Expectations are high for Hamda Al Qubaisi’s sophomore F1 ACADEMY campaign, but the Emirati racer is aiming to continue her "expect anything" mentality that brought her success last season.

The highest placed returning driver from the 2023 grid, Al Qubaisi proved to be a formidable title contender. Claiming four wins, two pole positions and seven podiums, she earned a top three finish in the Drivers’ Standings, finishing just 15 points behind Vice Champion Léna Bühler.

It represented a remarkable turnaround for the 21-year-old, who in the space of 75 days went from hospitalised with a broken arm to the top step of the rostrum. Nevertheless, she believes that the potential for more was there.

“We ended off the season last year really well, so I’m really excited to bring what I’ve learned from last year into this year and improve even more,” said Al Qubaisi. “I think we always want to strive to do better. Last year, I felt like I had more in me.

“Also, I look back and think I could have performed even better, so I’m going into this year with that mindset and trying to aim for the title.”

Assessing her experiences last season, Al Qubaisi has already identified that re-adopting a step-by-step approach will set herself up on the best path to success this time around.

“I think it’s just to focus fully on the driving, focus with the team, try to extract the most out of every test we have and every race weekend. It’s not going to be easy, so we need to be fully focused and prepared to expect anything.”

default image

She added: “Last year, coming into the season I didn’t expect much for myself because of my injury and that helped me a lot because then I didn’t put that added pressure on myself. For this year, I think I should go with the same mindset and try to just take every race as it comes.”

That mentality should stand her in good stead as she prepares to represent Red Bull Racing this year, alongside joining the Red Bull Academy Programme. Admitting it was an unexpected surprise, Al Qubaisi feels the heightened expectations will only help drive her forward.

“It was really exciting for me,” she elated. “I didn’t expect it, but when I got the news, I was really happy. I got the call and when I was in Austria with Dr. Helmut Marko, he presented the contract and I was like ‘oh okay, it’s happening, it’s real’. It was a shocking moment, but a really exciting moment for me and another step in my career that I’m happy to take and it’s an honour to be a part of such a big team.

READ MORE: ‘It’s my learning season’ – Tina Hausmann targets maximising her development

“I think the pressure is good. I always work good under pressure, so I think it’s a good thing in a way. Also, just knowing that I have the support behind me, it’s a big thing and I’m grateful for it. I’m sure that we’re going to do great things together.”

Her MP Motorsport team have opted for continuity with an unchanged line-up. Racing alongside older sister Amna Al Qubaisi and Emely De Heus, Al Qubaisi is relishing the familiarity and the healthy competition within the Dutch team.

“Your environment is really important and to have the same people around, it’s good for me,” she explained. “We’re already like a family with MP and with my teammates, we have a really good relationship. One of them is my sister so it’s already complete for us and Emely’s also like another sister.

“(Amna and I) We’ve competed in the sport for a long time together since karting, but there were only a few times that we were in the same category. When we were, we performed the best because we always want to do better. It’s not really doing better than the other, but we’re trying to push ourselves to perform better and that way we get the results that we want. It’s a good thing to be in the same category as her, especially now we’re more mature.”