Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed and Thani Al-Qemzi qualify in eighth and 15th positions
· Team Abu Dhabi’s Al-Mehairbi holds third in F4-S Trophy after podium finish; Al-Mansoori wins
ABU DHABI (UAE): Thursday, December 7: Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella qualified in third position for Friday’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, the penultimate round of the 2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship, where outright victory would confirm the Italian’s fourth world title and put him in joint second position alongside former Team Abu Dhabi driver Scott Gillman in the sport’s Hall of Fame.
Carella posted a fastest lap of 43.02sec in a nail biting qualifying session off the Abu Dhabi Breakwater, where several drivers battled for fractions of a second to gain a crucial advantage to take into the 25th race to be hosted by the Abu Dhabi International Sports Club (ADIMSC) since the start of the 1993 season.
Triple World Champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC Shenzhen China Team left it until his last lap to register a winning time of 42.83sec and deprived a flying Norwegian Marit Stromoy of a second career pole position. Eight-tenths of a second separated the top six with Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente finishing fourth, ahead of Carella’s closest title rival Erik Stark and Emirati Ahmed Al-Hameli.
Carella said: “It was not the best qualifying for me. We made some mistakes. I got a bit lost in my rhythm on my best lap. I guess I am ahead of Erik, but I am behind Philippe now. That is not perfect, but it will be a long and difficult race with this water. Marit is a very good driver and I am pleased for her that she delivered such a great performance.”
Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi belied his lack of F1 experience to set some scintillating lap times and was rewarded with eighth place on the pontoon for Friday’s race. “I am very happy with that and am trying to push harder for the future. I was inside the top six until near the end, but I could not find any clear water to set a faster time. I will try to push hard in the race.”
Thani Al-Qemzi blotted his copybook early in the morning’s practice session when he spectacularly flipped his DAC and was forced to switch to the spare Team Abu Dhabi boat for qualifying. He will start the race from 15th position. Al-Qemzi said: “I had a good start this morning in practice and then I crashed. I took the spare boat, but I was not happy with it. The crash had no affect on me but the second boat was not so good for me.”
Etihad Airways is the official carrier for Team Abu Dhabi that is also supported by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and runs under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, advisor to the Head of State and chairman of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club and under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, Vice-President and CEO of the ADIMSC. The racing team runs under the umbrella of the ADIMSC, board member and general manager Salem Al-Remeithi and team manager Guido Cappellini.
Cappellini said: “I am surprised because our boat was faster than this in the private test. I don’t know why. Now we check, engine and propeller. I am not happy for this. We work 20 days to not have this result. Saying that, third place is good and it was important to be in front of Stark. Honestly, we pushed hard for the pole position to win the race. Marit was incredible – one perfect lap, a lap of life! Now, if Alex has a very good start and he stays in first, okay, but, if not, maybe it’s better not to take risks.”
Mohammed Al-Mehairbi slipped to third in the UIM F4-S Trophy standings after finishing third behind Mansoor Al-Mansoori, and Jeremy Brisset in race one. Driving for the Victory Team for the first time, Al-Mansoori now leads the series by seven points with three races remaining. Rashed Al-Romaithi came home in seventh place in the second Team Abu Dhabi Molgaard.
After a cracked sponson sidelined disappointed Swedish rookie Erik Edin before the start, eight of the remaining 20 boats would be eliminated in the opening Q1 session. Ahmed Al-Hameli and Al-Qemzi switched to spare DACs for the start of the session. Carella opened his account with a lap of 45.52sec, but that was surpassed by a flying Bartek Marszalak, Marit Stromoy, Chiappe and Stark.
A flying Ahmed Al-Hameli topped the timings with a flying last lap of 44.50sec, but rookie Matthew Palfreyman, the French duo of Cedric Deguisne and Amaury Jousseaume, Grant Trask, Francesco Cantandio, Thani Al-Qemzi, Mike Szymura and Duarte Benavente were eliminated. Carella and Rashed Al-Qemzi sneaked through to Q2 in 10th and 12th positions.
A further six boats were eliminated in the 15 minutes of Q2, but the yellow flag was raised in the first minute when Sami Selio and Stark collided, Selio flipped over and Stark continued relatively unscathed. The session was restarted and Stark stormed to the top of the standings with a lap of 43.80sec. Eventual session winner Chiappe, Stark, Carella, Ahmed Al-Hameli, Marit Stromoy and Shaun Torrente made the two-lap shoot-out, but Selio, Rashed Al-Qemzi, Filip Roms, Marszalak, Peter Morin and Jonas Andersson missed out on Q3.
Torrente was first to run his two hot laps and the American posted the target of 43.77sec and improved with a 43.28sec second lap. Stromoy was aiming for her second career pole and the Norwegian opened with a 43.39sec and set a stunning second lap of 42.89sec to snatch provisional pole. Al-Hameli set a first lap of 44.24sec and improved with a 43.43sec lap, but it was not enough for the Victory Team driver.
Carella’s destiny lay ahead and the Italian carded a first tour of 43.02sec to move into second position and was unable to beat that on his second run. That left Stark and Chiappe to spoil the Stromoy party. The Swede opened with a 43.89sec and moved up to fourth with a 43.47sec second lap. Chiappe opened with a 43.50sec and he snatched pole with a 42.83sec lap to cap a memorable qualifying session and ruin a fairytale story for Stromoy.
Chiappe was quickest in the morning’s one-hour practice session that was marred for Team Abu Dhabi when Thani Al-Qemzi spectacularly flipped his DAC at turn two. The Emirati emerged unscathed from the incident, but it was a setback for the team before BRM qualifying. “Not ideal preparation at all but we have a spare boat,” groaned Cappellini.
The session-winning Frenchman posted a potent lap of 43.58sec five minutes from the end of the session to edge Stark (43.77sec) and Carella (43.81sec) into second and third positions. Only three drivers broke the sub 44-second barrier, but Bartek Marzsalek impressed in fourth place with a lap of 44.28sec after fitting a new engine that arrived from Canada via Warsaw at the 11th hour. Rashed Al-Qemzi (45.27sec) slotted into 10th, but fifth-placed Ahmed Al-Hameli somersaulted his spare BABA at turn four in the last minute and the session finished under a yellow flag.
F4-S – race 1
Young Aussie revelation Louise Vella followed up her fastest lap in Thursday afternoon’s practice with the second fastest time in Thursday morning’s practice behind Jeremy Brisset. She went on to qualify in pole position with a last gasp lap of 1min 01.31sec to pip the Frenchman. Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi and Rashed Al-Romaithi were third and eighth in free practice and qualified in fifth and 10th positions. Series leader Mansour Al-Mansoori switched from the Emirates Racing Team to the Victory Team before race week and was third.
Al-Mansoori made a good start in the 18-lap race and he managed to pass Brisset and Vella to take the lead, as Vella maintained second from Al-Mehairbi and Chiappe returned to the pits on the subsequent lap after a collision with Brisset. But the Australian’s good fortune ran out on the fourth lap when she struck a turn buoy and the yellow flag was raised with Al-Mansoori, Al-Mehairbi and Al-Matlae in an all-Emirati top three.
Racing resumed on lap seven, Al-Mansoori maintained his advantage and Al-Matlae managed to edge passed Al-Mehairbi to make it a Victory 1-2 at the head of the field. Brisset also managed to find a way into third position at the expense of the Team Abu Dhabi driver and he passed Al-Matlae to snatch second. Al-Mansoori extended his series lead to seven points over Brisset and Al-Mehairbi slipped to third in the points’ standings with the final podium place. Vella managed to rejoin the race with a one-lap penalty and gained vital points for ninth position, but Al-Matlae lost out on a possible third place with a one-lap penalty for not maintaining his lane at the start.
Further practice and F4 timed trials are permitted on Friday morning, before F4 race two gets underway at 2pm and the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi fires into life at the Breakwater from 3.30pm.
2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – qualifying times (Thursday):
1. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 42.83sec
2. Marit Stromoy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 42.89sec
3. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 43.02sec
4. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 43.28sec
5. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 43.47sec
6. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 43.53sec
7. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze F1 Team 44.34sec
8. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 44.39sec
9. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 44.46sec
10. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 44.61sec
11. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing 45.61sec
12. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing DNF
13. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 45.87sec
14. Amaury Jousseaume (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 46.01sec
15. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 46.41sec
16. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 46.68sec
17. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 47.00sec
18. Mike Szymura (DEU) Emirates Racing Team 47.15sec
19. Matthew Palfreyman (GBR) Emirates Racing Team 48.75sec
Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team DNS
Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden DNS
2017 UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy – latest positions:
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 59pts
2. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 58pts
3. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 54pts
4. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 49pts
5. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 38pts
6. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 24pts
6. Marit Stromoy (NOR) EMIC Racing Team 24pts
8. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing 17pts
9. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 7pts
10. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts
10. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 5pts
2017 F4-S Trophy – latest positions:
1. Mansoor Al-Mansoori (UAE) Victory Team 80pts
2. Jeremy Brisset (FRA) F1 Atlantic Team 73pts
3. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 70pts
4. Louise Vella (AUS) Team Sweden 60pts
5. Corentin Guesnel (FRA) Maverick F1 34pts
6. Bingchen Wu (CHN) CTIC F1 China Team 33pts
7. Kalle Viippo (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing 29pts
8. Mohamed Al-Yamahi (UAE) Victory Team 16pts
9. Sebastien Haugaard (SWE) Team Sweden 15pts
10. Rudolf Mihaldinecz (HUN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 9pts
11. Damon Cohen (AUS) Blaze Performance 8pts
12. Rashed Al-Romaithi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 4pts
13. Mohamed Al-Matlae (UAE) Victory Team 3pts
Tom Chiappe (FRA) Emirates Racing Team 0pt
Timetable of events
Friday, December 8
09.10-09.30 F4 free practice
09.40-10.00 F4 time trials
10.15-11.15 F1 free practice
14.00 F4 race 2
15.30 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi