When it comes to motorsport there’s nothing quite like Formula 1 for glitz, glamour and adrenaline-fuelled action.
It is perhaps no surprise then that there’s a new generation of Qatari motorsports fans who are dreaming of becoming the next Formula 1 Champion, having seen the world’s most talented drivers compete for victory at Lusail International Circuit (LIC) in 2023.
In the case of four young drivers from Qatar Motorsports Academy (QMA), that dream became a step closer to reality in March 2024, when they took to the tarmac behind the wheel of a Formula 4 single seater racing car as part of an exciting new test day facilitated by QMA at LIC.
The talented quartet – Khalid al-Muftah, aged 20, Bader al-Sulaiti aged 16, Taha Hassiba, aged 15 and his younger brother Tamim, 14 – who all cut their teeth in karting at QMA, were able to road test their skills at LIC as part of the FIA F4 Saudi Arabia Championship, a single-make junior drivers’ programme where cars are powered by 1,600cc engines which boast up to 160 brake horsepower.
QMA, which has been based at the state-of-the-art Lusail International Circuit since 2018, aims to develop home-grown young talent providing drivers with a hub where they can begin to ascend through the ranks of the motorsport ladder.
Khalid, whose racing hero is Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, says of his experience: “It’s the best feeling ever to sit in a single seater racing car at a track like Lusail! It’s really important for the future of motorsport that young people like me can learn with QMA and have the opportunity to try out world-class facilities like these.”
Meanwhile, Bader, who joined QMA at the age of 14, beginning his career in the BNL Rotax and IAME karting series, adds: “Driving Formula 4 for the first time at a world class circuit was an amazing experience. LIC consists of several high-speed corners which allows you to know the limits of the car and enhance your own skills and abilities.”
Tamim, who was inspired by his father to get into karting, joining QMA in 2022, credits the Formula 4 test as being the “most amazing experience ever – I can’t wait to do it again!”
When it comes to the future of motorsport in the Middle East, all four acknowledge the importance of having a centre of excellence in Qatar. Bader continues, “It’s essential to nurture young talent because these drivers will be the stars of tomorrow – they need support in developing their skills and experience in racing internationally.”
Taha, who joined the academy at 13 is in agreement, claiming that the work of QMA is key to “growing the motorsport community” adding that his own experience prompted him to take the sport “much more seriously”.
What advice does the foursome have for other aspiring youngsters wanting to follow in their footsteps? Taha is quick to advise that anyone wanting to break into the sport should be “very fit, train every day at the track and have a very healthy diet. They need to be consistent”. Sibling Tamim nods in agreement, adding “they should keep focused and never give up!”
Meanwhile, Bader, who is eyeing a career in Formula 1, adds that rookies need to be “patient and respectful towards other teams and drivers and also ensure they are professional and sportsmanlike if they are to gain respect within the motorsport community.” He continues: “It’s a great way to learn and develop new skills which could eventually lead to you racing internationally representing your country”.
When it comes to Qatar’s standing on the global motorsport stage, the youngster also acknowledges the significance of events like Formula 1 and MotoGP: “Hosting international events significantly raises the profile of the sport here in Qatar and at an international level and this kind of exposure helps to attract more fans.”
With the country’s love of motorsport showing no signs of abating and QMA nurturing the considerable talents of these committed young sportsmen, it may not be long before spectators get to see a home-grown Qatari lining up on a global grid.
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