F4 Spanish Championship: Shihab claims podium at Paul Ricard circuit
Notwithstanding couple of technical hiccups he faced during the second round of the Spanish Formula 4 Championship at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet, France, young Omani racer Shihab al Habsi did the sultanate proud by claiming a podium finish on Saturday in one of the three races held over the weekend.
Argentina’s Giorgio Carrara made a clean sweep as he won all the three races held over Saturday and Sunday.
Shihab, racing for UAE-based Xcel Motorsport, started well in the second race and was placed fourth for most of the race.
Carrara took the lead in the penultimate lap and Shihab passed another Argentine driver, Franco Colapinto, to finish third.
Jonny Edgar, Red Bull Junior Team driver, who had the pole for the race finished second.
Kilian Meyer came fourth.
However, Shihab was being investigated for an incident with Colapinto on the last lap.
Earlier, Carrara won the opening race as the Argentine imposed himself on his debut after beating his teammate, and also newcomer Edgar, and Colapinto who lost the race after leading but spun late in the race.
Glenn van Berlo was fourth after beating Meyer on the last lap. Rounding out the top-ten were Artem Lobanenko, Carles Martinez, Shihab at eighth spot, Emidio Pesce and Belén García.
Shihab’s disappointing finish was largely due to a gearbox issue after he had qualified P10 for the opening race and fourth for the second race.
In the final and third race on Sunday, Carrara completed his sweep, winning the third successive race. Meyer came second while Edgar was third.
Colapinto came fourth to remain as championship leader, after two rounds with 70 points, while Shihab finished sixth after making some very positive initial laps to reach this position after the 15th from where he had started.
The next round will be held in four weeks. The championship will return to Spanish territory on May 25-26, days in which Motorland Aragón will host the third round in Alcaniz.
Lack of sponsorship harming Shihab’s prospects, laments his father Ahmed
Despite making a strong start to the 2019 Spanish F4 Championship, Oman’s Shihab al Habsi has been hampered by monetary constraints to compete at the top level, according to his father and team manager, Ahmed al Habsi.
Ahmed was reacting after Shihab was disqualified on Sunday [penalised for causing crash behind safety car] from race three of the first round at Navarra, Spain, by the panel of stewards. It may be mentioned that it was the race that Shihab had won on April 7 to emerge as leader of the championship.
However, after the latest classification, Shihab has just 18 points from first round following a runner-up finish in the opening race of round one.
After the provisional results following the conclusion of the second round on Sunday, where Shihab finished eighth, third and sixth to collect 22 points, he now has earned 40 points. Shihab is now overall sixth, provisionally, as he is being investigated for an incident in second race of the second round.
Speaking to Muscat Daily on Monday, a dejected Ahmed said, “We are on a shoe-string budget and that has hampered the success of Shihab. The latest disqualification can be appealed but I have to pay a huge fee to appeal. It is not possible for me to fight as I have a tight budget and I need to hire a lawyer to appeal.
“We are up against some of the top teams, which include one funded by former Formula One champion Fernando Alonso, and Red Bull while Shihab’s team, Xcel Motorsport, is making its debut in Europe.”
“Initially, our plan was to let Shihab race in Asia but his talent and skills have spurred us to make an attempt to compete in Spain. However, with some of the big sponsors not coming on board despite the initial interest, it has now become very difficult even to stay in the championship. I fear he may have to pull out if I don’t get more support before the third round next month,” lamented Ahmad.