Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella claimed a stunning start-to-finish victory after dominating the 21st Grand Prix of France on Lac Leman on Sunday afternoon.
A second successive victory in France for the driver out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) pushed him into title contention after the premature retirement of defending World Champion and series leader Philippe Chiappe threw the title race wide open. Carella also moved into the lead in the UIM F1 H20 Pole Position Trophy after his second successive pole position in Evian.
Two-time World Champion Sami Selio finished second and holds a one-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship over Carella. Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente recovered well from a crash in qualifying to finish third, while Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi put their Portugal disappointments behind them to claim sixth and 12th places.
“This is why we go racing for days like this,” said a delighted Salem Al-Remeithi, general manager of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC). “We had a disappointing start to the year in Portugal, but the whole team has knuckled down and this victory for Alex is the reward for meticulous planning, attention to detail and hard work. Thani also had a strong performance and it was great experience for Rashed.”
The Emirati trio qualified for the 45-lap race from pole position, fourth and 13th after BRM Qualifying was switched to Sunday morning following the inclement weather on Lac Leman on Saturday. A one-hour official practice session was also arranged for the morning and qualifying followed 30 minutes later. Race officials were able to restore the original timetable for the afternoon’s race.
GP of France
The three Team Abu Dhabi boats lined up for the race in pole, fourth and 13th, with defending World Champion Chiappe breathing down Carella’s neck in second. Carella made a superb start and managed to fend off Chiappe to maintain the lead. Thani Al-Qemzi held fourth place but Rashed slipped to 15th. Carella continued to edge away from the World Champion and was 6.44 seconds ahead through lap four. Chiappe, Selio and Thani Al-Qemzi retained second, third and fourth places, but Rashed slipped further to 17th. Torrente moved up from 15th to ninth.
By lap 10, Carellla had increased his lead to 8.88 seconds, but the top six held station until lap 11 when Grant Trask flipped out of fifth place. The yellow-flag incident bunched the pack together again and action resumed on lap 16. Carella retained his advantage. but Selio managed to pass Chiappe and snatch second place. Torrente stormed through into third at Chiappe’s expense. Thani Al-Qemzi slipped to sixth and Rashed Al-Qemzi climbed to 16th.
Dramatically, Chiappe slowed down and withdrew with technical issues from his third successive Grand Prix of France. His demise threw the title race wide open, as Carella led Selio by 4.35 seconds through lap 19. By the halfway point, Carella, even with a flapping canopy, led Selio by 4.63 seconds from Torrente, Al-Hameli, Andersson and Thani Al-Qemzi. Rashed Al-Qemzi climbed back to 14th.
Selio continued to pressurise Carella through 28 laps. The margin was down to 2.58 seconds heading into the closing stages. Torrente continued to close on Selio from Al-Hameli, Andersson and Al-Qemzi, as Mike Szymura withdrew with mechanical issues and Rashed Al-Qemzi climbed to 13th.
Carella set the fastest lap of the race of 50.39sec and extended his lead over Selio to 4.27 seconds with eight laps remaining, but Selio was even quicker on the next lap as the battle waged into the final laps. The Team Abu Dhabi driver managed to hold on to claim a vital win, as Selio and Torrente earned points for second and third and Thani Al-Qemzi finished sixth.
The UIM F1 H20 World Championship resumes with the Grand Prix of Harbin-China on August 11-13.
2017 Grand Prix of France – result
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi – 45 laps
2. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing – @5.03sec
3. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team – @9.19sec
4. Ahmed Al-Hameli(UAE) Victory Team – @26.59sec
5. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden – @32.55sec
6. Thani Al-Qamzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi – @34.61sec
7. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden – @37.15sec
8. Marit Stromoy (NOR) EMIC Racing Team – @39.19sec
9. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team – @47.53sec
10. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze Performance Team – L1
12. Rashed Al-Qamzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi – L4