SHARJAH (UAE): Friday, December 16: Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson claimed a stunning start-to-finish victory in the Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of Sharjah, the fifth and penultimate round of the UIM F1H2O World Championship, on Khaled Lagoon on Friday afternoon.
That performance lifted the Swede to within three points of Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente at the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings and ensures that the duo and Torrente’s team-mate Thani Al-Qemzi will face off in a three-way showdown for the world title on Sunday afternoon.
Andersson said: “I am very happy for this win and it brings me closer to Shaun in the championship. Sharjah is my happy place because I had my first podium here in 2006 and we win here two times before. I really loved this course.”
Torrente shadowed Andersson for much of the race but technical issues dealt the American a cruel blow over the closing laps and he initially slipped down to fourth behind eventual runner-up Philippe Chiappe and the Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio, before losing two further places to Gillman Racing’s Alec Weckström and Italy’s Alberto Comparato on the last two laps.
With Torrente only finishing sixth and Al-Qemzi gaining just four points for seventh place, 10 points separate the top three heading into what promises to be a scintillating showdown for the title on Sunday afternoon. Chiappe was later pushed down to eighth place after being penalised for not maintaining his lane at the start. Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team’s Bartek Marszalek climbed to third place in the final results.
Andersson’s team-mate Kalle Viippo was ninth and Marit Strømøy rounded off the top 10. England’s Ben Jelf enjoyed his first taste of F1H2O competition and was running well in 14th place before withdrawing with technical issues near the finish.
Andersson held his line from Torrente and Chiappe at lights out as the leaders barrelled towards the first turn buoy at the start of the 38-lap sprint race. The Swede began to edge away from Torrente and was 3.66 seconds ahead after the opening lap. Chiappe, Weckström and Selio held third, fourth and fifth and Comparato stormed through from the middle of the field to hold sixth. Al-Qemzi slipped back to 10th place. Italian Paolo Longhi did not start.
By lap four, Andersson had stretched his lead to 5.42 seconds from the series leader, as Torrente’s title rival and team-mate Al-Qemzi moved up to ninth. Alexandre Bourgeot and Peter Morin had already fallen by the wayside with technical issues.
The leaders held station through the first 12 laps with Andersson holding a 4.37-second lead over Torrente with Chiappe, Selio and Weckström running strongly. Al-Qemzi retained ninth.
At the halfway point, after 19 laps, Andersson’s lead was 3.65 seconds with Al-Qemzi still unable to move up the leader board from his ninth place until Marszalek dropped back to 10th and lifted the Emirati to eighth.
With nine laps to go, Andersson led Torrente by 4.08 seconds and the remainder of the top eight held station until Al-Qemzi climbed another place to seventh at the expense of Zandbergen, who hit technical trouble and dropped out of the race. Torrente was overtaken by Chiappe heading into the last few laps and the American was then overhauled by Selio as well and dropped to fourth, his issues throwing the title race wide open again.
Rookie Ben Jelf was unable to finish his first race and pulled out, as Torrente desperately clung on to fourth place from Weckström, with Andersson 3.82 seconds clear of Chiappe on the last lap.
The Swede held on to the chequered flag to earn 20 vital championship points but Torrente ceded two more places and finished the thrilling race in sixth behind the leading duo, Selio, Weckström and Comparato.
After the Grand Prix this afternoon, His Excellency Khalid Al-Midfa, the chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority officially handed the F1H2O flag to His Excellency Zainudin Amali, Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs for the Republic of Indonesia, the new host country for the opening round of the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship.
This year’s championship concludes with the Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of the Middle East at 3pm (UAE time) on Sunday (December 18th).
2022 Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of Sharjah – race result:
1. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 38 laps
2. Sami Selio (FIN) Sharjah Team @ 8.51 seconds
3. Bartek Marszalek (POL) Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team @ 23.90 seconds
4. Alec Weckström (FIN) Gillman Racing @ 31.97 seconds
5. Alberto Comparato (ITA) Comparato F1 @ 35.63 seconds
6. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi @ 43.28 seconds
7. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi @ 45.43 seconds
8. Phillipe Chiappe (FRA) China CTIC Team 1 lap behind
9. Kalle Viippo (FIN) Team Sweden 1 lap behind
10. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team 2 laps behind
11. Duarte Benavente (POR) F1 Atlantic Team 3 laps behind
12. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick Racing 4 laps behind
13. Filip Roms (FIN) Gillman Racing DNF
14. Ben Jelf (GBR) F1 Atlantic Team DNF
15. Ferdinand Zandbergen (NLD) Sharjah Team DNF
16. Peter Morin (FRA) China CTIC Team DNF
17. Alexandre Bourgeot (FRA) Maverick Racing DNF
18. Paulo Longhi (ITA) Comparato F1 DNS
2022 UIM F1H2O World Championship – standings after round 5:
1. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 69pts
2. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 66pts
3. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 59pts
4. Alec Weckström (FIN) Gillman Racing 39pts
5. Ferdinand Zandbergen (NLD) Sharjah Team 34pts
6. Peter Morin (FRA) China CTIC Team 21pts
7. Bartek Marszalek (POL) Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team 18pts
8. Sami Selio (FIN) Sharjah Team 15pts
9. Alberto Comparato (ITA) Comparato F1 14pts
10. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) China CTIC Team 13pts
11. Kalle Viippo (FIN) Team Sweden 12pts
12. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick Racing 11pts
13. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team 10pts
14. Alexandre Bourgeot (FRA) Maverick Racing 6pts