Originally printed in the January 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia.
Racing ahead into the record books is Emirati driver Amna Al Qubaisi, as she will become the first Arab woman to compete in Formula 4 when she takes to the track in Europe next season. The schoolgirl, who joins the Prema team, was also the first Emirati woman to win the UAE’s senior Rotax Max Challenge karting series last year. That’s pretty impressive for someone who has also been sitting their SATs.
“It’s all about being mentally strong and going for it”
Al Qubaisi started driving when she was 14, following in the footsteps of her father, Khaled Al Qubaisi. He also has a permanent place in the motor racing record books as the first Emirati driver to be part of a team achieving outright victory in the Dunlop 24 Hours Dubai. He was also the first Emirati driver to compete in the legendary 24 hours of Le Mans. Her younger sister Hamda, 15, is also a racer – she’s a rising karting star in the UAE who has already achieved 13 podiums.
It’s no surprise, then, that Al Qubaisi’s parents are supportive of her driving career. “My dad would give me advice and tips, and my mom takes me to races. She’s my mentor and my therapist. She’s basically everything to me.”
While being the first Arab female driver in Formula 4 is an incredible achievement, she admits it wasn’t easy or expected. “A year ago, I’d have never imagined myself where I am today,” she says. “But I gave it my all. I aimed for a win with no hesitation. If you want it badly, you will get it, no matter what. It’s all about being mentally strong and going for. It’s unbelievable for me that I will be racing Formula 4 in Europe.”
“If you want it badly, you will get it, no matter what”
Competing as a woman in a male-dominated arena does come with its challenges, Al Qubaisi says, with women being underestimated. “I’ve been pushed out of the race a couple of times because I’m a girl and most male drivers don’t like being overtaken by a girl so they completely shut down and punt you off. But I grew through that. If you’re aggressive, fast, and tough, you do gain the respect you deserve on track.” These adversities only serve to spur her on to greater heights, with her ultimate goal of competing in the “pinnacle of motorsport” – Formula 1. She also wants to inspire and empower budding female racers by eventually opening an academy in the UAE. She has sage advice for women who want to follow in her tracks. “It will be hard, but every champion was a beginner so keep your head down and go for it. Don’t listen to those who say you’re not good enough or fast enough. Use it as motivation to prove them wrong but mainly… drive like a girl.”
Words by Alexandria Gouveia.