Team Abu Dhabi faces a daunting race against time to ensure that Alex Carella will start Friday’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi in a competitive boat after the three-time World Champion somersaulted spectacularly out of the second stint of a pulsating BRM Qualifying session at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater on Thursday afternoon.
Fractions of a second separated the leading group and Carella’s accident meant that he missed out on the Q3 shoot-out and was awarded sixth place, with pole position falling to Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson from Erik Stark of the Emirates Racing Team in an all-Swedish 1-2.
Defending World Champion Philippe Chiappe, Victory’s Team’s Shaun Torrente and Ahmed Al-Hameli qualified in third, fourth and fifth places.
Carella, who still leads the UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Championshp, is sure to fall further down the starting order on Friday when his damaged Mercury engine is replaced overnight.
A furious Carella said;
I was feeling really good in the boat and will still push to the maximum to try and win the race. The crash is a big set back and very disappointing, but I need the maximum points. This is the last chance to stay in the hunt for the title.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qamzi qualified in seventh place;
I feel more pressure here because this is my country, but I want to do something special here and push for the podium tomorrow.
Just 1.39 seconds separated the top 13 drivers in the Q1 session, but Sami Selio’s world title chance took a severe dent when technical issues meant that he missed out on the Q2 session and the Finn will start Friday’s race being hosted by the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) from 17th position.
Race officials imposed a new rule for the Q1 and Q2 sessions in BRM qualifying: three minutes of each session would pass before a qualifying lap was counted to prevent one or two boats benefiting from clean water at the start of the stint on the 2.03km course.
Seven boats would be eliminated in the first session and a further six in Q2.
Chiappe and Carella and made a statement of their intent with early laps of 47.42 and 47.66 seconds and Duarte Benavente as also well placed with a lap of 47.88 seconds.
The session was yellow flagged briefly soon afterwards, although racing quickly resumed with Chiappe and Carella looking to be safely into Q2.
Sami Selio was down in 14th with technical issues and Al-Qamzi was running the risk of not progressing to Q2, in 12th place.
Carella and Ahmed Al-Hameli improved with times of 46.32sec and 47.11sec, but Carella was pipped to the session victory by a flying Erik Stark: he ran a very late lap of 46.17sec.
Al-Qamzi improved with an excellent run of 46.78sec to book his place in Q2. Rookie Grant Trask, Nadir Bin Hendi, Mike Szymura (broken propeller), Christophe Larigot, Selio, Filip Roms and Jesper Forss were eliminated in a strengthening wind.
Another six boats would fall by the wayside in the 15 minutes of Q2. Al-Hameli carded a 46.58sec opener and that edged Carella out of the fastest time by 0.06 seconds.
Stark stormed to the front soon afterwards with a tour of 46.27sec and that booked the Swede’s place in the Q3 shoot-out, despite Carella running a flying 45.92sec lap.
But disaster struck Carella with four minutes of the session remaining when he flipped the boat at a turn buoy and somersaulted spectacularly out of the afternoon’s action.
The session finished under a yellow flag and Francesco Cantando, Bartek Marszalak, Duarte Benavente, Ziwei Xiong, Marit Stromoy and Al-Qamzi were eliminated.
Shaun Torrente set the target of 45.77sec in Q3 and improved with a 45.61sec lap.
Stark bettered that with a second lap of 45.08sec to snatch provisional pole and Chiappe’s opener of 45.27sec fell just short and he was not able to improve on his second lap.
Al-Hameli was next up for the Emirates Racing Team and he opened with a lap of 45.69sec and was not able to match Stark’s time on his second run.
Only Jonas Andersson stood between an excellent pole position for Stark.
The Swede began with a 45.56sec lap to move into third place and snatched pole with his final lap of 44.60sec to cap a stunning afternoon for Team Sweden.
Carella missed most of the free practice session with a gear case issue, but still went on to card the fastest lap of 45.43sec. That lap was sufficient to beat series leader Chiappe by 0.56 seconds. Only 0.93 seconds separated the top eight drivers in a very close session, where Al-Qamzi ran for 25 laps and slotted into eighth position.
All 19 drivers were able to record lap times.