Abu Dhabi, UAE, 4 December 2019: First-time F4 race winners Amna Al Qubaisi and Alex Connor shared the spoils at the F4UAE Championship’s Trophy Round this weekend, as the category made its debut as a support to the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (November 28-December 1, 2019).
Having already made motorsport history for the region with four women competing at the season-opening round at Yas Marina Circuit – with drivers including Emirati sisters Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi, Logan Hannah from Scotland and Reema Juffali from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – Abu Dhabi Racing’s Amna Al Qubaisi also added to the history books, not only claiming pole position on Friday but becoming the first Emirati woman to win an FIA single seater race as she claimed victory on Saturday.
Alex Connor – who finished runner-up in the British F4 Rookie Cup – claimed his first single-seater win on Sunday with Xcel Motorsport; the team he started his karting career with in Dubai as a junior.
“The F4UAE Championship has provided competitive and entertaining racing this weekend, showing those involved in global motorsport organisations that it is one of the best platforms for young drivers to prove their talent,” said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO), and FIA Vice President for Sport.
“Well done to Amna Al Qubaisi who has come a long way since karting and winning the first FIA GCC Young Drivers Academy to now win in F4. I’m proud of her achievements and for being very successful in front of everyone at the Formula 1 grand finale. We believe she is a future international champion in the making.”
Thirteen drivers from 12 countries were entered for the Trophy Round, with Amna Al Qubaisi (#88) and her sister Hamda giving the local fans at Yas Marina Circuit plenty to cheer for. As the UAE’s first female racing driver, 19-year-old Amna claimed pole in qualifying, while also previously leading a curtailed morning practice session. Sister Hamda (#77) was second fastest in practice and fifth in qualifying.
As the more experienced of the pair, Amna posted a 2m12.717s lap to lead a trio of Xcel Motorsport drivers in Nicola Marinangeli (#14), Tijmen van der Helm (#13) – who was later relegated down to sixth place on the Race 1 grid after failing to follow the Race Director’s instructions post-qualifying – and Alex Connor (#27) third.
Race 1 Highlights
Amna Al Qubaisi led from pole position to the chequered flag in Race 1, holding off an early challenge from Marinangeli before pulling away to take victory in the first 25-minute race of the weekend.
Dutchman Tijmen van der Helm held off his rivals but on the final lap suffered a suspension failure, promoting Alex Connor onto the podium for Xcel Motorsport; the current reigning drivers, teams and rookie champions.
Jordan’s Manaf Hijjawi (#99) for Dragon Racing dropped down to eighth from sixth on the grid, but made a strong campaign of overtaking to eventually claim fourth, ahead of the younger Al Qubaisi sister Hamda in fifth place for Abu Dhabi Racing. Returning F4UAE racer Nico Göhler (#2) finished sixth for Mücke Motorsport, while Xcel Motorsport’s Ivan Peklin (#23) suffered a clutch failure on the start and did not join the race.
“I am very proud to be the first Emirati and Arab driver on podium of Formula 4,” said Al Qubaisi. “I thank my family and all the supporters. It’s an amazing feeling, to do it in my home town and at my home track. I have a lot of my local people watching. It was huge honour.”
Khaled Al Qubaisi, father of Amna and Hamda, said: “I am extremely proud of my daughters, they made the whole UAE proud today, and that’s all what we wanted — to raise the UAE flag up high in this extremely important event held in our beloved country.”
Race 2 Highlights
Amna Al Qubaisi’s chances of back-to-back victories in F4UAE came to a close on Sunday after a crash with fellow rival Marinangeli on the first lap of Race 2. The Abu Dhabi Racing driver initiated an overtaking move, resulting in a race-ending impact that tore off the right-rear wheel from the #88 Tatuus racer. Marinangeli continued, but the crash forced him out of contention, leaving him with a DNF.
Leading the push for a strong Xcel Motorsport finish was Connor, who was pursued by Hijjawi; the Jordanian eventually denying Xcel Motorsport a one-two finish after he finished second in his first F4 race weekend. Tijmen Van Der Helm challenged for a third place and finished nearly five seconds behind Hijjawi.
Hamda Al Qubaisi also succumbed to front-end damage, breaking her front splitter when making close contact with a competitor, ending the race as the final qualified finsher in 11th. Göhler held on to finish fourth ahead of Rodrigo Almeida (#4) in fifth and Saudi Arabia’s Reema Juffali (#18) in sixth; her best ever result in single-seaters after campaigning a season already in British F4 for 2019.
Xcel Motorsport drivers Ivan Peklin and Mehrbod Shameli (#8) followed in seventh and eighth with Logan Hannah (#9) and rookie Constantin Reisch (52#) completing the top 10.
F4UAE has been instrumental in developing young driver talent over the last three seasons, with 46 different drivers from 32 countries competing since inception, and another nine new drivers being added to the list this weekend.
The F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth begins its point-scoring championship season in January, as a support to the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai; the first event of a five-round season based within the United Arab Emirates.
Report & Photos: AUH Motorsports (edited)