Abu Dhabi: Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella qualified in third position for Friday’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, the penultimate round of the 2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship.
An outright victory would confirm the Italian’s fourth world title and put him in joint second position alongside former Team Abu Dhabi driver Scott Gillman in the sport’s Hall of Fame.
Carella posted a fastest lap of 43.02 seconds in a nail-biting qualifying session off the capital’s breakwater, where several drivers battled for fractions of a second to gain a crucial advantage to take into the 25th race to be hosted by the Abu Dhabi International Sports Club (ADIMSC) since the start of the 1993 season.
Triple world champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC Shenzhen China Team left it until his last lap to register a winning time of 42.83s and deprived a flying Norwegian Marit Stromoy of a second career pole position.
Eight-tenths of a second separated the top six with Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente finishing fourth, ahead of Carella’s closest title rival Erik Stark and Emirati Ahmad Al Hameli.
“It was not the best qualifying for me. We made some mistakes. I got a bit lost in my rhythm on my best lap. I guess I am ahead of Erik, but I am behind Philippe now. That is not perfect, but it will be a long and difficult race with this water. Marit is a very good driver and I am pleased for her that she delivered such a great performance,” Carella after the day’s showing.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al Qamzi belied his lack of F1 experience to set some scintillating lap times and was rewarded with eighth place on the pontoon for Friday’s race.
“I’m very happy with that and am trying to push harder for the future. I was inside the top six until near the end, but I could not find any clear water to set a faster time. I will try to push hard in the race.”
Thani Al Qamzi blotted his copybook early in the morning’s practice session when he spectacularly flipped his DAC and was forced to switch to the spare Team Abu Dhabi boat for qualifying. He will start the race from 15th position. “I had a good start this morning in practice and then I crashed. I took the spare boat, but I was not happy with it. The crash had no affect on me but the second boat was not so good for me,” said Al Qamzi.
After a cracked sponson sidelined disappointed Swedish rookie Erik Edin before the start, eight of the remaining 20 boats would be eliminated in the opening Q1 session. Al Hameli and Al Qamzi switched to spare DACs for the start of the session. Carella opened his account with a lap of 45.52 sec, but that was surpassed by a flying Bartek Marszalak, Marit Stromoy, Chiappe and Stark.
A flying Al Hameli topped the timings with a flying last lap of 44.50s, but rookie Matthew Palfreyman, the French duo of Cedric Deguisne and Amaury Jousseaume, Grant Trask, Francesco Cantandio, Thani Al Qamzi, Mike Szymura and Duarte Benavente were eliminated. Carella and Rashed Al Qemzi sneaked through to Q2 in 10th and 12th positions.
A further six boats were eliminated in the 15 minutes of Q2, but the yellow flag was raised in the first minute when Sami Selio and Stark collided, Selio flipped over and Stark continued relatively unscathed. The session was restarted and Stark stormed to the top of the standings with a lap of 43.80 sec. Eventual session winner Chiappe, Stark, Carella, Al Hameli, Marit Stromoy and Shaun Torrente made the two-lap shoot-out, but Selio, Al Qemzi, Filip ROMs, Marszalak, Peter Morin and Jonas Andersson missed out on Q3.
Carella’s destiny lay ahead and the Italian carded a first tour of 43.02s to move into second position and was unable to beat that on his second run. That left Stark and Chiappe to spoil the Stromoy party. The Swede opened with a 43.89 sec and moved up to fourth with a 43.47 sec second lap. Chiappe opened with a 43.50 sec and he snatched pole with a 42.83s lap to cap a memorable qualifying session.
2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship — qualifying times (Thursday): Q3
1. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 42.83 sec
2. Marit Stromoy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 42.89 sec
3. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 43.02 sec
4. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 43.28 sec
5. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 43.47 sec
6. Ahmad Al Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 43.53 sec
2017 UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy — latest positions:
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 59 pts
2. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 58 pts
3. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 54 pts
4. Ahmad Al Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 49 pts
5. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 38 pts
6. Thani Al Qamzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 24 pts
6. Marit Stromoy (NOR) EMIC Racing Team 24 pts
8. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing 17 pts
9. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 7 pts
10. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 5 pts