Hamda Al Qubaisi claimed an assured victory in Race 2 at the Circuit of the Americas in what proved to be an eventful eight laps.
Two cars stalled on the grid as the race began, with Bianca Bustamante and Amna Al Qubaisi initially unable to get away, but it was a solid start from pole-sitter H. Al Qubaisi, while a close battle unfolded between Jessica Edgar and Lena Bühler behind.
H. Al Qubaisi quickly stretched out a decent gap from Chloe Chong, who had started alongside her on the front row, while a charging Bühler soon overtook the PREMA Racing driver for second place.
Chong came under further pressure on Lap 2 from Edgar, who eventually swept past the 16-year-old. Further back there was a sense of déjà vu as Marta Garcia and Abbi Pulling – who enjoyed a thrilling race-long duel in Race 1 earlier in the day – once again went head-to-head, this time for P6.
With Garcia having sustained some damage to her front wing from a Lap 1 tussle with Edgar, Pulling kept on her tail. Pulling looked at making a move around the outside, before Garcia took the inside line to maintain fifth place.
After the high of her title win earlier in the day, Garcia suffered much worse luck in Race 2. The inaugural champion was shown the black and orange flag on Lap 4, requiring her to pit due to the damage on her car. This didn’t stop the Spaniard from continuing to battle with Pulling, with the Rodin Carlin driver getting ahead just before Garcia made a visit to the pit lane where she subsequently retired from the race.
A determined Pulling’s next target was Nerea Martí, who she overtook before next setting her sights on Chong in P4. Meanwhile Bustamante was enjoying an impressive comeback after stalling on the grid. The #16 car had worked her way up to eighth place by Lap 7 of 8 as she continued to close in on Campos Racing’s Lola Lovinfosse.
Up ahead Chong fought hard to defend from Pulling but ultimately lost out to the Alpine Academy driver, while Martí soon followed through to push Chong down to P6.
Amid so much action going on behind her, it was a much quieter drive in the lead for H. Al Qubaisi, who secured her fourth win of the 2023 season. The MP Motorsport driver finished ahead of the ART Grand Prix car of Bühler in second, while Edgar claimed the final podium position.
Hamda Al Qubaisi - Race 2 Winner
“Really happy, good points for the team and for me as well. I haven’t got a podium since Zandvoort, so it’s nice to finally get up there on that top step and it gives me a bit of hope, a bit of motivation for the final one tomorrow. We’ll give it all for tomorrow – we have nothing to lose!”
Round 7 concludes in Austin with Race 3 on Sunday at 09:40, marking the final event of the 2023 F1 Academy season. While the drivers’ title has been wrapped up, the teams’ crown is still to be decided, with PREMA Racing and MP Motorsport fighting for the top spot. Rodin Carlin’s Edgar will start Race 3 from pole position.