Sharjah
From left: Shaun Torrente, Nicolo Di San Germano, Khalid Al Midfa, Ali Salem Al Midfa and Andrzej Wisniewski at the press conference in Sharjah. Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Sharjah: Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente is confident of a successful title defence heading into the 20th UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of Sharjah to be staged at Sharjah’s Khalid Lagoon from December 18-21.

Following a weather-affected opening round in Dammam, Torrente has been able to build his season with wins in Portimao (Portugal) and Xiamen (China) while also taking a second in Evian (France) and a fourth in the first round in Xiamen to lead the standings with 64 points.

Close on his heels is Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson with 59 points.

The Sharjah Grand Prix was announced by Khalid Al Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), Ali Salem Al Midfa, Chairman of Board of Directors, Sharjah International Marine Sports Club (SIMSC), and Nicolo di San Germano, Founder, H2O Racing, the promoters of the world championship.

Both Torrente and Andersson have good records in Sharjah with Torrente winning in 2016 while making the podium four times, while Andersson, who was runner-up in the last two years, also has two third-placed finishes in 2008 and 2006. Permutations abound at the moment, with both drivers hoping for just that top spot on the podium on Saturday.

“It’s a different sort of pressure at the moment,” Torrente told Gulf News on the sidelines.

“One of my main dreams was achieved when I won the F1 World Championship here last year. So from now on, whatever happens, that will all be about creating and leaving behind a legacy,” the defending champion from the US added.

“I have nothing to lose as I am already assured of the runners-up spot this season. But I have a great feeling going into this race as Sharjah is where I got my first podium and this can be a very good race,” Andersson noted.

In the mix are a handful of challengers who are capable of upsetting the odds. These include Norway’s Marit Stromoy in third overall with 37 points followed by Torrente’s teammate Thani Al Qamzi (27 points), Maverick Racing’s Alex Carella (25) and the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team’s French duo of Peter Morin (23) and Philippe Chiappe (15).

“It’s important for me to keep my third position. And for this, I will need to go fast and see what can happen at the end of the race,” Stromoy said.

Two-time world champion Selio, who races with the Sharjah Team didn’t want to spoil anything for the title contenders. “I have been a world champion here, but the hope is that I go all out and win in my home race and make everyone proud,” the Finnish driver said.

As many as 18 drivers started the season with title aspirations and the cast is now down to the final two — Torrente and Andersson. Sharjah has been hosting the season’s final race since 2004, and when the 18 boats head out on the Khalid Lagoon, there can be only one winner.

The drivers’ first opportunity to get out on the 2.057km Khalid Lagoon circuit will be the official practice from 10.15am on Thursday followed by the Rebellion Official Qualifying at 3.30pm. There will be a second practice session on Saturday morning followed by the UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of Sharjah at 4pm.

Standings

1. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi — 64 pts

2. Jonas Andersson (Sweden) Team Sweden — 59

3. Marit Stromoy (Norway) Emirates Racing Team — 37

4. Thani Al Qamzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi — 27

5. Alex Carella (Italy) Maverick F1 Racing — 25