Dubai: Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella laid down the gauntlet for the rest of the field with the best lap during free practice before the Grand Prix of Harbin — Round Three of the UIM F1H2O World Championship — scheduled this weekend.
Carella, who is just a point away from early leader Sami Selio of Mad Croc Baba Racing, had the best time of 42.76 seconds followed by Team Sweden’s Erik Stark (42.92) and Victory Team’s American pilot Shaun Torrente (43.05).
Close on the heels of the top three is three-time defending world champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China team (43.59), followed by Victory’s Ahmad Al Hameli (43.68), current drivers’ leader Selio (43.77) and Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qamzi (43.83).
“This year the circuit is longer than last year and that has played an important role in the build-up of this race,” UIM Commissioner Luis Ribeiro, said.
“There as a bit of rain and it was windy. But conditions for tomorrow [Saturday] are supposed to be normal and we can expect a good racing weekend overall,” he added.
After the opening two rounds, the race for the drivers’ title is shaping up well with just one point separating Mad Croc Baba Racing’s Selio with 30 points from and Team Abu Dhabi’s Carella, while three-time defending champion Frenchman Chiappe is lying in third with 20 points.
After the first two rounds it looks like Carella has the momentum going forward following a near-perfect drive that saw him clinch victory in Evian last month. His teammate Thani Al Qamzi, who sits in tenth spot, will be looking to add more points to his tally after having ended sixth in France, while the young Rashid Al Qamzi will be in search of his first championship points.
Defending world champion Chiappe, who won the opening round in Portugal will also be aiming to make up lost ground after a third successive retirement in Evian last month. But the veteran French driver will be determined to use his vast experience and get valuable points to move up the standings.
Victory Team has always been a contender in any race. And now with Torrente teaming up with Al Hameli the Dubai outfit know they have the pace and power to be at the top. After a disappointing opener in Algarve, Torrente came up with an extraordinary race in Evian to win third spot and 12 points.
His teammate was among the unfortunate non-finishers in Portugal, but came up with fourth place in France to lurk behind Torrente in the overall standings. “We’ve not changed anything much since last year. The only issue we’ve had is that we’ve not got sufficient time to check reliability of our set-up. So our focus is to continue improving with each trip out on the water,” Al Hameli told Gulf News.
“I will need to be extra careful as I already have two yellow cards this season. One more and I get a red and I’ll be out for a race. We have a good package and we feel confident of success in China,” he added.
Saturday will see a second practice session at 6.30am (UAE time) followed by the BRM Official Qualifying at 11am. On Sunday, there will a final practice session at 5.45am followed by the Grand Prix of Harbin at 10am.