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Al Dhaheri scores Macau F4 podium in "outstanding rookie season"

Al Dhaheri scores Macau F4 podium in “outstanding rookie season”

Al Dhaheri scores Macau F4 podium in "outstanding rookie season"

Rashid Al Dhaheri scored an important podium when he finished third in the 70th Macau Grand Prix Formula 4 race on Sunday, the Abu Dhabi teenager shining on a challenging weekend at the Guia Circuit and attracting the praise of his Prema Racing team.

The 70th Macau Grand Prix was weather-affected and thus the F4 race was one of high attrition, packed with challenges on a track that is tricky on the best of days, but treacherous and much more challenging in the wet.

Expertly coached by Prema Racing at the track he has never driven on, Al Dhaheri ticked all the boxes according to his team, who reported on their website: “The 15-year-old Emirati mastered the tough weather conditions of the Qualifying Race on Sunday morning, and improved to P3 for the Final Race, even contending for second place on the high-speed Macanese street circuit.

“Despite the proximity of walls and barriers, the high speeds, the narrow roads of Macau, and the fierce competition, Al Dhaheri maximized the performance without making a single mistake.”

On Rashid’s rookie season in F4, the Prema report added: “He completed an outstanding rookie season in perfect fashion, delivering his best result of the year by improving steadily and becoming a top-level contender for the coveted event.”

The annual pilgrimage to Macau for the famed Formula 3 race, is a well-trodden path with great racing names including Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher making appearances at the non-championship event over the years.

Macau is a race weekend that captures the attention of the motorsport world. And good results are sure to register with whom it matters.

Rashid: We learned a lot and we hope to come back soon!

Rashid al Dhaheri We learned a lot and we hope to come back soon!

Reflecting on his best F4 weekend, Al Dhaheri said: “Macau is an amazing track and one of the most special ones where you can race, due to its configuration and the close walls making it even more challenging. We had variable conditions this week, dry, then damp, and fully wet, so there was a lot to manage.

“As the track is so different compared to others, there was a lot to adapt to. In the Final Race, we were able to gain one position and take a podium finish, which is great. The weekend was a constant improvement, learning to get closer and closer to the walls to be faster.

“Overall, we did quite a good job and we could have even got P2. Anyway, we learned a lot and we hope to come back soon!” added Rashid, of his first trip to the Macau Grand Prix.

Ahead of his final race of the season, the F4 curtain-raiser to the 2023 Formula 1 season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Al Dhaheri’s home race in the United Arab Emirates, it’s worth having a look back on his season.

In 2023, Al Dhaheri completed his first season of F4 racing after a decade of learning his racing craft, challenging his commitment, demanding on-the-edge speed all the time and delivering strong performances consistently on circuits across Europe, where Formula 1 greats trod a similar path.

The step from Karting to Formula 4 challenges young drivers and only the best tend to progress

Rashid Al Dhaheri Continued His Sensational Rookie Season in the Ok Junior Karting Category, With a Second-Place Finish at the Champions of the Future Event in Portugal - Autos Community - The

After his distinguished Karting career, the next step for Rashid this season was to embark on the next rung on the ladder to F1, namely F4. And the most competitive and prestigious F4 series was chosen for the purpose: the 2023 F4 Italian Championship as the main program, and also the Euro 4 series.

Adapting from a wide-open Kart, with beyond 180-degree visibility to the tight confines, low 75-degree view from the tight confines of an F4 cockpit, with the halo, is the first challenge a driver faces making the transition.

In a wide-ranging end-of-season interview, ahead of his weekend in Macau, Rashid recalled the early days of transitioning from Kart driver to car driver: “Even from afar, there are quite a big differences, a few factors that required me to adapt from a Kart to a F4.

“One of the biggest differences is the fact that everything is stretched out, from the driving to servicing, every detail needs to be perfected. And especially the feeling with the car, and the extra speed that comes with it.

“We need to be able to move the car in a way to maximize the grip and every stage of the corner, as well as being able to generally see where to position the car. Because in single-seaters, we’re not able to see most of the car. Visibility is compromised massively compared to a kart.

“For example, the front wing, we don’t see it, and neither do we see most of the tire so it’s very important to understand the measurements of the car to be able to maximize every single millimetre of the track while not exceeding limits, as well as in racing.

“It’s very important to be able to understand how close we can be from the car in front without touching the front wing,” explained Rashid.

Driving for PremaRacing means being in the best team with top drivers as teammates

202307 Rashid al dhaheri F4 rookie season 5

Of what struck him driving the 570 kg, 160 horsepower Tatuus F4-T-421: “Many things. Of course, the racing aspect, the size of the car, and spatial awareness are very important to understand.

“After that overtaking part is very similar to karting although there are new factors that come into play, such as dirty air and tyre degradation. We need to adapt ourselves to get a good balance, between following too closely and not following close enough.”

Signed up to drive for Prema Racing, Rashid knew he was in one of the great racing teams, with massive F4 experience and pedigree, but also a magnet for the best drivers. Hence from the start, he was in with the top guns of junior racing, with nowhere to hide.

Reflecting on driving for Prema this season for the first time, Rashid said: “Prema Racing are so well-informed, with a lot of experience. We were able to work well together to find out the correct balance of the car for all conditions, which is very important in racing because the driver needs to feel confident and comfortable in the cockpit.

“For good performance, we have to find a perfect balance with the setup is always very important and that’s where Prema Racing has a lot of experience. So they’re always able to give good suggestions on my driving. It’s a great environment to learn in and take that on track to perform well.”

Rashid: It was tough but we were able to learn

2023 macau rashid al dhaheri

“My teammates were experienced in F4 and became title contenders,” Rashid recalled. “So it’s a good thing and a bad thing. I mean, it’s a good thing, mostly because I’m able to learn a lot from my teammates, as well. But as you know, we’re quite competitive and always like to be in front. So it was a good fight which helped me learn and, I think, it made the season quite exciting.

“I knew from the beginning I was less experienced. But I knew that with hard work I could catch up a lot. I would come to understand the car. And I think that’s what we were able to do in the final races of the season, understand how to find good performance from the experience and lessons learned throughout the year. And yeah, I think it was tough, but we were able to learn.”

Adding to the challenges was of course school, which remains a top priority for the Abud Dhabi youngster: “I have an online school so that helps me a lot as I’m able to balance whenever I’m at home I study as much as possible and work as hard as possible to catch up. It’s tough and requires discipline. But doable. o when I’m at the track at least I’m able to be focused on racing.”

Asked to summarise his 2023 F4 Italian Championship season, Rashid said: “I must say that my rookie F4 season has been amazing. I’ve been able to learn a lot and always moved forward. We knew it was going to be tough. And I think through that I’ve been able to improve and position ourselves to have a good experience for the following seasons.

“After all the years in karting, I feel I have a good understanding of what single-seater cars need to be fast, and how we, the Team and I, worked to make sure that we were immediately at the top in most sessions.”

Mugello was a proud moment for Al Dhaheri

14 Al Dhaheri, Prema, Misano 05-2023-03583

Looking back on a long and action-packed year, Rashid singled out his proudest moment: “The whole season was a learning process. We were able to improve quite a lot. After going to Mugello for the first time, which I feel is one of the hardest tracks on the calendar, Race 1 could’ve been better. But Race 2 when I made a strong comeback.

“I was able to learn and adapt myself, then able to improve. It was one of one of the best race weekends. So I must say that that’s quite a proud moment, as the objective for this first F4 season to always improve was achieved.”

Rashid is more than aware that he is one of a select few who can live his dream in this manner, competing in such an expensive undertaking with so much potential reward, namely to become an F1 driver, but the road to claim those rewards is arguably the toughest in sport.

“I think it’s always a tough journey we are all on in life,” Rashid acknowledged, adding: “Which leads to joy because it’s something that we love to do a lot. In my case, it’s racing, but in everything that we do, we need to find always the moment to appreciate that not many people can do what I am doing.

“It always amazes me that I am able to follow my dreams. I feel privileged and hope I can show my appreciation with strong performances in all my future races.”

Rashid: Thank you to my family, friends, supporters, sponsors and of course my Prema Team

rashid al dhaheri

In the background, since he began his life’s adventure a decade ago when he drove his first Kart at a dusty Al Ain Raceway in the UAE, helping Rashid follow his dreams are people he wanted to highlight during the interview.

“Of course, I must say thanks to my family,” said Rashid. “They always supported me from when I was young. They’ve always given me good advice and been very supportive in tough times. Of course, my friends all have been very supportive as well.

“And of course, the team that’s behind me so the entire Prema Racing, my karting supporters and teams that had that always helped me, the sponsors as they are always helpful because this sport is unfortunately very, very expensive. So we need to thank of course the sponsors because without them I wouldn’t be able to do it,” concluded Rashid.

With Macau done and suted, a very notable race remains to crown a most important year for Rashid. The F4 race he will contest during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, on home soil, in the city of his birth, at Yas Marina Circuit – a stone’s throw from where he grew up and racing captured his soul. What a homecoming that will be!

[Note: The author Paul Velasco has reported on Rashid Al Dhaheri’s career for over a decade, witnessing the young UAE schoolboy training relentlessly, at Dubai Kartdrome. And, since then has followed his racing career, continuing to do so until he is in F1 and beyond!]

macau rashid al dhaheri podium

Below is an overview of Rashid Al Dhaheri’s F4 Italian Championship and the Euro 4 Championship season which included 35 official test days with Prema Racing:

F4 ITALIAN CHAMPIONSHIP 2023 SEASON

  1. Imola (37 drivers)
  2. Misano (33 drivers)
  3. Spa Francorchamps (30 drivers)
  4. Monza (33 drivers)
  5. Paul Ricard (37 drivers)
  6. Mugello (34 drivers)
  7. Vallelunga (34 drivers)

Overall classification: P10
Rookie classification: P6 (5 PODIUMS)

EURO 4 CHAMPIONSHIP 2023 SEASON

  1. Mugello (26 drivers)
  2. Monza (31 drivers)
  3. Barcelona (18 drivers)

Overall Classification: P12
Rookie Classification: P6 (1 Podium)