Which team is capable of challenging Abu Dhabi this year? The 2018 championship was dominated by Abu Dhabi’s three boat team. The gold medal was won by American Shaun Torrente and team mates Thani Al Qemzi and Erik Stark filled second and third in the championship. Obviously Abu Dhabi team manager Guido Cappellini was delighted with the result, but fellow racers saw the outcome as very unfair and there is now talk that teams will only be allowed two boats in their line-up.
However, if a decision is made to only sport two boats per team there is no guarantee Torrente won’t win the title again with Al Qemzi as runner up. The simple fact is that Abu Dhabi boasted the best drivers, boats and engines last season.
So, which team is capable of the challenge? Two years ago we wouldn’t hesitate to choose Philippe Chiappe and Peter Morin of Team China. However, Chiappe appeared to go ‘off the boil’ last year while Morin, although improved from 2017, does not look like toppling the world champion just yet.
Sami Selio appeared to be a rejuvenated driver in the latter stages of 2018 since the return of his former team manager Michael Jenkins, and maybe he could pose a threat.
Victory Team’s Alex Carella
A team that should be knocking on the door of championship success, Dubai’s Victory duo of four times world champion Alex Carella and Ahmed Al Hameli, performed like a ‘work in progress’ project with brand new boats still under development. Under the management of Scott Gillman, Victory have been building new boats but none of them have excelled which leaves their two drivers very frustrated. However, the team will start this new season with updated equipment which Carella and Al Hameli are busy testing throughout the winter months, and they are quietly confident the new season will start on a positive note.
Team Sweden could be the ‘dark horse’ this year with Jonas Andersson being one of the quickest drivers in the fleet, but was constrained by engine troubles last season. If the Swede had a healthy budget he could feasibly win the title.
Marit Stromoy – Team Emirate Racing
Another contender for a podium place could be Norway’s Marit Stromoy of Team Emirate Racing who enjoyed a great 2018 season, giving Torrente a real run for his money in India and coming in second. If she can replicate her 2018 form, Marit could well end up in the medals.
We have already heard that Team Atlantic’s Duarte Benavente has a new partner this year in the shape of Alberto Comparato, son of former F1 star Fabio. The diminutive Italian clinched the 2018 World F2 title and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the more powerful F1 cats.
Veteran Francesco Cantando has produced one or two respectable results in the latter part of 2018, but his chances of securing a podium place at the end of the season looks very slim.
The 2019 season kicks off in Portimao, Portugal in mid May when we can get more of an idea of who looks like gold medal material.