x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Al Qamzi faces biggest challenge

Holding on to a slender lead against nine times champion Cappellini, the Abu Dhabi driver knows he has to be at his best and home advantage counts for nothing.

The Team Abu Dhabi driver Thani al Qamzi says the two races in Abu Dhabi, today and tomorrow, are the most important if he intends to stay in the hunt for a maiden formula 1 world championship title. The Emirati still holds a slender three-point lead over the nine times Italian world champion Guido Cappellini, who is posing a big threat for him after winning maximum points from the last two races in Doha, Qatar. Al Qamzi goes into today's race (3.30pm) at the Breakwater on 112 points with Cappellini close on his heels along with four others who are in contention for the title. The Swede Jonas Andersson (99), the Finn Sami Selio (88), the defending champion Jay Price and the Italian Francesco Cantando, in joint fifth on 70, are all within grasp. "It is still a wide open race for the championship with 80 points up for grabs in the four races," said al Qamzi. The final two races will be in Sharjah. "It is not just between Guido and me. There are at least 10 drivers with a chance to win, but the two races in Abu Dhabi will be the most crucial.

"Of course it is familiar territory for me but that really doesn't give me an advantage over the others. They are all very experienced drivers and the nature of the sport is such, a lot will also depend on how good the machines will run during the races. And I don't have any special plans other than try to finish ahead of the others." Cappellini has been in the world circuit for nearly two decades and has gone on record to say he would retire after winning a 10th world title. This is also the closest he has come since claiming the championship crown in 2005. The last four years have seen four different drivers emerge as the world champion - Price, Selio, Scott Gillman and Cappellini - and the UIM's F1 promoter Nicolo di san Germano felt the 2009 championship is the most exciting yet. "In my opinion at least six drivers are in with a chance and the outcome of the two races in Abu Dhabi will give us a fair indication of who will still remain in the hunt for the title," he said. "So the two races leading to the grand finale in Sharjah are potentially the most exciting as of now." @Email:apassela@thenational.ae