Racing: Stage Set For Thrilling F1H2O Season Finale After Al Qemzi Wins In Sardinia
Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi powered his way to a commanding victory in the Italian Grand Prix of Regione Sardegna on Sunday in Olbia, Sardinia, to set the stage for a thrilling climax to the 2022 Union Internationale Motonautique F1H2O World Championship in the United Arab Emirates.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi earned his 10th career F1H2O victory at the Italian Grand Prix of Regione Sardegna on Sunday. Photo courtesy Vittorio Ubertone/F1H2O
The veteran Emirati driver followed up his record-breaking pole position success 24 hours earlier by leading from start to finish in Olbia and holding off a hard-charging Sweden’s reigning world champion, Jonas Andersson, who finished second nearly 3 seconds behind Al Qemzi. Torrente, the current leader in the drivers’ championship standings, finished in third place, 16 seconds off the pace.
The outcome—Al Qemzi’s 10th career F1H2O victory—moved him to within nine points of Torrente, who earned the 29th podium of his career to continue his bid for a third F1H2O drivers’ title.
“I am happy today to win the race—the start was good and the course helped me,” Al Qemzi said. “It was a small course, but we handled it from the start to the finish. Now we focus on Sharjah and hope to get more points.”
Chasing his first drivers’ crown in his 22-year career, Al Qemzi looks assured of a fifth successive team title in partnership with Torrente, as the Team Abu Dhabi duo hold a 63-point lead over Team Sweden. It all adds up to what should be a fascinating end to the 2022 season in Sharjah where the championship concludes with back-to-back Grand Prix races on December 16 and December 18, with Andersson nine points away from Al Qemzi in third place.
En route to a second-place finish, Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson kept the pressure on Thani Al Qemzi in Sardinia. Photo courtesy Simon Palfrader/F1H2O
Al Qemzi had already earned a place in the record books in qualifying when he set the first sub-30-second lap time in modern F1H2O powerboat racing history to clinch pole position.
That all changed on Sunday as the racecourse was re-shaped—the right-hander on the back straight was removed to allow for better lapping, which resulted in 14 of the 15 qualifiers going below 30 seconds in the morning’s free practice session.
A new start procedure introduced for the Grand Prix saw the top 10 boats from qualifying starting first under lights, with the remaining five setting off five seconds later.
On one of the shortest racecourses ever seen in the championship, a good start was vital, and Al Qemzi was up to the challenge, shutting out Alberto Comparato at the first turn to take a clear lead.
A yellow flag soon came out on when Finn Kalle Viippo spun out, but Al Qemzi made a superb restart to re-establish and gradually extend his lead as the battle for the other podium places grew behind him.
Andersson moved ahead of Comparato into second place with a clever overtaking move on the 19th lap, and 10 laps later the young Italian, under pressure from Torrente, lost third place when he went out with mechanical issues. There were no problems for Al Qemzi, however, as he produced an immaculate performance all the way to the checkered flag. Meanwhile, a run of bad luck continued for Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio who went out with technical problems after 59 of 70 laps while lying fourth.
Another impressive performance by Gillman Racing’s Alec Weckström propelled him into fourth place, while the round three-winning Dutchman Ferdinand Zandbergen rounded off the top five for the Sharjah Team.
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Andersson Saves Best For Last To Claim First F1H2O Championship