Team Abu Dhabi are UIM F1H2O world champions for a fourth year in succession after a day of extreme drama at the Grand Prix of Portugal, which saw Thani Al Qamzi agonisingly lose out to Sweden’s Jonas Andersson in the race for the drivers’ title.
Victory in a tense final round of the shortened 2021 season, his second in the space of 48 hours, saw Andersson edge out third-placed Al Qemzi by a single point to prevent the Emirati from becoming the first Arab driver to win the F1H2O crown.
Defending champion Shaun Torrente finished fifth on the day, and third in the championship, just two points adrift of his Abu Dhabi team-mate, after his own title hopes had been upset earlier in the day by a blown engine in qualifying.
Torrente had started the day in a powerful position to claim a third successive F1H2O triumph, holding a three-point lead over Al Qemzi, with Andersson another seven points adrift.
But the American’s engine failure in the second qualifying session led to him starting the race from the back of the field four hours later after the impressive Andersson had recorded a second successive pole position.
Qualiying in sixth, Al Qemzi made a typically strong bid to climb into a second place finish which would have made him world champion, ultimately losing out by a single spot as Finnish rookie Alec Weckstrom finished second to Andersson.
The outcome was in doubt until the final seconds of the 40-lap race, however, after Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio crashed out spectacularly while holding second place with five laps remaining.
But Al Qemzi’s last chance to claim runner’s up spot in the race, and with it the world title, ended as the yellow flag stayed in place for the remaining laps, allowing Andersson to squeeze home as the new world champion.
There had been drama earlier on the 29th lap when Norway’s Marit Stromoy crashed out of the race, bringing out the yellow flag and halting proceedings with the world championship still hanging in the balance.
After high winds making conditions dangerous forced the postponement of yesterday’s three-stage qualifying session, this morning’s rescheduled fight for pole position was dramatically cut short for Torrente.
The defending champion set a good early time in Q2, but by then he had already felt a worrying vibration in the boat. After stopping to have this checked for a possible propeller problem he set of again, only for the engine to blow moments later.
“It’s the first failure I’ve had in three years,” said Torrente as the Team Abu Dhabi mechanics set about fitting a new engine. “It’s not over yet – all I have to do is pass 14 boats.”
He gave everything, knowing that a third place finish would see him complete a world title hat-trick, but ultimately fell two places short, although he was able to celebrate another world team championship success with Al Qemzi
F1H2O World Championship leading positions:
1. Jonas Andersson Team Sweden 40pts
2. Thani Al Qemzi Team Abu Dhabi 39 pts
3. Shaun Torrente Team Abu Dhabi 37 pts
4. Peter Morin CTIC Shenzhen China Team 22 pts
5. Alec Weckstrom Gillman Racing 16pts
6. Marit Stromoy Stromoy Racing 12pts
7. Sami Selio Sharjah Team 12 pts