DILANO VAN'T HOFF EXTENDS F4UAE POINTS LEAD WHILE HAMDA AL QUBAISI WINS AT HOME CIRCUIT
Dutch racer Dilano Van't Hoff has extended his points lead over main rival, Italian Enzo Trulli at the latest round of the FIA F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth, as the category returned to Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for Round 2 this weekend (January 21-23, 2021).
Van't Hoff - in his rookie openwheeler season with Dubai-based Xcel Motorsport - came into Round 2 with two race wins to his name and added to the tally with victories in Races 2 and 3 this weekend; he's the most successful driver so far in 2021 and now a clear favourite for the 2021 title.
CRAM Durango’s Enzo Trulli from Italy - who claimed a win in the first race of the season in Dubai last week - also scored the Race 1 victory in Abu Dhabi. While Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema's Hamda Al Qubaisi scored her first win of the season and fourth career race victory which sees her retain third on points outright.
Thirteen drivers from 11 countries formed part of the second round of racing, with nine of them in their rookie season of open-wheelers.
“The talent this season is of such a high standard and to have clean, close racing and multiple winners is really exciting to watch, especially as our new rookies come to grips with their first season in open-wheelers," said F4UAE technical delegate Craig Thompson. “We're so pleased too that the championship can race at both of our UAE circuits, the Dubai Autodrome last week and Yas Marina Circuit this week, despite the challenges with travel and the pandemic at the moment. We appreciate all the efforts made to ensure safe racing on a complete championship calendar. We look forward to three more weeks of racing ahead."
Two qualifying sessions on Friday morning set the pace for the weekend's four races. Van’t Hoff (#17) clocked both the fastest (2m11.741s) and second-fastest (2m12.077s) lap times in Q1 to earn pole position for the first two races, as well as the fastest time in Q2 (2m11.337s) to earn pole for Race 3.
The front row saw title contenders Van't Hoff and Trulli starting from P1 and P2, yet it was the Italian that clinched the run into Turn 1. Back in the pack, Saud Al Saud (#3) got entangled with and launched over the Mücke Motorsport F4 of Jones Ried (#77), putting both out of the race, and unluckily Enzo Scionti (#29) was also caught up in the incident.
With just 10 starters continuing on after the restart, the order of the top three stayed the same until the chequered flag, with Trulli clinching the win over Van't Hoff and teammate Pepe Marti (#13) third; a well-deserved comeback after a disastrous Round 1 last week.
In the second 20-minute race, Van’t Hoff lead from pole to chequered flag while his teammate Jamie Day (#24) struggled off the line from P2 to fall back to sixth by the end of lap one. Once the field settled, the order was Van't Hoff, Trulli and Al Qubaisi (#88) who made her way up to the podium after initially falling a few places in the opening laps. Al Saud was the only driver unable to start the race due to his 3Y Technology team still making repairs after his Race 1 accident.
All 13 cars made it to the start of Race 3 with the front row being another Van't Hoff versus Day affair. The polesitter lead into turn one with Trulli not far behind and soon up into second, before Nikita Bedrin (#15) moved into third and stayed for the race's entirety. Trulli continued to apply pressure to the leader however it was not enough to stop the Dutchman from scoring his second race win of the weekend and fourth victory of 2021.
The grid for Race 4 was made up of the top-eight finishers of Race 3 reversed, which gave Oleksandr Partyshev (#23) pole position alongside teammate Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak (#14). The Thai racer pushed into the lead on lap one and Al Qubaisi was soon not far behind in second place.
A fast-moving Kirill Smal (#7) also was on a charge and by lap four, Al Qubaisi passed for the lead with Smal on her tail up from a fifth-placed start. Holding on for the win, Al Qubaisi won her first race of the season, her fourth of her career after winning three in F4UAE last season also with Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema. Inthraphuvasak claimed third behind Smal, while Trulli and Van’t Hoff fought up to fourth and fifth respectively.
After the four races, Van’t Hoff leads the provisional standings ahead of Trulli second and Al Qubaisi third. Round 3 of the 2021 F4UAE Championship heads back to Dubai Autodrome next week (January 28-30).