MP Motorsport’s Hamda Al Qubaisi broke her arm in a last lap incident of the 2023 season of UAE Formula 4. A break as bad as hers would usually take four months to heal.
Back in the car six weeks later and a race winner not long after, the Emirati’s story epitomises what F1 Academy is all about.
The collision – “You will make it to the first round”:
In the finale of the 2023 UAE Formula 4 season, which took place in Abu Dhabi, Al Qubaisi was involved in a high impact collision, which caused her right arm radius to completely shatter as well as causing a fractured wrist. She was then hospitalised for five days and was in serious pain having to undergo surgery. A titanium plate was inserted into her arm, secured into place by ten screws. Al Qubaisi was told by her doctor that it would take her four months to be able to drive again. This was terrible news as she had just been signed by MP Motorsport to compete in the inaugural season of F1 Academy, and pre-season testing was only six weeks away.
Seeing what this meant to her, her father made her a promise: “You will make it to the first round”.
Hard Work Pays Off – 7 days after surgery:
With some of the best healing and rehabilitation specialists flying in from Holland and Italy, Al Qubaisi worked to make sure she was in the car for the first test in Barcelona, not willing to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
Only six weeks later, two and a half months before her doctor predicted, the whole of MP watched anxiously as she stepped into the car for the first time in the Barcelona pre-season test.
“In the Barcelona test, I was only able to do very few slow easy laps just to see where we were at with the arm. I had problems with the right arm in terms of pain and range of motion, but it gave me the valuable information of what we needed to work on going towards the Paul Ricard test.”
Pre-Season Testing - Paul Ricard – 57 days after surgery:
The Paul Ricard test was Al Qubaisi’s last opportunity to get in the car before Round 1 kicked off in Spielberg just a week later. It had still been two months only since she had broken her arm, and after being understandably off the pace in the first test in Spain, the orange MP car was sat on top of the time sheet at the end of the first test session in France.
“In Paul Ricard I saw improvements but still I was driving just with my left arm and I couldn’t use my right arm so much. I was able to do more laps and push more over the two days, but I had to avoid all the curbs because of the pain and so to have the pace was really good considering I was driving one handed.”
Flying to Holland after the two days of testing, Al Qubaisi continued her strength and flexibility training, with the season opener just one week away. If she wanted to compete at the top, she needed to be at her best with the first season showcasing an array of very talented drivers.
While the recovery from an injury takes time and hard work, Al Qubaisi admits she also had a mental barrier when getting back in the car: “In a way, it was also a mental barrier as I had to start using my wrist again more often and was training physically three times a day to catch up on all the time lost during my injury.”
Round 1 – The Red Bull Ring – 68 days after surgery:
With Round 1 set to begin, Al Qubaisi arrived at the iconic Red Bull Ring and by her own admission she was only at about “60%” on her road to recovery. This did not stop the MP Motorsport driver though, as she showed electric speed across the first two days, setting the fastest lap in testing and FP2.
Despite a disappointing qualifying session considering her pace in Free Practice, the Emirati driver made up for it with three memorable drives as she navigated her way past driver after driver in a highlight reel of manoeuvres across all three races.
Most memorably, starting P7 on the grid in Race 3, Al Qubaisi took on all in her path as she powered into P2, getting within 0.5s of eventual race winner Marta Garcia. Standing on the podium alongside her sister Amna Al Qubaisi, who finished in P3, showed how far H. Al Qubaisi had come to get to this point on her road to recovery.
Round 2 - Circuit Ricardo Tormo – 75 days after surgery
On arrival at Valencia for Round 2, Al Qubaisi had some trepidation ahead of the sessions: “I was concerned as it was very physical and there were a lot of left-hand corners which I struggle with. But with the work we did between Red Bull and Valencia, I felt like I was up to 70% now and was really happy with it.”
Her nerves didn’t seem to faze her, as she started on the front row, alongside local hero Nerea Martí. As the lights went out on Race 1, Al Qubaisi stormed off the grid and round the outside into Turn 1, taking the lead and not looking back. She won by the biggest margin of any driver across the weekend, 7.1s.
If making a return to the top of the podium just 75 days after surgery wasn’t enough, the MP Motorsport driver took third place in Race 2, and scored the most points for a driver in Round 2 (43).
As the teams begin to shift focus to Round 3 and beyond, the Emirati driver will be working on improving herself even more. The prospect of her increasing her capacity above the “70%” she feels now is a daunting prospect to her fellow drivers for the rest of the season.