The most exciting series of races on the water, the UIM F1 H2O Championship, is preparing to "print" its fourth decade. The first leg of the 2011 season will take place on March 4-5 in Doha, Qatar's capital. If everything goes as it has over the past few years this season, the winning fireworks can be launched as soon as the boats make their first lap in the Gulf of Doha Bay.
Not so long ago in the world of F1 H2O two giants ruled undividedly: Italian Guido Capellini and American Scott Gillman. In 15 years - from the early 1990s until recently - these two managed to win 14 out of 15 World Championships. However, as it has long been aptly noted, "everything flows, everything changes," and this is exactly what has happened in the world of "water Formula 1" since the two legendary riders left the big sport.
"And it all turned out to be..." In the last five seasons, the world title has changed hands four times. The current champion, Finn Sami Selio, who has already been written about here from Mad Croc, played a part in this. During this time he made two great kambaks, twice in four seasons breaking through to the cherished title from the last positions on the starting grid and capturing the title on the last day of the race. He did it for the first time in 2007, winning the last two races of the season in a tight struggle, and then repeated the trick last year at the Grand Prix in Sharjah. He came second then, but that was enough to win the championship with a microscopic 6 point advantage.
Then the Mad Croc team won the team championship, and its drivers took the first and third steps of the podium. This year David Padovan, "Beginner of the Year" of last season, who moved to Mad Croc from the Rainbow team, will race with him. The young Italian performed very well last season, finishing five out of six races in the top ten. His result would have been even better if there hadn't been one breakage and an accident in the Chinese Linya stage. He will definitely grow even more in the new season under the guidance of experienced fighter Celio.
The Emirates' Team Abu Dhabi is also set to perform strongly this season. They include a couple of young pilots, Ahmed Al-Hameli and Tanya Al-Qamzi, who train and play under the leadership of Scott Gillman, the four-time world champion who has been team manager here for five years.
Qatar Team, for which the stage in Doha will be "home", is a potential "Uber Stables" of this season. It is led by J Price, the 2008 World Champion, who won nine stages in only 45 races. This season, the team's co-pilot will be Alex Karella, the sensation of last year, who moved here after a brilliant season in the champion team Mad Croc.
The CTIC China Team will once again present its pair of drivers to millions of fans from all over the Far East: Sweden's Pierre Lundin and France's Philippe Chiappé. Their best race last season took place in Shenzhen, China, when they both took podium spots: Chiappe is second (so far the best result in their career) and Lundin is third. Each of them has been getting close to winning the stages more than once, so in the new season both plan to visit the top step of the podium, and more than once. This year Lundin will be racing on the Italian building, and Chiappe patriotically saddled French bolide MOORE.
It's hard to believe this, but 36-year-old Italian Francesco Cantando from Singha F1 is now starting his 16th season in a row. All these years he hasn't sat in the shade - he has the biggest number of Grand Prix victories of all the participating riders: 12 first places and three second ones. He had a bad period when he lost 44 races in a row, but last year he brilliantly broke the series by winning the Shenzhen Stage in October. His result - 41 finishes in the first three - is third in the list of records of all time, and he has no intention of stopping. He is chasing his own BLAZE boat, which he has been lovingly finishing and tuning for eight years in his workshop in Milan.
Among the trumps of the Swedish Team Sweden for the new season is the most dynamic "dark horse" race, 30-year-old American Sean Torrente from Miami. The leader of the team will be the talented Jonas Andersson, four-time champion of "junior series" F2 World Championship.
Team Atlantic team for the twelfth season does not part with Portuguese Duarte Benavente, who has also several times come close to the top places in the past stages. The co-pilot is Philippe Tour, a Frenchman, who is approaching this season with three finishes in the top ten of the 14 races. Tour has also moved to the F1 from the younger F2 series and is still getting used to the dramatically increased power of his car. However, his progress is noticeable with every race he has had.
Team Nautica's boats are breaking out this year under the leadership of veteran Rinaldo Oskulati and the only female Norwegian pilot Marit Stroma. Italian Osculati is the most honored pilot of the UIM F1 H2O, who has been racing in the Italian F2 series for a long time. This season he only needs to improve the stability of his performance in racing.
Norwegian rider (and singer in her spare time) Marit Stromoy has been in water motor racing since she was 12. In the F1 series, she has already raced 31 races and finished twice in the top five. Remarkably, last year Marit played for the F1 Team Azerbaijan.
Speaking of native lands. If last year Russia hosted only one stage of the race - July 11 in St. Petersburg (it was won by current champion Selio), this year there will be two stages - in St. Petersburg (July 2-3) and in Kazan (July 16-17). Another point on the territory of the former USSR is the brotherly Ukraine. The stage in Kiev is scheduled for July 30 and 31.
Unfortunately, Russian racer Stanislav Kurtsenovsky is not on the official list of pilots for this year. We contacted Stas, and he explained that the situation with his participation this year is not clear yet. According to him, he will definitely take part in some stages, but in what stages - will depend on the sponsors, with whom Kurzenovsky continues to negotiate. It would be cool if someone supported Stas - otherwise who else would the Russians be rooting for in St Petersburg and Kazan?
The 2010 season was marked by the enthusiasm and persistence of the teams and the unprecedented heat of the struggle. Judge for yourself: for nine months of racing the table was led by four different pilots in turn, and the candidate for the champions has changed three times in the last four stages. If the 2011 season is just as dramatic, this year's F1 H2O will be an exciting series of very exciting moments.