Growing up as the daughter of a racing driver Amna al Qubaisi was almost destined to follow in the same footsteps. But the young bubbly woman has a much rockier path to take than most young drivers as she’s a female in a male-dominated sport. The dream though is the same: Formula 1.

At a young age, Amna was very much enjoying gymnastics and not like her father motorsport. Only after getting bored of it, she started to accompany her father to his races. Soon the spark jumped over and it hasn’t extinct till today.

I got to talk to Amna about her career so far, the importance of her family, how she handles disappointing results and the challenges she faces as a woman in motorsport.


Inspired by her father Amna fell in love with motorsport. She soon started to compete in karting with her dad being her coach for the first few races. Over the years she achieved some impressive results but there is one moment that stands out for her.

Amna: In Germany, I did the X30 Euro Series in Wackersdorf. I finished amongst the top five. So that was my favourite race weekend because it was the best result I’ve ever got in Europe.


After competing in karting for several years Amna moved on to Formula cars in 2018.  Ahead of her first full season with Prema in Italian Formula 4 she tested with them at Yas Marina Circuit. It was the start of a whole new journey for her and even more demanding than before.

Amna: It was a new world. It’s something way different to karting. Taking the corners, the handling of the car. In karting, you know, when you break, you could steer at the same time and then in F4 if you do that, you’d lock up the front. So you’d spin. There were a lot of things I had to pick up in single-seaters. I’m still learning up till now, as I got so used to karting. So yeah, and a lot of testing. You know, in single-seaters, the more you test, the more you know the car. As in karting, you don’t have to do a lot of testing, it’s pretty much the same.

With the step up to cars, there was also the challenge of finding sponsors. Amna got lucky and was offered a very beneficial sponsorship from a big company. But at the same time, the pressure increased even more. From this moment she realized that she wasn’t anymore only racing for herself but for others as well. However, the chance of having a career in motorsport got also more prominent.

Amna: It started to become more serious once I got into Formula 4 and I got the sponsorship from Kaspersky. That’s when I realized it’s all about getting results. It’s not about having fun or anything, because it’s all with sponsorship and the whole point of sponsorship is they want results. So yeah, from that point, that’s when it became more of something I have to be responsible for and take as a career.

Amna went on to compete in the 2018 Italian F4 championship with Prema. It was her first full season in something other than karts and a very big challenge for the young girl. She was on the grid with some of the worlds most talented racing prodigies who had already done more testing than her. Even though it was a tough year with a highest finish of 12th there were a lot of positives to take away.

Amna: The first year was for sure very, very difficult. The drivers are obviously the best. You know, I’ve raced against Dino in Formula 4. So I would say I took more of like overtaking experience and tried to avoid crashes. Also like being patient in the car, and track time. So the whole F4 season was just learning different tracks, learning how to handle the car, for sure getting within the pace. But I would say the Italian F4 was the most difficult and most prestigious because it’s not just a big grid, but also the top 20 drivers are all within a second from each other. So it’s a very tight and close race.

After a big learning year in 2018, Amna returned in 2019 once again to compete in Italian F4 with Prema. It all proved to be difficult as the season held new challenges and Amna suffered from having no testing compared to other drivers ahead of the season start.

Amna: Yeah, it was a difficult season. Also, same thing, you know, the previous drivers from F4, did more testing and then came back into the championship stronger. I didn’t have any testing. I went straight back into the championship with no sim, no car experience, no racing. So it was like starting over for me; starting from square one, and then trying to catch up till the end of the season. And yeah, in the second year, there were also a lot of rainy conditions. So that was also a downfall for me. It was very difficult for me to adapt.

Between both of her Formula 4 seasons, Amna was offered the opportunity to test a Formula E car. This car is one of the most interesting ones and seems to be the future. Again it was something completely new but she enjoyed it very much as mistakes are never without consequences at a street circuit. A real adrenaline rush.

Amna: I would say Formula E is so nice. It’s so different. It’s so smooth. We don’t have paddle-shift you can just go straight. At one point, I was paddle shifting because I forgot it was an electric car. They have speed limiters. So you know, when you start, you start first with a maximum speed of maybe like 120 kilometres, and then slowly, slowly, you can start to upgrade that speed. But it’s in a street circuit. So the downfall from that if you do one mistake you’re in the wall. But overall, you know the car and trying it it’s almost the same as the F4 car. It’s just more torque, lighter, faster and with different types of tires, the road tires. So yeah, that was something amazing.

Amnas career was not without challenges but there is one moment in single-seaters that stands out more than anything. In 2019 she took part in the UAE Formula 4 race at Yas Marina Circuit, an F1 support race. She could finally show how much she learned and masterfully secured first pole position and then went on to dominantly win the race. All eyes were on her on that day; truly a historic moment.

Amna: I was emotional crossing the finish line because of all the hard work and a lot of testing in Europe with the racing and everything. I felt like I could take that experience I got, put it in Yas Marina and then make it to the top step of the podium. It was also against good competitors. People thought, you know, these competitors weren’t as experienced, but the competitors I am with when they’re in F3, they’re like one of the top 10. So I would say it was a very tough race, but I was really happy with the results.


Soon 2020 came and with it Covid-19. All racing plans were abandoned for Amna and she took a year off. But while she was at home focusing on her studies her sister Hamda went to Europe to compete in Formula 4. A very tough position for Amna as she was torn between happiness and despair.

Amna: I could watch my sister, see her do well and I could focus more on my studies. But at the same time, you know,  I was upset because I wasn’t able to be back in the car due to Covid. We didn’t have the opportunity to do some more testing so that I could at least be within the pace for the F3 championship. So we decided to let that go and do the Asian F3 championship. It’s in my hometown, and I’m familiar with the track. So it would be more than enough without testing, without anything to just go into the championship and to use that as testing.

At the beginning of 2021, Amna then took part in the Asian F3 championship. It was her first racing experience after a whole year at a new level of competition and with new machinery. As expected it was not the best in terms of points or podiums but she still had a lot of positives to take away from it as it was rather a test than a championship for her.

Amna: I would say it was very, very, very difficult because, at the start, I was like, three seconds off. But slowly, I started to gain confidence and rhythm. I literally forgot even how the brakes worked. So getting back that rhythm till the end of the race, I was less than a second off from my teammates Guanyu Zhou. That was a really good thing I took from it. I got really close to the pace in a short amount of time. So I’m happy with that, too.


As mentioned Amna is part of a racing family with both her father and her sister competing in several championships. Her sister Hamda is very close in age so both of them had many karting races but also a few Formula 4 races together. Sometimes this can even destroy an off-track relationship but with these two it certainly didn’t happen.

Amna: We were together in karting and we would fight a lot. We would be so competitive. We were literally behind each other fighting. And then at one point, you know, after the race, we would start verbally fighting and attacking each other. But you know, we were young, we took this so serious. Then in Formula 4 when we did the race together in Yas, we were helping each other. We were giving each other advice and just pushing each other to do well. We would share our data and compare: she was better than me in some corners, in some corners I was good. So we were just helping each other out.

As you can see family and friends are something that’s very important to Amna. They are always there for her and give her their full support at every race weekend. No one could ever replace them. But with racing is also a lot of travelling connected. For most of her F4 races, Amna had to go to Europe and spend half of her year there. Not something easy to do when you’re still growing up and also attend university.

Amna: Family is very important. They do not just support you but they motivate and push you. The downside of that is if I don’t do well, you know, I’d get a lot of lessons speeches about how I’m not doing well and how I should improve. But overall, I’d say family support is very important in this field.

I don’t see much of my friends and I don’t see much of my family. In two years I would maybe see them, like twice or once a year. Especially because in the summer when I’m back, everybody’s out of the country so I wouldn’t see them much often. And with my education, I would say it did clash a lot with racing, especially exams. Sometimes I tried to be reasonable with the universities. But it came to a point where they realized that it’s something that I’m taking very serious, so they’re very helpful. They would give me better options. So instead of taking an exam, I can take an assignment.


So far Amnas journey in cars hasn’t been the easiest. There are always people who doubt her talent and say that she’s just in her place because of money. Of course, money is important but Amna is just lacking a massive amount of track time which makes her often fall behind. Additional to that social media has gotten more and more toxic with people judging each and every move of the young Emirati.  All of this does affect her mental health and can even be a factor in on-track performance.

Amna: There are many times I do experience a feeling of pressure during a race. Especially, with social media, you know how toxic it is. People would always judge you. It’s either from the money side, you know, they would say she’s racing because she has money, as with true honesty, I’m just racing because I have the sponsorship. So if I had the money, trust me, I would be doing lots of testing, but it’s all from sponsorship. And also with a lack of testing, people would say, you know, she’s not good enough. She’s not supposed to be at the track. And you know, it mentally makes me try to push harder. And that brought me to do a lot of crashes.

Motorsport is a male-dominated world. Only a few female racers get the chance to even compete but usually, the support they get is less. Amna is very well known due to her achievements in karting and her victory in Formula 4. Besides that, she also has a big social media presence which she uses to encourage everyone to always believe in their dreams. But being one of a very few females she always feels the urge to prove herself even more and to work harder to be taken seriously.

Amna: On the track, I’ve been taken seriously a lot, even with my team. Because when I’m at the track, you know, it’s all about racing, not messing around, not fooling around. So I would say, I am taking serious with the team. But with, other drivers, they do underestimate you a lot, they push you a lot. So you don’t get that respect you deserve on track. So I would say from that point of view, that’s something we all struggle with as female drivers.

I’ve been pushed out so many times in F4, because of me being a girl. But then I started to gain that respect back because then I became more aggressive towards these competitors. And that’s when I started to gain respect.

After her results didn’t reflect her talent for a long time, Amna finally started to prove people wrong with her victory in Formula 4. It was a moment that didn’t only help her career but also her mindset which had suffered a lot as well.

Amna: The victory was to show people: ‘look, I’ve made it to the podium.’ I do deserve to be racing as much as any other male driver who is in this field. But, you know, it’s something I still want to keep proving. I don’t want to do it once, I want to keep that momentum.


Last but not least I want to stress that Amna is on one hand just an ordinary young woman whose favourite food is Sushi, who loves to jetski and describes a birthday party of her best friend as her favourite moment in life.

But on the other hand, she’s also a strong and determined young woman who is not only an inspiration for young girls who want to work in motorsport but for everyone out there. Her biggest goal is to change the inequality in a sport that stole her heart at a very early age. Even if her dream of becoming a professional race car driver doesn’t work out she would still love to work in the motorsport industry and help others.

‘I would love to make a business and hopefully also work within maybe Formula Two or something like that.’

 


A huge thank you goes to Amna Al Qubaisi for being so nice and taking the time to answer all of my questions!

Picture credits: @amnalqubaisi_official on Instagram

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