Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi battled through tough conditions to seal a top-10 finish at the Baja Aragon on Sunday.
In the sixth round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, the Emirati successfully finished in sixth place in the final stage with a time of 2:28:39.0, which was the fastest among the Overdrive racing team and was enough to finish ninth overall.
The result could have been better, but unfortunately co-driver Edouard Boulanger suffered from a sudden illness which paid its toll on his and Sheikh Khalid’s focus.
However, Sheikh Khalid was delighted to end the event on a high. He said: “It was a great experience for me and I’ve enjoyed it a lot, unfortunately leg two was not the best so we decided today to focus on the stage and drive in balanced rhythm.
“The strategy paid off as we were really fast in the first 100km of the stage and we caught up with the competitors but we had to drive behind them stuck in the dust for around 80km.”
He added: “All in all the result was good indeed, it could have been better of course but at the end of the day we enjoyed the event and gained the experience we want.”
It was a good performance by the drivers, after surpassing all barriers and obstacles which affected day two on Saturday. Sheikh Khalid and Boulanger completed their overall 644km journey in 9:19:07.0 hours.
Sheikh Khalid, behind the wheel of the modified Toyota Hilux by Overdrive Racing during the event, also clinched seventh position overall in the 70-car field category in the Baja Aragon Super Special Stage.
With a strong field, Sheikh Khalid entered the final day in 13th place in the overall standings after finishing the first stage in 2:12:49.0 hours on Saturday.
He was later back in action after half an hour pit-stop, driving for four hours non-stop to complete stage two in 4:33:18.0 hours.
Just nine days after the death of Jules Bianchi, a Ferrari victory was a fitting result for a driver long linked with the team and one apparently earmarked to take over from Kimi Raikkonen.
Qualifying form had suggested that Mercedes would once again walk away with the win but an out-of-character error by Lewis Hamilton dropped him well down the order and ensured he was never a threat to the race win.
In some ways, Ferrari were flattered by a surprisingly poor showing by Hamilton in sixth, likewise Nico Rosberg’s eighth place although to the German’s credit the low finish was on account of a late puncture following a collision with Daniel Ricciardo.
But going from the previous race where Vettel was 25 seconds off the pace of race winner Hamilton at the British Grand Prix – and would have been lower had the Williams not been hampered by late rain – to the four-time world champion winning by 16 seconds is quite some leap.
So how exactly have the Maranello outfit achieved such a change in fortunes, particularly when Vettel had said in the wake of qualifying that he expected to be scrapping with the Red Bulls rather than the Mercedes?
One reason lies in the nuances of the Hungaroring. The fast-flowing nature of the preceding races in Canada, Austria and Britain did not best suit the Ferrari with the Mercedes-powered Williams cars, despite not always showing it, being the best of the rest.
Instead, in Budapest, the Pirelli tyres were better suited to the vagaries of the Ferraris of both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, an under-fire racer who deserved more than his late-race retirement.
Not since the Bahrain Grand Prix in April have Pirelli brought with them soft and medium compound tyres, a race where Raikkonen pulled off a very impressive second place, splitting the two Mercedes in the process.
Ferrari’s SF15-T seems to relish the softer tyres even when the rubber gets off-the-scale temperature wise – who can forget the early form at the baking races at the early part of the season when Ferrari looked like they might be genuine title contenders only for that to fall by the wayside in the intervening races.
Another facet of the Hungaroring to aid their cause was the tighter and more twisty nature of the circuit which meant technical direc- tor James Allison and his team had no need to make quite the same compromises between drag and downforce as at some recent race weekends.
Ferrari need to find a way to get greater speed from its engine. Hungary aside, it is clear that they neither have the top straight-line speed nor are they particularly proficient in the high-speed corners compared to, say, Mercedes.
Can this leap in form and fortunes be put down to any great overhaul to the car? Not really, in essence this was very much the same car that took to the start line for the British Grand Prix.
Perhaps one alteration was a notched rear wing flap but that alone was hardly going to account for a 40-second flip in pace or whatever the margin might have transpired to be had Hamilton stayed on the track.
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It was telling that the Mercedes both struggled inside the pack. The team have made no secret of the fact that their car relishes being a front-runner and has its own reliability and pace issues in dirty air.
Dirty air is the disturbed air left in the wake of a Formula 1 car, which adversely affects the aerodynamic performance of the car behind. It is an interesting chink in the armour considering the difficulties they’ve had in getting off the line.
Both Hamilton and Rosberg had issues with dirty air, an issue Mercedes executive chairman Niki Lauda admitted they were working to remedy and that yesterday “was a wake-up race” for the team.
But in the same breath, Lauda added: “I am not worried or bothered – these things happen in racing,” and with good reason.
Mercedes still lead the constructors’ championship by 371 points to Ferrari’s 211, have eight grand prix victories to Ferrari’s two this season and know that Ferrari need too many permutations to go their way from tyre wear to track twists and turns to be consistently pushing Mercedes for the race wins.
But a Ferrari winner was like a breath of fresh air in a mostly one-sided championship, similarly the appropriate result for a team and a grid as a whole mourning the loss of a current driver for the first time since that unforgettable weekend in Imola 21 years ago.
Max Verstappen says he was “overwhelmed” at the end of the Hungarian Grand Prix after finishing in fourth place.
The Toro Rosso rookie took advantage of a chaotic race at the Hungaroring to secure the best result of his short F1 career to date, with only Sebastian Vettel and the two Red Bulls ahead of him. Verstappen admits he thought he had blown his chance of strong points after colliding with Valtteri Bottas but was stunned when told of his track position late on.
“I’m incredibly happy, to finish P4 is an incredible result,” Verstappen said. “It was quite tough, especially as my start was quite bad but then I kept focused, I didn’t give up at all and I was hunting the people down in front of me.
“I think my second stint was quite good, then a lot of people in front of me were touching each other – I even had a touch with Bottas which destroyed my front wing. I said ‘OK from here my race is over’. But at one point I asked my engineer for which position are we racing and he said P4. I couldn’t believe it.
“I was so happy and even after the finish line I couldn’t express my feelings because I was really overwhelmed.”
With the next race not until the end of August in Belgium, Verstappen says he doesn’t want a break after such a strong result.
“I feel very motivated for the next race, I’m not really looking forward to the holidays! I’ll hopefully do some go-karting and keep having some fun.”