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INTERVIEW: Emirati driver strives for F1 stardom in Abu Dhabi

Rashid has got the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix within his sights

Having attended the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix at the age of three, Emirati Rashid Al Dhaheri has evolved into a full-fledged motorsports racer.

Setting records in prestigious championships like the Macao International Kart Grand Prix and as the youngest winner in an F4 race at Sepang International Circuit in 2023, Rashid has secured podium finishes, marking his proficiency in the sport.

Currently racing with PREMA for his second year in Formula 4, competing in the Italian Formula 4 Championship and the Euro4 Championship in 2024, Rashid’s achievements underscore his dedication, providing inspiration to aspiring youth across the region.

His ongoing performance in the UAE F4 Championship further demonstrates his grounded approach to his passion for racing, solidifying his status as a rising star, whilst also contributing to the growing acknowledgment of UAE’s presence on the global motorsports stage.

Here, Team Yalla speaks to the young, precocious talents about his hopes and dreams for the future.

 

What is your first memory of racing and how did you get into it?

 

At the age of three, I attended my first Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix, and that’s where my fascination with racing began. The pit stops, the roar of the engines, the beauty of the F1 cars, and the coordinated teamwork behind the scenes captivated me.

A turning point came when I was taken into a garage by an F1 team, where I had the privilege of meeting Fernando Alonso and witnessing his car up close. In that moment, I made a conscious decision about the direction I wanted my life to take.

Despite my parents’ limited knowledge of motorsports, I persistently urged them to explore how I could get involved in racing. After some online research, they discovered Al Ain Raceway, where I was offered my first karting experience at the tender age of four.

A rope was attached to my kart, and they manually pulled it along! By the age of five, I began racing in the UAE, and at six, I ventured into the competitive karting scene in Italy. Italy’s renowned karting series provided the ideal platform for me to compete and learn from the best in the field.

How has F1 made an impact on people in Abu Dhabi?

 

The start of my racing journey was undoubtedly sparked by the F1 event in Abu Dhabi. Living just 10 minutes away from the Yas Marina Circuit, I could hear the powerful roar of the engines right from my room. F1 not only introduces a thrilling sporting dimension but also brings an entirely new world to a country. The inspirational impact on young individuals, like myself, is significant.

Moreover, F1’s global media exposure enhances the country’s image, attracting attention from businesses, ultimately contributing to a substantial impact on tourism and the economy. The positive effects of F1 extend across various dimensions, making it a truly influential event. Reflecting on the 2011 F1 event in Abu Dhabi, I am grateful for it happening here, as it played a pivotal role in steering me towards the path of racing.

 

 

What are your personal goals for the future?

 

Undoubtedly all of us race drivers have the ultimate goal to achieve a seat in F1. This is what we all dream about and hope for. But we also know that there are only a couple of seats, so I must be realistic and work very, very hard. Therefore, I like to take it one step at a time.

In the previous year, I took a significant step by entering F4, becoming the youngest driver on the grid. I competed in my inaugural F4 race just two weeks after turning 15, the minimum age requirement for racing in F4. The competition featured seasoned drivers with no prior single-seater experience, making it a crucial learning year for me.

This year, I had the opportunity to participate in the F4 UAE Championship for the first time. Embracing a gradual progression, my focus remains on continuous learning and improvement, striving to enhance my performance with each step and ascend the motorsports ladder. The future holds its own possibilities, and I am eager to see where this journey takes me.

 

What would it mean to be the first Emirati driver in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

 

Two weeks ago, I emerged victorious at Yas Marina Circuit in the F4 UAE Championship, navigating through a race marked by challenging and mixed weather conditions. Achieving this triumph at the very circuit that sparked my love for motorsports 12 years ago, on my home soil, and in the presence of family and friends, brought about an indescribable positive feeling.

While participating in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the future remains an absolute dream, my current priority is to concentrate solely on the upcoming season in Italy and strive for exceptional results there.

 

How do you balance racing with your educational studies?

 

I have completed my middle school education at an IB school but transitioned to an online high school tailored for high-performing athletes. This shift provides me with the flexibility to study whenever my packed schedule allows, considering the demanding nature of my commitments throughout the year. It’s a common trend among race drivers to forego formal education due to the scarcity of free time, but completing my education remains a priority for me.

I strongly believe in the significance of academics, recognizing the added value it brings to my racing pursuits. Despite the intense racing schedule, I make a concerted effort to dedicate time to my studies whenever there’s a break. Thankfully, my studies are going very well, and in fact I am ahead of my grade.

 

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Image credit Rashid Al Dhaheri, Rashid Al Dhaheri Instagram

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