Dubai’s Victory Team are mounting their most serious challenge for a maiden F1 world title with a two-boat strategy when a total of 19 drivers take to the waters at this weekend’s (May 18-20) Grand Prix of Portimao in Portugal.
Several teams have made changes this season with four-time world champion Alex Carella joining Ahmed Al Hameli for the Victory Team, while the Poland’s Bartek Marszalek has teamed up with Norwegian Marit Strømøy in the Emirates Racing Team.
Three-time World Champion and last year’s Portugal race winner Philippe Chiappe will continue to head the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team, while last year’s race runner-up Sami Selio and Filip Roms will be hoping for a better fortune this year in their Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team. Germany’s Mike Szymura has switched to the Maverick F1 operation, Erik Edin has replaced Erik Stark in Team Sweden alongside Jonas Andersson and German lady driver Simone Schuft has agreed to join Francesco Cantando in the Blaze F1 Team.
Flying the Victory Team flag will be star Al Hameli and four-time defending world champion Carella in the two blue boats. After a trial run in 2015, Victory Team’s first full season in F1 racing was in 2016 with American Shaun Torrente – now with Team Abu Dhabi – ending runner-up on the drivers’ standings while the team also claimed a teams’ podium with third place with their 86 points. Last season, Victory Team weathered a slow start to finish fourth with 58 points.
This year, Victory Team have made huge changes while using the off-season to ensure the use of cutting-edge technology while building their own F1 boats with a high-strength hull constructed from carbon fibre, Kevlar, synthetic fibre, Airex and Nomex. The F1 boats are further powered by a 2.5-litre, two-stroke Mercury engine that pumps out 400hp at 9,500 rpm with the capacity to accelerate from 0-100 kph in just four seconds and the capability of reaching 220 kph flat out as they launch their first serious assault on a F1 world crown.
The supremely fit Ahmed Al Fahim will represent Victory Team in the UIM F4 Trophy that runs in conjunction with rounds of the UIM F1 H20 series and offers two 20-minute races per meeting. A lot is being expected from the Victory Team’s latest recruits following the promise shown by him during earlier races and recent testing.
In 2017, Al Mansoori – now promoted to F2 racing – had finished ahead Jeremy Brisset of the F1 Atlantic Team and Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al Muhairbi. However, this year can turn out to be more exciting with the likes of Frenchman Tom Chiappe and British debutant Sam Whittle joining in alongside the Team Abu Dhabi duo of Rashid Al Rumaithi and Al Muhairbi.
After the opening round in Portimao, the boats will proceed to London (June 15-17), Evian in France (June 29 to July 1) and then on to China for two rounds – Harbin (August 24-26) and Liuzhou (September 29 to October 1) before heading to the UAE for the last two rounds in Abu Dhabi (December 6-8) and Sharjah (December 12-14).
Meanwhile, officials at the Associação de Portimão have deliberately revised the racing timetable to reduce the risk of running in the customary afternoon winds and practice, qualifying and the Grand Prix will run late in the afternoons on each day. Gales played havoc with the original timetable in 2017.
After routine administration and scrutineering formalities, drivers will be permitted a two-hour extra free practice session from 17.00hrs (8 pm UAE) on Friday. Official free practice will then start at 15.00hrs (6 pm UAE) on Saturday and precedes F4 free practice, timed trials and the first of the F4 races, starting at 17.10hrs (8.10 pm UAE). F1 qualifying then takes centre-stage on the tricky river course from 18.00hrs (9 pm UAE). The timetable will be repeated on Sunday afternoon with F1 free practice preceding F4 practice, timed trials and the second of the F4 races, before the 2018 Grand Prix of Portugal roars into life at 18.00hrs (9 pm UAE).
Provisional entries for the 2018 Grand Prix of Portimao, the opening round of the 2018 UIM F1H2O to be held in Portimao, Portugal this weekend: Thani Al Qamzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi; Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi; Rashid Al Qamzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi; Philippe Chiappe (France) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team; Peter Morin (France) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team; Ahmad Al Hameli (UAE) Victory Team; Alex Carella (Italy) Victory Team; Marit Strømøy (Norway) Emirates Racing Team; Bartek Marszalak (Poland) Emirates Racing Team; Grant Trask (Australia) F1 Atlantic Team; Duarte Benavente (Portugal) F1 Atlantic Team; Erik Edin (Sweden) Team Sweden; Jonas Andersson (Sweden) Team Sweden; Sami Selio (Finland) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team; Filip Roms (Finland) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team; Francesco Cantando (Italy) Blaze F1 Team; Simone Schuft (Germany) Blaze F1 Team; Mike Szymura (Germany) Maverick F1 Team; Cédric Deguisne (France) Maverick F1 Team.
By: RAJIVE SINGH