Sharjah: Three-time defending world champion Philippe Chiappe believes his challengers are under more pressure than he is as they come to the end of the 2017 UIM F1H2O World Championship with the Grand Prix of Sharjah this weekend.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella is at the top of the drivers’ standings with 70 points, chased by the defending champion from CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team with 59 points, while Team Sweden’s Erik Stark is third with 49 points.
With the title race tantalisingly poised, an outright win along with the hope that Carella finishes past third place is what Chiappe is hoping for. “He [Carella] is under more pressure than I am,” Chiappe told Gulf News.
“I know I need the 20 points. But he needs to stay clear of trouble and get the necessary points to ensure he wins the world title,” the French driver added.
The 18th running of the Grand Prix of Sharjah was formally announced by Khalid Jasem Al Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), in the presence of Nicolo di San Germano, President, F1H2O Racing, Hassan Al Za’abi, President, Sharjah International Marine Sports Club (SIMSC), and the top three drivers — Chiappe, Alex Carella and Erik Stark.
Chiappe would know better about the situation Carella is facing as he went for his third world crown needing just one point last season in Sharjah. “The thoughts that can creep into the mind are amazing. Getting one point can be tougher than going for all 20 points,” he shrugged.
“So I can imagine what he must be going through at the moment. On my part, I need to go all out and win this race as I have nothing to lose except the defence of my world title,” Chiappe added.
Personally, both Carella and Chiappe are chasing a fourth world crown. Carella has to stay clear of trouble and finish the race on the podium, and the points earned will be sufficient for him to finish clear of Chiappe.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Carella, the younger of the two, feels Thursday’s pole position run will set the tone for things going into the weekend. “Perhaps, this is the most important pole position run for me. It will determine everything that is to follow the next day,” Carella predicted.
However, waiting in wings and with nothing to lose are a handful of drivers led by Team Sweden’s Erik Stark (49), Sami Selio and Ahmad Al Hameli tied for fourth with 30 points each and Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qamzi (29) and Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente (28) in sixth and seventh respectively.
The Grand Prix of Sharjah throws up a very interesting detail that the last six years have seen six different winners. “I won’t pay attention to all these things,” Carella observed.
“I will need to pretty much run my own race, and at the same time I will need to pay adequate attention to where I finish. I can promise you this will be a great battle,” the Italian added.
The Sharjah World Championship Week to be held on the Khalid Lagoon consists of the Grand Prix of Sharjah on December 14 and 15, followed by the Aquabike Grand Prix of Sharjah on December 19 and 20.