Competitors took advantage of their first opportunity to take to the waters of the Arabian Gulf on Wednesday afternoon in a free practice session for this weekend’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, the penultimate round of the 2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship.
The hosting Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) has three boats in the 21-hull line-up and series leader Alex Carella, along with Rashed and Thani Al Qemzi ran for 10, 14 and five laps, respectively, at the start of the 90-minute practice stint. They were classified in seventh, ninth and 11th positions.
Carella’s rivals know that they must stop the Italian from winning Friday afternoon’s race to deprive him of a fourth world title and Team Sweden’s Erik Stark and Victory Team’s Ahmed Al Hameli, together with their respective team-mates Jonas Andersson and Shaun Torrente, showed their determination with impressive practice times in ideal racing conditions.
Triple World Champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC Shenzhen China Team won the session with a best lap of 43.75sec during his 25 laps on the water. Torrente and Stark were second and third.
Rookies Erik Edin and Matthew Palfreyman enjoyed their first F1 experience and ran for 16 laps each, the Swede carding a best time of 47.70sec in his Team Sweden DAC. Palfreyman clocked a best tour of 48.17sec in his British-built Dragon after heading out on to the water mid-way through the session and then pitting after two laps with a minor steering issue.
Double world champion Sami Selio and team-mate Filip Roms were last on to the water for a brief test after a late scrutineering slot, but Poland’s Bartek Marszalak deliberately missed out on the session.
Carella knows that outright victory on Friday will give him the world title and Team Abu Dhabi manager Guido Cappellini is upbeat about his chances.
“This is actually a nightmare situation for us,” Cappellini said. “Apparently it is supposed to be good. We are 16 points in front. It is a good gap.”
“The problem is we want to win the World Championship here. In case Alex wins, then we win the title in front of the Sheikh, the club and the public of Abu Dhabi. But it is better not to take any risks. This is the compromise and this is the difficult decision we have to make for the team.
“After qualifying, we will check the position and then decide what is the best strategy. It is a great combination; the 25th Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi and the 50th race for Alex. I guess it’s ‘insha’Allah’ for Abu Dhabi…
“Rashed was very fast in a private test here. He has been concentrating on the F2 this year and not taking any risks in the Formula One. Now is the opportunity for him. Thani, like Alex and Rashed, has worked hard this month for perfect F1 preparations. The atmosphere is good in the team. I’m positive it will be a good weekend.”
Team Abu Dhabi general manager Salem Al-Remeithi added: “We have a strong team and I believe we can finish the job at this race. The field is strong and it will be a battle. We are competing in the event and, as a club, we are also organising the race weekend. It has been an excellent season for the team, with the win in the F2 Championship, but we are learning something new at every race.”
Spectators are welcome to attend all the weekend’s action at the Breakwater on Thursday and Friday and there will be plenty of attractions for families and children, in addition to catering stalls and trade stands. F4 and F1 H2O practice and F4 timed trials take place on Thursday morning and the first of the weekend’s two F4 races starts at 14:00, preceding BRM F1 qualifying at 15:30.
2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – Wednesday free practice times:
1. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 43.75sec
2. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 44.14sec
3. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 44.16sec
4. Marit Stromoy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 44.43sec
5. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 44.48sec
6. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 44.51sec
7. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 44.55sec
8. Ahmed Al Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 44.66sec
9. Rashed Al Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 45.03sec
10. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 45.47sec
11. Thani Al Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 45.56sec
12. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 45.81sec
13. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing 45.88sec
14. Mike Szymura (DEU) Emirates Racing Team 46.26sec
15. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 46.32sec
16. Amaury Jousseaume (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 46.44sec
17. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 46.75sec
18. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden 47.70sec
19. Matthew Palfreyman (GBR) Emirates Racing Team 48.17sec
20. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing 1min 06.95sec
Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze F1 Team DNS
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Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella could well clinch the 2017 UIM F1 H2O World title on home waters at this Friday’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — the penultimate round of the championship.
The Italian racer claimed the title on three occasions (2011, 2012 and 2013) in the last seven years and arrives at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater with a 16-point lead in the championship standings.
With 20 points available for the winner of each race, 15 for second and 12 for third, a race victory for Carella would be sufficient to give him the title at the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC).
While Carella looks to reach the chequered flag as the winner for a third time in Abu Dhabi to avoid a potentially thrilling showdown in Sharjah on December 15, his team-mates Thani and Rashed Al Qemzi will be aiming to delight the home crowds with top finishes as well.
Rashed will only be taking part in his fifth F1 H2O race, but has made rapid progress through the ranks and is hoping to build upon his recent F4 success in Portugal.
Carella’s closest rival for the world title is Team Sweden’s Erik Stark. He has 42 points to Carella’s 58 and second position would not be sufficient for the Swede to take the battle down to the wire if the Team Abu Dhabi driver was able to secure the win. The mathematical outcomes are endless if Carella should suffer problems or fail to win in Abu Dhabi and claim a 15th F1 win on his 50th career start.
Carella, from Piacenza in Italy, said: “This is the big one and a really important race for me and the whole team. The outcome is in my hands and I would love to secure the title here in Abu Dhabi. It would be fantastic for the whole team. I am focused, prepared and looking forward to the weekend.”
Philippe Chiappe has won the world title for the last three seasons with the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team and holds third in the title race on 39 points. A win for the Frenchman would also catapult him into contention to upset the applecart the following weekend on Khaled Lagoon.
Like Chiappe, double World Champion Sami Selio and the Victory Team’s Ahmed Al Hameli can also still win the title if results go their way and even Thani – a veteran of 125 Grand Prix and 31 career podiums – could mathematically still win his first title. His best finish thus far was second in 2009 and he finished third on four other occasions (2006, 2007, 2011 and 2012).
Team Abu Dhabi is also chasing glory in the UIM F1 H2O Teams’ World Championship and the UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy. The ADIMSC-based operation leads the former series by 29 points from Team Sweden, with Dubai’s Victory Team down in third position.
Carella and Stark are tied in the Pole Position Trophy on 47 points, with Al Hameli in third on 44 and Chiappe in fourth with 38 points. Carella also leads the F1 H2O Fast Lap Trophy competition by 11 points from Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al Mehairbi moved into a three-way tie for second place in the UIM F4 Trophy standings in China in October and the Emirati will be hoping that he can build on that success at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater. Both he and Frenchman Jeremy Brisset and Aussie rookie Louise Vella trail series leader Mansoor Al-Mansoori of the Emirates Racing Team by just two points.
Twenty-one drivers from 13 countries will line up at the start of the main F1 H2O race this weekend and newcomers Erik Edin of Sweden and England’s Matthew Palfreyman join the fray in their respective Team Sweden and Emirates Racing Team entries.
Spectators are welcome to attend all the weekend’s action at the Breakwater and there will be plenty of attractions for families and children, in addition to catering stalls and trade stands.
The on-water action kicks off with extra free practice from 15:00 on Wednesday afternoon and precedes F4 and F1 H2O practice and F4 timed trials on Thursday morning. The first of the weekend’s two F4 races starts at 14:00 and the crucial BRM F1 qualifying follows from 15:30.
Further practice and F4 timed trials are permitted on Friday morning, before F4 race two gets underway at 14:00 and the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi gets the green light at the Breakwater from 15:30.
2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – positions after round 4:
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 58pts
2. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 42pts
3. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 39pts
4. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing 30pts
4. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 30pts
6. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 25pts
7. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 19pts
8. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 14pts
8. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze Performance Team 14pts
10. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 12pts, etc