Tuesday December 6: Many of the recent racing seasons in the UIM F1H2O World Championship have been dominated by experienced and older drivers, with the likes of Sami Selio, Philippe Chiappe, Jay Price, Guido Cappellini and Jonas Andersson all winning titles since 2008.
With four-time champion Alex Carella now retired from the sport and current series leader and two-time championship winner Shaun Torrente now an established and mature racer in the series, attention is now sure to focus on the latest crop of young racing talent to come through the ranks and begin to write a new chapter in the sport’s prestigious history,
Ferdinand Zandbergen has been a revelation this season. The Dutchman capitalised on a somewhat surprising pole position at round three in Italy and led from start-to-finish on the Po River to seal a first career F1H2O race win and leap into fourth in the Drivers’ Championship – a position he maintained with fifth overall in Sardinia.
The 27-year-old Dutchman still has a mathematical chance, albeit a slim one, of squeezing in front of Torrente, Thani Al-Qemzi and Andersson to win the world title. But, nonetheless, he can be proud of his achievements this year with the Sharjah Team. It’s hard to imagine that he has only taken part in five Grand Prix so far in a career that saw him achieve success in the F4-S Championship that ran in tandem with F1H2O races for several seasons until 2019.
Finland’s young Alec Weckström holds fifth in the Drivers’ Championship and is two points behind Zandbergen. He too has a mathematical chance of winning the title with Gillman Racing. The 24-year-old finished fourth and third at the opening two races, but was deprived of a finish at the FIM Grand Prix of Italy because of electrical issues on his DAC. The Finn then finished a solid fourth in Sardinia.
Weckström is taking part in his second season of F1H2O racing, having finished fifth the shortened 2021 calendar year with a best result of second overall at the Grand Prix of Portugal in Figuera da Foz last November.
Team Sweden’s Kalle Viippo holds ninth in this year’s Drivers’ Championship. The Finn was in the points at each of the first three races but suffered a non-finish after technical issues in Sardinia. He made two starts last season in F1H2O racing and finished the year in ninth after a pair of sixth-placed finishes. This year, the Finn, who celebrated his 24th birthday recently, finished seventh at the first two rounds and ninth at race three. Like Zandbergen, he gained experience of the paddock and the racing environment during seasons racing in the F4-S discipline.
The fourth of the young sharks circling for blood in the UIM F1H2O World Championship is the 25-year-old Italian Alberto Comparato, who races for the team set up by his father and former racer Fabio. His father has considerable racing pedigree and finished second overall behind Scott Gillman at the 2004 Grand Prix of the UAE in Sharjah. Fabio finished third on one occasion and fourth twice in the World Championship.
Cruel luck has marred Alberto’s challenge this season and the Comparato F1 driver has not been able to turn his pace into championship points. Three non-finishes and a fifth place have been the net result of his efforts so far and he will be hoping for better fortune in Sharjah. He holds 11th in the rankings.
Alberto made his F1H2O racing debut in 2019 after winning the UIM F2 World Championship the previous season to add to his European and national titles in the UIM F4 discipline.
Rookie Ben Jelf also enters the cauldron of competition for the first time in Sharjah and the 22-year-old will be thrown in at the deep end with a debut with the F1 Atlantic Team at the first of the races on Khalid Lagoon.
The son of three-time UIM F2 World Champion Colin Jelf, Ben has been racing in the CPA Formula Grand Prix British Championship this season and clinched the 2022 CPA British F2 Championship crown at Stewartby Lake in Bedfordshire. He began racing at the age of nine and has been gradually coming through the ranks for several seasons before landing this major opportunity with Duarte Benavente’s team.
With these five shining lights bidding for success and exciting news of an expanded racing calendar on the horizon for 2023 and beyond, the future of the UIM F1H2O World Championship appears to be in very good hands.