Klaipeda, Lithuania: Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al Qamzi recorded an impeccable start-to-finish victory in the Grand Prix of Lithuania to ignite his challenge for a fourth drivers’ title in the 2023 UIM F2 World Championship.
The Emirati driver made up for a disappointing fourth place finish in qualifying with a brilliant surge into the lead from the start and a composed drive to win from another three-times F2 world champion, Britain’s Colin Jelf.
Team Abu Dhabi looked set to have both their drivers on the podium in the opening round of the 2023 F2 championship, with Mansoor Al Mansoori holding third place before overturning on the 28th of 35 laps, and going out of the race.
That incident brought out the second of the day’s race stops, and the Grand Prix finished under the yellow flag, with Estonian rookie Stefan Arand claiming third place.
‘Very hard race’
Driving a brand new DAC for the first time, Al Qamzi said at the finish: “I feel really happy for my team. They gave me a new boat and everyone worked very hard to get this result. It was a very hard race, and it’s a perfect start to the season.”
The victory could be a powerful omen for Al Qamzi, who won in Lithuania on the way to two of his F2 world titles, in 2017 and 2019.
Underlining his reputation as a fast starter, Al Qamzi powered his way from fourth into an immediate lead as Monaco’s Giacomo Sacchi fell four places from pole position.
With Jelf leaping from fifth to second, Al Mansoori was also an early riser as he climbed from sixth spot to third to give the top three a complete shake up.
The race was briefly halted by a yellow flag on lap 17 after Latvia’s Nikita Lijcs collided with a buoy, while Norway’s Tobias Munthe-Kaas plunged to the back of the field shortly afterwards when he stopped for a propeller change.
Jelf tried to apply pressure from the first re-start, but Al Qamzi remained in control, and after his unfortunate departure from the Grand Prix, Al Mansoori was the first to congratulate his teammate at the finish.