want to be part of such an exciting industry." "Amna, Hamda, Reema and Logan have a solid mix of experience already, and even though racing in front of the most prestigious championship in the world – Formula 1 – will be daunting, we know they’ll be completely focused on the job. To have them make history at F4 UAE’s Trophy Round is truly something we’re all proud to be a part of and here to support them next weekend."
This weekend's F4 racing action will start on Friday 29th November, with the practice session going underway at 10:30 local time. The two races are scheduled for Saturday 30th (12:30 local) and Sunday 1st December at 12:00 local.
Ph credits: F4UAE Media