Shihab makes winning debut in F4 Spanish Championship
Oman's talented racer, Shihab al Habsi, who has been making waves on the Formula 4 circuit since last year, has made a winning debut in the 2019 F4 Spanish Championship.
Participating in the first round of the competitive series, held over two days, the 15 year old Omani racer claimed a runner-up spot in the opening race on Saturday before bouncing back from second-race retirement on Sunday to win the third and final race later in the day at the Circuito de Navarra in Los Arcos.
A total of six teams with 16 drivers are competing in the Spanish F4 championship.
Following the conclusion of the first round, Shihab is placed first in the drivers' championship with 43 points while Franco Colapinto of
Argentina, who won the first race and finished third in the second race, is second with 41 points.
Participating in the Spanish series for the first time, Shihab began on a positive note with a runner-up finish after qualifying P4, as Colapinto won the opener.
The Omani was forced to retire in the next race, which was won by Spanish girl Belen Garcia.
However, Shihab came back strongly to win the last race after qualifying second to help his team, Xcel Motorsport of the UAE, end second in team standings with 30 points. Colapinto's Drivex School is on top with 40.
Shihab, who has been picked as the lead driver by the UAE team, will compete in the Spanish series, comprising a total of 21 races over seven rounds.
The next round will be held at the Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet in France, on April 27-28.
Earlier, Shihab had also made an impressive debut in the 2019 F4 UAE Championship with Xcel Motorsport. The team has fielded two other cars in Spain besides Shihab's entry.
Xcel Motorsport had won a treble at the 2019 F4UAE Championship, bagging the drivers' and rookie titles with Italian Matteo Nannini, plus the teams’ championship.
Shihab had finished third overall in the UAE drivers' championship and contributed to the ten race wins, four pole positions and 29 podium finishes.
Commenting after naming Shihab as the lead driver for Spanish series, Xcel Motorsport's team manager, Paul Hardy, said, “It’s the right time for us now to go over to Europe, and the Spanish F4 Championship is a good introduction for us to get into the European market. Shihab has done a great job racing with us in F4 UAE and to have him part of our team in Spain will be great in giving him continuity with his support team and engineers too.
“It’s all of those smaller things that are really important to these young racers and hopefully it will be a good year for us.”
And Hardy’s words turned out to be true for Shihab as the Omani earned the team a win and a podium in the first round.
Xcel is the sixth team signed up to Spanish F4, alongside the Fernando Alonso-supported
Drivex, F2 team MP Motorsport, and the circuit-based Praga, G4 Racing and Global Racing Service teams.
Earlier, last year, Shihab had competed in the French F4 Championship and the F4 junior championship with a stint in the F4 SEA Championship too.
Having excelled in go-karting for two years (2016-17) during which he finished fourth in the 2017 CIK-FIA World Junior Championship in OK Junior class, Shihab moved to the open-wheel circuit racing last year.