Dubai: As many as 21 drivers representing 13 countries will line-up at the Breakwaters along the corniche for the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — the penultimate round of the 2017 UIM F1H2O World Championship — this weekend.
Fresh entrants in the race for honours will be debutants Erik Edin joining Erik Stark and Jonas Andersson in Team Sweden, while Matthew Palfreyman will race alongside Marit Stromoy and Mike Szymura with Emirates Racing.
The first free practice session was gone through on Wednesday, while there will be a second session at 10.15am on Thursday followed by the BRM qualifying at 3.30pm. There will be a final practice session at 10.15am on Friday and the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi will be flagged off at 3.30pm.
There are at least six drivers, who can get their hands on the world championship crown with a maximum of 40 points on offer at the last two races in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Holding the advantage are the top three in the standings led by Team Abu Dhabi’s three-time world champion Alex Carella, while the next three have an outside chance depending on the results of the top three.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Italian driver — who won three successive world titles from 2010 to 2012 — is at the top of the overall standings with 58 points. But within striking distance is Team Sweden’s Erik Stark with 42 points followed by three-time defending champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team with 39 points.
Awaiting any slip-up from the top three are Finland’s Mad Croc Baba Racing’s Sami Selio and Victory Team’s Ahmad Al Hameli with 30 points each, and Team Abu Dhabi’s second driver Thani Al Qamzi with 25 points.
Victory Team’s Al Hameli, one of the top six who has a chance to land a first-ever world crown with his new team, has predicted a tough race. “It’s going to be a tough competition for sure. Nothing is over till it is actually over and we hope to be there giving it everything we’ve got,” Al Hameli told Gulf News.
“Perhaps there is a bit of confusion at the moment as things are not clear due to the intensity of the race for top spot. But the race in Abu Dhabi will make things clear this weekend as at least some of us will take a step closer to the title. After that, it will be one final surge at the Grand Prix of Sharjah next week,” he predicted.
Victory Team are making their first full appearance in F1 powerboating this season with Al Hameli joined by American Shaun Torrente, while leader Mansour Al Mansouri will be racing in the blue colours in the F4 category. Al Hameli doesn’t discount the surprise element as well. “You may get an outsider come and upset all calculations,” he quipped.
“Tomorrow [Thursday] is qualifying and no one knows anything at this moment. All we know is that the race for the championship is wide open and we will have a new champion only in Sharjah. On our part, we will do our best to bring home the title for Victory Team in our first full year,” Al Hameli said.
“We have been working really hard for the past one month to get everything right for us. We need a boat with a perfect set-up along with the added element of top speed. It is very hard to say anything now as everyone is looking for the top spot. The race will be hard, and I wish all drivers a safe race,” he added.
At the end of Round Six: 1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi (58pts); 2. Erik Stark (Sweden) Team Sweden (42); 3. Philippe Chiappe (France) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team (39); 4. Sami Selio (Finland) Mad Croc Baba Racing (30); 4. Ahmad Al Hameli (UAE) Victory Team (30); 6. Thani Al Qamzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi (25); 7. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team (19); 8. Duarte Benavente (Portugal) F1 Atlantic Team (14); 8. Bartek Marszalak (Poland) Blaze Performance Team (14); 10. Jonas Andersson (Sweden) Team Sweden (12).