Khaled al Qubaisi with daughters Amna and Hamda
Khaled al Qubaisi with daughters Amna and Hamda Image Credit: Supplied

As the Formula Regional Asian Championship got under way at Yas Marina Circuit over the weekend, one of motorsports best-loved families began a new chapter of their time on track. Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi went racing alongside father Khaled to compete for Abu Dhabi Racing, in collaboration with Prema Racing.

The Formula Regional Asian Championship, previously named Asian Formula 3, will see ADR field three cars over five rounds in Abu Dhabi and Dubai before the finale on February 18 alongside the Asian Le Mans Series — and an Al Qubaisi will be behind the wheel of each of the three Tatuus vehicles.

Amna and her younger sister Hamda are joining accomplished GT racer Khaled and the two siblings took time out at Yas Marina Circuit to speak to Gulf News about their ambitions, sibling rivalry and inspiration from dad.

The pair are coming into the competition with differing momentum as Amna is back behind the wheel following a year out and Hamda recently delivered an impressive season in the 2021 Italian Formula 4 Championship

“I am just taking it easy and easing myself back into action and getting up to pace,” 21-year-old Amna told Gulf News in an exclusive chat.

Hamda is in for her first competitive outing in the challenging and more demanding Formula Regional Tatuus machinery. “I am getting used to it,” the 19-year-old said. “It is a heavier load than the F4 cars but I have had a good start to my career and I am already making improvements in the car each day.”

Not many drivers — male or female — can get the opportunity to drive competitively alongside their father, and the girls are grabbing the chance to learn and have a little fun.

“It is great to race as a family,” said Amna with a smile. “I was expecting fighting and arguing as we are so close as a family, but we are all giving each other advice. There is no sibling rivalry, unlike before. I guess we are a bit older and have each others backs. We help each other a lot, but Hamda likes to brag a lot now she has improved so much.”

Hamda was gracious to her big sister: “I have always looked up to her. We have such a good understanding and experience in Europe. We are always trying to do better and learn from each other — especially me from my big sister and father.”

She couldn’t resist a little nudge ... “We were in the same categories once in karting and F4 and we used to have some good fights.”

You would think having a successful driver for a father would have had the Al Qubaisi sisters hooked on racing in their diapers, but it was quite a different story.

“When I was younger I had no interest in racing,” explained Amna. “Dad was into his GT3 and was always talking about it. We would go to the track when we were older and support him and eventually, once I was surrounded by the whole atmosphere, it motivated me to get into it.

“Dad basically built me. He was my first coach and took me to championships. From karting to singe-seaters, he was always my first coach — always pushing me to go better and try harder.”

It was a similar story for Hamda. “I had little interest as a kid, but it was watching Amna that actually got me into it, watching her in karting motivated me to do the same and it soon became a passion,” she said.

Despite racing being in their blood, the Al Qubaisis are quite different from each other on the track.

“Dad is always pushing and demanding more, whereas I am a lot calmer and take things step by step,” said Amna. “He is such a great driver and wants to always do better, but I do not get as upset and have a little less urgency.”

“I’m the opposite,” chimed in Hamda. “I want things right away and need to see results. If results are OK, I get frustrated as I am hungry for more and I know I can do better. While Amna can get her game on and get behind the wheel, I need to focus more on the mental preparation.”

Racing in the Middle East has come on leaps and bounds since the Al Qubaisi sisters first got into karting, with the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix opening the doors for a number of top-flight races to come to the region — and open up opportunities for female drivers, too. Only last week Saudi Arabia’s Reema Juffali finished on the podium in the Dubai 24 Hours endurance race.

“It is such a positive time,” said Amna. “It is great to see Saudi allowing female drivers and we see female drivers in karting, rally and single-seaters. I am proud to be in a generation where I can compete alongside them.”

Hamda is also honoured to help break new ground. “We broke through barriers and boundaries,” she said. “Amna was the first female Emirati driver and I was the second. It was hard for people to accept at first but we proved we could compete and we proved them wrong and changed minds. I hear girls coming up to me to tell me they are allowed to drive in karting by their parents because they saw me competing. When I saw three young female faces in the karting line-up recently it brought such a smile to my face.”