Two teenagers take the first step in what could turn out to be a life-changing experience.
Keanu Al Azhari and Matteo Quintarelli, both 15, represent the Yas Heat Racing Academy and will be among 11 provisional starters for the one-race F4 UAE Trophy ahead of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
Born and raised in Dubai, Al Azhari is the second of three boys in the family and became a four-time UAE National Karting Champion.
“Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management and Yas Heat Racing Academy are giving me a great opportunity to move into F4,” Al Azhari told AFP. The national after being selected in a draw to take part in the F4 UAE Trophy.
“I am very excited to drive the F1 weekend. I turned 15 on Monday and you have to be 15 to drive in F4. It’s a beautiful coincidence and I appreciate this moment to drive the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend. »
Al Azhari’s long-term goal is to make his F4 debut and be the first UAE F1 driver. The Dubai American Academy student has a racing pedigree as his father Karim is multiple UAE champion.
“My father was UAE champion several times,” he said. “He introduced me to karting when I was five years old. He took me around Jebel Ali on a small go-kart track. Since then I fell in love with this sport.
“The United Arab Emirates is my home. I was born in Dubai and have lived here all my life. My father was also born here. »
Al Azhari has represented the UAE in the FIA World and European Championships, the highest level of karting.
He celebrated a pair of top 10 finishes and last year started fourth in the world championship, the best finish for a UAE driver.
Quintarelli, Al Azhari’s Italian teammate, was national karting champion in Bahrain before joining the UAE in 2019.
“I was born in Peru. My father travels for work and we follow him everywhere,” said the student from Dubai Repton School.
“I was six years old when I drove my first kart in Italy. I went there with my grandfather and when I got home I told everyone I wanted to go karting.
“I was in Bahrain for seven years and I drove karts for four years. I won the national championship and that’s where it all started. To be able to drive in F4 is super exciting. »
Al Azhari and Quintarelli will compete in the national F4 championship from January.
The new Yas Marina Circuit Academy offers the two talented young drivers a well-defined path to motorsport.
Saif Al Noaimi, CEO of ADMM, said: “The new Yas Heat Racing Academy is a brand new program aimed at providing talented young drivers in the UAE with a world-class environment and a clear path to motorsport.
“We look forward to seeing our incredibly talented drivers on the track and further establishing Abu Dhabi as an innovative global leader on the international stage.”
Matthew Norman, Academy Team Principal, added: “The opportunity for the team to make its official debut at our home track, the Yas Marina Circuit, at this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix year is a remarkable moment that we are proud to be a part of of. “