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.
Teams got a good run-out during free practice ahead of Thursday’s qualifying.
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.”
Cappellini (r) knows he has a delicate balance to maintain in Friday’s race.
“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.”
Rashed Al Qemzi came in for praise from team manager Guido Cappellini.
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