Abu Dhabi: The previous weekend success will stay in the memories of UAE’s rising star Keanu Al Azhari for a while now. Driving for the Yas Heat Racing team, the 16-year-old secured an amazing two consecutive victories in the Formula 4 UAE Trophy Round at the Yas Marina Circuit during the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Al Azhari, who won the Race One last Saturday, led from the front, to win again on Sunday finishing ahead of Frederico Al Rifai and Rashid Al Dhaheri. “It’s been amazing,” Al Azhari said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s been a dominant weekend with two pole positions and two race wins. We’ve put a lot of work to be here as a team and to get this result. So I’m just really happy and honoured to be able to do it at such a prestigious event,” he added.
The fine run in Abu Dhabi does set up the youngster for the new season and Al Azhari feels the dominant show adds to the confidence. “I mean it was amazing. You know we had some top level European teams here and under Yas Heat we were able to beat them, I mean dominantly.”
The 2024 calendar begins with a two-day pre-season test on January 10 and 11, followed by the opening two rounds at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit before the series heads to Dubai for round three. Each round is comprised of two one-hour pre-event testing sessions, 30 minutes of free practice, two 15-minute qualifying sessions, and three 28-minute plus one lap races. The opening qualifying session sets the grid for race one, with the top 12 finishers starting race two in reverse order. The grid for race three is drawn up in the order of the second qualifying. All races are points-scoring, and championship titles will be awarded to the leading overall driver, top rookie and winning team.
“I feel really confident going into the championship. I’m sure it’s going to be really great. The speed is already there. I just need to make sure I cut down on the mistakes a bit and then I think we have a I just need to make sure I cut down on the mistakes a bit and then I think we have a strong chance to win it,” he added.
Another moment of glory
During the weekend, Al Azhari had another moment of glory when he had the privilege to be the first driver to lift a trophy in the new-look podium at the Yas Marina Circuit. The new design, stands above the main straight and pitlane, allows more fans to engage in the post-race podium ceremony and celebrations.
“It was really special, standing on the top step, hearing my own national anthem is honestly amazing. And representing Yas Heat as well. They put a lot of effort to get to the stage and so did I. It didn’t come easily but we got the job done at the end of the day and yeah it was amazing standing on the top step you know I just took a moment to appreciate it and I’m sure it’ll be with me for the rest of my life.”
Elaborating on the races, Al Azhari said: “This circuit tends to have quite nice races, especially in F4. I held a nice gap the whole race, I was feeling pretty comfortable. I did make one or two mistakes, which is quite normal for a driver my age. But I managed to keep my cool and win the race.”
Lauding the efforts of Al Azhari, Yas Heat Racing team manager Matthew Norman, said: “The wins demonstrate how he has matured as a driver and as a person. His technical feedback is first class and he is a smart and intelligent driver in and out of the car. Certainly a credit to the programme and Yas Heat Racing. We look forward to the main championship and confident of a title challenge.”
Yas Heat Racing Academy is the official driver talent development programme located at Yas Marina Circuit, uniting all forms of grassroots motorsport racing — from karting to eSports and onto circuit racing — to provide young drivers with a clear pathway into motorsports, while promoting the development of homegrown talent in the UAE.