Championship hopes of the German International School of Dubai could be scuppered as pupils fall foul of strict rules.
F1 in Schools: Small error could cause a big upset for Dubai's Safire
ABU DHABI // Just five extra millimetres could cost the German International School of Dubai's F1 in Schools team a trip to the world finals in Austin, Texas, later this year.
The school's Safire Racing team were one of 60 teams from 37 schools across the UAE taking part in the F1 in Schools national championship yesterday at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
"It was a small mistake but a costly one," said Benjamin Lutzkendorf, the school's teacher in charge of the team, who dropped from pole position after a wing attachment was ruled to be too long.
Safire Racing were on course to win their second consecutive national championship but were scuppered by the strict F1 in Schools regulations that docked them points.
Now they must wait to see if the team can go to the finals in the US in November alongside the Indian High School of Dubai, who won yesterday's finals in their place.
"Just like the F1 teams, we have to measure every single rule on every single car, which they get points for," said Jon Fagg, who had made the trip from the UK as one of the judges for the event.
"It's our fifth year holding the competition and the programme is gaining more support every year," said F1 in Schools manager Abdulla Al Shammari.
There are now more than 100 schools taking part in the UAE competition, meaning more than 2,500 pupils are involved in the event.
Although it is an extra curricular activity, Mr Al Shammari hoped F1 in Schools would become part of the school curriculum.
"It teaches students subjects such as maths and physics in a very fun and creative way," he said.
"Students learn aspects of business, marketing, design and the concept of teamwork.
"I would encourage every student to go through this programme because they will benefit a lot."
He added that Emiratis make up about 20 to 25 per cent of participating pupils. "We would like to see this number increase as well as the number of female students."
One of the teams taking part were Popcom, an all-Emirati girl team from Al Shohub school in Abu Dhabi, who took their name from a computer spelling error of Popcorn.
"We wanted to show girls could do well in an area traditionally only for boys," said Maha Al Mansouri, 15, who was general manager for Popcom. Maha said she wanted her team to be an example for other girls and encourage them to be involved in competitions such as this. "This experience helped with my leadership skills and motivated me to work as a team," she said.
Popcom's financial manager, 16-year-old Ruba Al Attas, said it had been a great experience despite the team not finishing in the top three.
"We were not interested in cars before but now we are really into it and can't wait to come back with more experience next year."
Being just one of the 40 countries that hosts F1 in Schools, the UAE's programme is the only one based in a F1 circuit, explained Yas Marina Circuit's Paul Bray.
"We have a centre of excellence on the circuit, where schools can come and experience the F1 in Schools programme first-hand as well as circuit activity. That exists nowhere else in the world."
A ruling on Safire's involvement has yet to be made but the team are hopeful of going to another world finals. "It would be another great experience if we had the chance to go to the finals again," said Safire's Dalia Abdelrahman, 16.
Having taken part in the 2012 world finals at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, she was hoping to represent the UAE again.
"I was proud to be there last year; it gave me confidence and we were doing things people usually don't do at my age."
Having worked with F1 in Schools since 2003, Mr Fagg has seen the evolution of the global competition and said he was very impressed with the quality of the teams in the UAE. "The standard in the UAE is really high," he said, adding, "its only a matter of time before a UAE team are capable of being world champions."