“I have never been so nervous before the start of a Grand Prix” admitted Sami Seliö, the lead driver of the Mad-Croc Baba Racing team as he emerged triumphantly from the cockpit of his new Baba hull after winning the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.
Yesterday having set the fastest time to earn his twenty second career pole position in the UIM F1 H2O World Championship, Selio knew that he would need to carry out a thorough propeller test session in the morning warm up if all his hard work in qualifying was not to go to waste. Unfortunately for him a small engine issue in the morning warm up meant the team had hardly any time on the water, but the twelve laps Seliö did put in reduced the number of race props he had to choose from down to three.
So as the boats lined up Seliö was still uncertain whether he’d made the right choice. “All weekend teams having been having issues with props loosing blades” said Seliö. “The course has been modified so with everyone looking to increase their speed they are running their engines very high. The increase in torque has been having a devastating effect on driver’s props; our team alone has ended up with three broken ones.”
As the start light went out the twenty second Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi got off to a dramatic start. Seliö made a blistering quick get away from the pontoon to lead at the first turn, what happened behind was unclear but through the spray you could just make out the remains of both Team Abu Dhabi’s Baba boats. Going into the turn Thani Al Qamzi had caught up with Alex Carella and was about to pass him when he was struck from behind. That spun the unfortunate local hero into the path of his team-mate Ahmed Al Hameli who, with no where to go, smashed into the side of Al Qamzi to end both of their races, as the teams miserable season continues.
With the race back under way Seliö immediately opened up a two second gap on Philippe Chiappe, who in turn had opened a gap on Alex Carella. Putting the restart to best use though was the championship leader Shaun Torrente. The American had started in eleventh place after the Qatar Team had been forced into making an engine change after qualifying dropping Torrente back down the grid. He quickly made up ground on the leading pack but try as he might he couldn’t find a way past Marit Stromoy who was having one of the best races in her F1 career.
As the race was reaching the half way point out came the yellow flags and once again Seliö slotted in behind the pace boat. This time it was the young Chinese driver, Xiong Ziwei who had crashed his DAC at the far end of the circuit. With the race quickly back under way Seliö was once again out in front, looking very comfortable despite his earlier dilemma over prop choice. “I knew that just one small mistake would cost me the race and probably with it any realistic chance of winning the World Championship title” he said. “Each time I came up against a backmarker I needed 110 per cent concentration and just prayed that they had seen me in their mirrors.”
It wasn’t long before Selio could finally relax as after 39 laps had been completed out came the chequered flag and with it his twelve F1 H2O Grand Prix victory.
“I was so relived to see that chequered flag” said Seliö. “The job isn’t over just yet though as we now have perhaps the most demanding circuit in the F1 calendar, Sharjah in a couple of weeks time. With it’s two right hand turns and poor visibility due to the setting sun it’s going to be tough out there.”
As he now takes a well earned break Selio leads the World Championship by just two points from Torrente, who is just two points ahead of Carella. Any of the three drivers can still click the title but Seliö knows that Carella has not scored a point there since back in 2010 and a fifth place is the highest Torrente has ever been able to deliver whilst Selio knows that his two world titles have come from winning the race.
Result of the F1H2O Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi;
1. Sami Seliö FIN Mad-Croc Baba Racing
2. Philippe Chiappe FRA CTIC China Team
3. Alex Carella QAT Qatar Team
4. Marit Stromoy NOR Team Nautica
5. Shaun Torrente USA Qatar Team
6. Al Rubayan KUW F1 Atlantic Team
7. Terry Rinker USA Team Azerbaijan
8. Filip Roms FIN Mad-Croc Baba Racing