F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
1 / 2
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, and McLaren driver Oscar Piastri of Australia pose after qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi on Nov. 25, 2023. (AP)
F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
2 / 2
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi on Nov. 25, 2023. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 25 November 2023
Follow

F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
  • Victory on Sunday would take the Red Bull driver onto 54 career wins
  • The three-time F1 champion’s 12th pole of the season took him to 32 overall

ABU DHABI: Max Verstappen took pole position for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday and will look to finish a crushingly dominant year with a 19th win.
Victory on Sunday would take the Red Bull driver onto 54 career wins, past former Red Bull star Sebastian Vettel and into third place all time.
“It’s been a very special season and we’ve been enjoying it a lot,” Verstappen said. “Very proud of what we have achieved.”
The three-time F1 champion’s 12th pole of the season took him to 32 overall. He starts the race ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in second place and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in third.
“Never bet against me,” Verstappen said afterward, jokingly referring to a comment made by his Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Horner informed Verstappen that he had won a bet for 500 euros ($547) made with Red Bull boss Helmut Marko as to where Verstappen would qualify.
“You’ve just won me 500 euros,” Horner told Verstappen over radio when he crossed the line.
With a few minutes left, Verstappen led from McLaren’s Lando Norris and Piastri under floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit.
Norris slid late while pushing too hard on his last timed lap and Piastri moved ahead of him, while Leclerc jumped up the leaderboard with an excellent lap to place .14 seconds behind Verstappen.
“Everything felt good, I’m very happy with that lap because I didn’t expect to be on the front row,” Leclerc said. “It’s a good surprise.”
Mercedes driver George Russell qualified in fourth ahead of Norris with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in sixth and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso seventh. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine) completed the top 10.
It was a bad session for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (11th) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (16th).
Sainz failed to make it into the second part of qualifying — known as Q2 — and complained of too much traffic near the end of Q1 with several drivers coming out of their garages late.
Still, for a leading driver — Sainz is the only driver other than Verstappen or Perez to win a race this season — it was a poor performance after he crashed early in Friday’s second practice session. Potentially costly, too, with second place in the constructors’ championship at stake.
Heading into Sunday’s race, Mercedes was in second and held a four-point lead over Ferrari. Teams get more money at the end of the season the higher they finish.
“I hope tomorrow goes well,” Leclerc said. “It is the target to beat Mercedes in the constructors’ championship. That is all that matters this weekend.”
But Mercedes is struggling for form, and Hamilton was knocked out of Q2. The seven-time F1 champion said there was “something not right with this car” and faces the strong likelihood of a second straight season without a win.
Williams driver Logan Sargeant goes from last on the grid with his F1 future still uncertain. The American has only one point this season with a best result of 10th place at the United States GP last month.
Earlier Saturday, Russell topped the third and final practice session ahead of Norris and Piastri with Verstappen in sixth.
“What a turnaround because in practice it was not looking good,” Verstappen said. “Around here on the tires you have little slides, it can cost you a lot of lap time and that is what was happening in practice. But then in qualifying it was a bit more connected.”
When his form picked up, Horner was happy to win a bet in a season where Red Bull has lost only one race out of 21.
Piastri, meanwhile, was pleased to bounce back from a difficult qualifying session last weekend at the Las Vegas GP. He started from 18th and finished the race in 10th.
“The car is very quick this weekend,” the 22-year-old Australian said. “Happy to be back in the top three.”


Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’

Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’
Updated 22 February 2024
Follow

Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’

Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’
  • The Red Bull driver was more than a second faster than Lando Norris in a McLaren
  • Verstappen’s performance was a boost for a Red Bull team reeling from an investigation into team chief Christian Horner who has been accused of “inappropriate behavior” by a female member of staff

SAKHIR: Three-time world champion Max Verstappen gave his struggling rivals little hope for optimism ahead of the new Formula One season when he dominated the first day of winter testing on Wednesday.

The Red Bull driver was more than a second faster than Lando Norris in a McLaren with Carlos Sainz, about to start his final year as a Ferrari driver, in third spot at the Sakhir track where the season-opener takes place on March 2.

Sainz will lose his seat at Ferrari to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton who is entering his last campaign behind the wheel of a Mercedes. Hamilton will be in action on Thursday.

Verstappen’s performance was a boost for a Red Bull team reeling from an investigation into team chief Christian Horner who has been accused of “inappropriate behavior” by a female member of staff.

“It feels good to be back in an F1 car again and I had fun out on track today. We covered a lot of laps and tried quite a few things with the car, which was important, so happy overall with how it went,” said Verstappen.

Horner faced questioning for eight hours at an internal hearing in London earlier in February after allegations emerged in the Dutch press of a complaint being made against the 50-year-old Englishman by a female employee.

Horner categorically denies the accusation while Formula One chiefs said they want the issue resolved at the “earliest opportunity.”

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff described the investigation as “an issue for all of Formula One.”

“Red Bull has started as an independent investigation, if this is done in the right way with transparency and with rigour, I think that’s something that we need to look at — what the outcomes are and what it means for Formula One, and how we can learn from that,” Wolff told a news conference.

“We want to talk about racing cars and we want to talk about the sport rather than these kind of very critical topics, that are more just a team’s issue, it’s a phenomenon or it’s an issue for all of Formula One and in general for every individual that works out there.”

Horner is scheduled to appear at a press conference in Bahrain on Thursday.

At the launch of this season’s Red Bull car held last week, he insisted he had no intention of resigning.

“No. It’s business as usual,” he said. “There obviously is a process.

“Obviously, I fully deny any accusations that have been made against me but of course I’ll work with that process, which I hope is concluded in the near future.”

Testing times on the first day of three on Wednesday:

1. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 1:31.344 sec (143 laps,

2. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren) +1.140 (73),

3. Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) +1.240 (69),

4. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Racing Bulls) +1.255 (52),

5. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpine) +1.461 (61),

6. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin) +1.663 (54),

7. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) +1.903 (64),

8. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Aston Martin) +2.041 (77),

9. Oscar Piastri (AUS/McLaren) +2.314 (57),

10. Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Sauber) +2.527 (63),

11. Logan Sargeant (USA/Williams) +2.538 (21),

12. George Russell (GBR/Mercedes) +2.765 (122),

13. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/Racing Bulls) +2.792 (64),

14. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Sauber) +3.087 (68),

15. Alex Albon (THA/Williams) +3.243 (40),

16. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine) +3.333 (60),

17. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas) +4.348 (66),

18. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Haas) +4.562 (82)


Saudi’s Reema Juffali announced as wild card entry for first round of 2024 F1 Academy in Jeddah

Saudi’s Reema Juffali announced as wild card entry for first round of 2024 F1 Academy in Jeddah
Updated 20 February 2024
Follow

Saudi’s Reema Juffali announced as wild card entry for first round of 2024 F1 Academy in Jeddah

Saudi’s Reema Juffali announced as wild card entry for first round of 2024 F1 Academy in Jeddah
  • Kingdom’s first female racing driver joins all-women series’ debut in Jeddah during the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2024

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver, Reema Juffali, was confirmed Tuesday as a wild card entry for the first round of the 2024 F1 Academy series at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

The series’ debut race in the Kingdom will take place during the fourth Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on the weekend of March 7 to 9.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be representing my country, especially in my hometown,” Juffali said. “The day F1 arrived in Jeddah was the clash of both my worlds and now I am actually going to be participating. I’m really looking forward to it and happy to share the experience with my friends and family who are based here.”

“As the saying goes ‘if you can’t see it, you won’t believe it.’ So, hopefully Saudi fans can see that there is a Saudi racing driver out there and it will get them to thinking that ‘this is something I can do.’ It is for this reason I have decided to take this challenge on. This is just the beginning.”

The second season of the all-women series will begin in Saudi Arabia on March 7 and finish in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 8. In addition to the hosts of the opening and closing rounds, Miami, Qatar and Singapore will all join the calendar for the first time, with Zandvoort and Barcelona returning for a second year.

Having developed an interest in cars at an early age, Juffali made history in 2018 by becoming the first female racing driver from Saudi Arabia.

Following a promising debut season in 2019, she became the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international race in her home country, racing on the streets of Riyadh in the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY. This was followed by a stint in the GB3 Championship in 2021 before making her endurance racing debut at the 2022 Dubai 24 Hours where she finished second.

Juffali subsequently founded Theeba Motorsport to facilitate Saudi Arabian access to and participation in motor racing through a variety of educational opportunities and programs.

The team made its first appearance in the 2022 International GT Open and secured victory on its debut — an achievement which made Juffali the first Saudi Arabia woman to win an international motor race — before securing second place in the series’ Pro-Am class.

Last year Juffali participated in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe where she again made history by being the first female and the first Saudi Arabian driver to secure a pole position in the Sprint Cup.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation and Saudi Motorsport Company, commented: “We are delighted to confirm Reema Juffali as the wild card entry for the first ever F1 Academy race to be staged in the Kingdom. As Saudi Arabia’s first professional female racing driver — who also happens to be Jeddah born and bred — I couldn’t think of anyone better to represent the Saudi people on the racetrack during the biggest sporting and entertainment weekend of the year.”

“Reema’s formidable achievements on and off track have already helped to inspire a generation of young men and women, and she stands as a symbol of all that the people of Saudi Arabia can and will accomplish,” he added. “It is therefore fitting that she is participating in the inaugural Formula 1 Academy race in her hometown. We are excited to work together with Reema and look forward to making history together in Jeddah.”

The 2024 F1 Academy season will feature seven rounds, all of which will support the FIA Formula One World Championship. The calendar has been designed to span three continents, Europe, Asia and North America, and will feature a mix of street and traditional circuits.


Acciona-Sainz XE Team quickest out of the blocks as Extreme E Season 4 starts in Saudi Arabia

Acciona-Sainz XE Team quickest out of the blocks as Extreme E Season 4 starts in Saudi Arabia
Updated 17 February 2024
Follow

Acciona-Sainz XE Team quickest out of the blocks as Extreme E Season 4 starts in Saudi Arabia

Acciona-Sainz XE Team quickest out of the blocks as Extreme E Season 4 starts in Saudi Arabia
  • The first two rounds of the 2024 Desert X Prix season are in Jeddah

JEDDAH: Acciona-Sainz XE Team topped the timesheets in the free practice session of the 2024 Desert X Prix, the curtain-raiser for Extreme E Season 4 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia this weekend.

The pioneering racing series began its fourth instalment on Friday, with Rounds 1 and 2 of the championship held on Saturday and Sunday in the Saudi Arabian desert.

The ODYSSEY 21s were back in action for the first time in 2024, and it was ASXE who were quickest out of the blocks across the day’s two free practice sessions, with Rosberg X Racing and Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E in second and third respectively.

The sessions almost marked the first time Americans Travis Pastrana and Gray Leadbetter got out on the course behind the wheel of the Legacy Motor Club — in association with Jimmie Johnson — while Saudi Arabia national Dania Akeel also drove in Extreme E for the first time ahead of making her full debut for Jenson Button’s JBXE at her home event.

Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing, said: “The modifications to the course and the competitive format mean that every decision, every second, counts more than ever. Our victory last season has set a high bar, but together with Mikaela and the whole RXR team, I feel we’re ready for another great season.”

Timmy Hansen, Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E, said: “The first race of the season is coming up and it’s always a very exciting one with everybody starting again on equal terms with zero points. The team has been in Saudi earlier than usual before the race to prepare the car to make sure it’s in perfect condition to start the new season.

“We’re very excited to start afresh and we’re determined to get on the podium, especially with the event being a ‘home race’ for our friends at Altawkilat. Exciting times ahead for us in the fourth season of Extreme E and we’re hoping it will be a big one.”

Cristina Gutierrez, NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team, said: “I’m really excited to go racing with the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team. I can’t wait to start working with everyone and represent the team and the iconic papaya color.

“The races in Saudi Arabia in previous seasons have been very different, and this year will be too with the new track in Jeddah. I hope we can get the season off to a good start with some points.”

 
Free practice combined timings:   

1. ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team: 10:53.933 (FP2)

2. Rosberg X Racing: 10:55.143 (FP2)

3. Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E: 10:55.543 (FP2)   

4. NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team: 11:14.760 (FP2)

5. E.ON Veloce Racing: 11:22.018 (FP2)

6. SUN Minimeal Team: 11:26.562 (FP2)

7. Legacy Motor Club: 11:41.275 (FP2)

8. JBXE: 11:58.816 (FP2)


Emirati talent Rashid Al-Dhaheri claims first home win at UAE F4 Championship

Emirati talent Rashid Al-Dhaheri claims first home win at UAE F4 Championship
Updated 15 February 2024
Follow

Emirati talent Rashid Al-Dhaheri claims first home win at UAE F4 Championship

Emirati talent Rashid Al-Dhaheri claims first home win at UAE F4 Championship
  • The 15-year-old overcame adverse weather conditions to win from pole position at Yas Marina Circuit

ABU DHABI: Emirati racing prodigy Rashid Al-Dhaheri clinched his first victory in the Formula 4 category on home soil during the UAE F4 Championship at the weekend.

This landmark achievement makes him the only Emirati on the grid to secure a victory in the 2024 season.

Saturday marked a pivotal moment for Al-Dhaheri as he secured his first pole position in F4, navigating through the challenging weather conditions at Yas Marina Circuit.

“It was quite a tough weekend due to the rains in Abu Dhabi,” the 15-year-old said. “Adapting to the new obstacle was crucial, but the team did an excellent job, securing pole position after Q1 and Q2.”

Al-Dhaheri on his way to victory at Yas Marina Circuit

Starting with two test sessions, A-Dhaheri’s team — Perma backed by Yas Heat — focused on race simulation and optimizing the car’s performance for the qualifying rounds. Despite heavy rains in Abu Dhabi, their preparations proved successful.

In race one, Al-Dhaheri demonstrated his capabilities by gaining positions and finishing in an impressive second place. In race two, starting from the 11th position due to the reverse grid rule, he showcased his skills in the rain, finishing in sixth place.

The highlight of the weekend for Al-Dhaheri was race three, where he faced the added pressure of starting from pole position under changing weather conditions. However, he emerged victorious, securing his first F4 win on home soil.

Al-Dhaheri celebrates with his family after his win in Abu Dhabi

Al-Dhaheri’s performances over the weekend showed his ability to adapt under pressure.

“The intensity of race two, starting from the 11th position in the rain was quite hectic. Overtaking was challenging with the spray, making visibility difficult,” he said. “Race three, one of the hardest races, with changing conditions, was emotionally taxing.

“Winning at the track where I fell in love with this sport 12 years ago, just a few kilometers from my house, is truly special. More so, this victory stands as a tribute to my country, expressing gratitude for the unwavering support and encouragement.”


Saudi’s Al-Rajhi clinches Hail International Rally title for 7th time

Saudi’s Al-Rajhi clinches Hail International Rally title for 7th time
Updated 11 February 2024
Follow

Saudi’s Al-Rajhi clinches Hail International Rally title for 7th time

Saudi’s Al-Rajhi clinches Hail International Rally title for 7th time
  • Al-Rajhi and co-driver Timo Gottschalk won the Saudi Baja — rebranded as the Hail Toyota International Rally — by 38 seconds

HAIL: Saudi Arabia’s top rally driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi has become a seven-time Hail International Rally winner, clinching his latest title on Saturday by a margin of just 38 seconds in his Toyota Hilux.

An outstanding performance saw Al-Rajhi and his co-driver Timo Gottschalk win the fifth Saudi Baja, now known as the Hail Toyota International Rally.

Leading overnight Al-Rajhi, in his Toyota Hilux Overdrive T1+, unexpectedly lost more than five minutes on Saturday. Fortunately for him he had enough of a gap from Friday to remain in first position.

“I am very happy. It’s a very enjoyable rally and my seventh win,” he said. “It’s always nice to win here. I never expected that I would become a Baja or a cross-country specialist but my first win here opened my eyes to this kind of racing. I enjoy it a lot. Now I am going from the dunes to the Alps for some skiing … and then I will return to racing for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.”

The Portuguese Joao Ferreira (Mini JCW Rally Plus) had a great finish, winning the special stage on Saturday and moving up to second position in the overall standings, only to lose by the narrow margin of 38 seconds to the winner.

“It was a very enjoyable race,” Ferreira said. “I am not a specialist on dunes and in sand. The competition was very good and I gained a lot of experience from being here.”

The X-Raid Team made some changes to the Mini’s set-up overnight and revised suspension settings enabled the Portuguese to push a lot harder on the last stage.

Argentina’s Juan Cruz Yacopini and his Spanish co-driver Daniel Oliveras were second fastest on Saturday morning and came home in fourth overall on the opening round of the FIA World and Middle East Baja Cups hosted by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation.

Multiple former T3 winner Saleh Al-Saif has only been beaten once in this event since 2020 and the Saudi overcame an early scare and stormed to victory in the Challenger category in his G Rally Team OT3. Partnered by Qatar’s Nasser Al-Kuwari, he finished fifth overall and 11min 41sec clear of his nearest rival Joao Dias in the Santag Racing Can-Am Maverick. Al-Saif was also the top finisher in the FIA Middle East Baja Cup, while Dias topped the FIA World Baja Cup standings.

Dubai-based Alliyah Koloc teamed up with Frenchman Sebastien Delaunay and guided her Red-lined Revo+ to seventh overall and second place among the contenders registered for the FIA Middle East Baja Cup.

The fifth quickest time on the final stage enabled Dania Akeel to displace her former Can-Am team-mate Fernando Alvarez and snatch eighth on her first appearance in an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux. The Saudi was third of the FIA Middle East Cup contenders and collected valuable points for the Saudi Toyota Rally Championship.

Alvarez and his co-driver Xavier Panseri secured ninth in their South Racing Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR and topped the SSV category. Spaniard Alexander Toril Boquoi finished second and Qatar’s Ahmed Al-Kuwari was third and first of the FIA Middle East Baja Cup contenders. Front drive shaft woes on the opening stage ruined Amerigo Ventura’s chances in his Yamaha.

Fuel pump issues on day one ruined Eduardo Pons’s chance of pushing for Challenger honors in his Taurus T3 Max.

Local driver Majed Al-Thunayyan guided his Nissan Patrol to a useful finish and FIA Middle East Baja Cup points in the Stock category for series production cross-country vehicles.

Mohammed Al-Balooshi rode cautiously to set the fourth quickest time on the last morning but did enough to seal a fourth victory in Hail since 2020 on the opening round of the FIM Bajas World Cup. The MX Ride Dubai man finished the stage 4 min. 34 sec. behind Saudi Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera but won the event by 2 min. 12 sec. on his KTM from his Kuwaiti team-mate Abdullah Al-Shatti. The stage win ensured that Al-Mogheera finished third ahead of Emirati Hamdan Al-Ali.

Al-Balooshi said: “I am very happy to win this rally for the fourth time. I have a perfect record here in Saudi. I have never lost here. Today was very tricky. It was an easy stage but so simple to make a stupid mistake. Our strategy was to bring the bike to the finish line and secure the win. With that we lead the world rankings. I am also proud that the top three are GCC riders, me from the Emirates, Abdullah from Kuwait and Abdulhalim from Saudi Arabia. I am proud to have an all-Arab podium.”

Jordanian Abdullah Abu Aisheh lost vital minutes on the last stage and slipped to sixth place after he received a 15-minute penalty for a route violation. That gifted fifth place to Spaniard Pedro Bianchi Prata after he had overhauled German open-class rider Philip Horlemann. Bahrain’s Salman Farhan came home in eighth and Qatar-based Australian Martin Chalmers and fellow countryman Andrew Houlihan rounded off the top 10.

Haitham Al-Tuwaijri cruised to his third successive victory in the quad category in Hail. The Yamaha Raptor 700 rider finished 1hr 05 min. 15 sec. ahead of Hani Al-Noumesi in his successful quest for FIM Bajas World Cup points. Abdulaziz Al-Shayban finished third.

Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (Nissan) won the Saudi National Baja and picked up vital points toward the four-round Saudi Toyota Rally Championship on a stage where runner-up Faris Al-Moshana (Nissan) set the fastest time.