Women have for decades now broken the gender stereotypes and quashed norms they have been bounded within. One such is Amna Al Qubaisi, who breaks record after record and negates with every accomplishment the stigmas around Arab women and women drivers.
Born in a family of living legends, her father and sister claim their own position in the world of Formula racing. Amna’s father, Khaled Al Qubaisi, is a renowned Formula racer with significant wins and podiums. Her younger sister Hamda Al Qubaisi too, has broken the record and was, in fact, the first female in the history of the Italian F4 to win a podium a few days back.
Amna started training at the age of 12 and now leaves behind a list of firsts. From being the first Arab female racer to being the first female to be sponsored by Kaspersky Lab and winning a lot of first positions in national and international championship series.
In a candid conversation with Amna, we talk about her journey as a record-breaking F3 racer and a social media influencer with her wide presence on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.
You have grown up among racers. Who is your inspiration, and who is your biggest cheerleader?
My biggest inspiration is my father. My biggest cheerleader would also be my father.
You started racing comparatively late to your fellow F3 racers. Do you think age plays an important determinant in a racing career?
It does, actually. The competitors I race with started at a very young age since they were 4 or 5, and age does make a difference. However, it’s never too late. It’s all about talent and testing. Nowadays, if you have the money to go and practice as many times as you can, you can sometimes be even better than them.
What is the story and the significance behind your hashtag campaign #DriveLikeAGirl?
When there is an accident, men usually pass comments like, “Of course it is a girl, that’s why the accident happened.” It’s always us women who are blamed. So when on race tracks, I would drive fast, and they would ask how are you so fast and what’s different in you, I would respond that you just drive like a girl!
Your father has indeed helped you professionally. What is the role of your mother in your journey and achievements today?
She would take me to the races. She would travel with me to Europe and drive me around there since I was young and didn’t have anyone to take me around. My mom definitely sacrificed a lot to accompany me around and spend time with me on the track. She is my biggest support system.
If you had to pick one F1 driver to battle with, who would it be?
That’s a really good question! I would say Lando Norris.
It is said that there is nothing like a failure because if you don’t win, you’re still going home with a lesson learned. Please share with us one such lesson that you learned through failures.
To always persist and never give up. Many times, I have thought about stopping because of the ‘bad race days’ I have had, but I still kept on persisting. Eventually, I started getting better results. So I have this thought in my mind now that after a hurricane comes a rainbow, and so you just have to keep on persisting.
What is more challenging to you as a racer: developing physical preparedness or maintaining mental strength?
I would say being mentally in the zone because I’m usually under pressure and thinking a lot about having to prove to everybody that I’m still as good as everyone else. So being mentally in the zone is challenging for me.
If not racing, what would you be doing professionally?
Before racing, I was into gymnastics, and I have done it for ten years! I would also be going to the United States for training. So if it weren’t for racing, I think I would have been a gymnastics coach.
It is always the success or failure that is looked at by the people. If there was one thing you’d want the world to recognize that goes into the making (behind the scenes), what would it be?
It’s all about the hard work that is put in. Sometimes people are quick to say that ‘she is participating just for fun or ‘she has the money to race’ and overlook the hard work and preparations that go behind it. They forget to see that I have to work hard even just to participate and mentally prepare myself to be at par with other drivers. Many a time, I didn’t have enough money as my competitors to practice on the tracks, so I would end up going straight to the race tracks with no prior practice and compete in the race. And it was while competing that I would be learning everything all at once and also trying to keep up my pace with other drivers. I think it is these extra miles that are taken that people don’t realize sometimes.
One of your viral videos on TikTok is where you show someone that you have indeed won as an Arab woman racer. How does the reluctance for acceptance, especially among men, make you feel? How would you change that?
I believe people feel intimidated. They see someone doing good in an industry that not many people can participate in, so they resort to believing stats that have not been updated since 2017 and easily say, “Oh, I checked her stats; she didn’t do much”, but they don’t really know the complete information about my stats (podiums) and just try to find an excuse to put someone down. However, I avoid negative comments online or sometimes try to put a reference to their comments.
We know Formula cars are very complicated to drive. Do you have any strange rituals or habits you do before each race to keep your mind and body focused?
Your dream/favourite circuit to race on?
My Favourite circuit is the Mugello circuit in Italy.
Which other racing series would you like to race in apart from F1?
I would love to try a Motorbike, and I have been begging my father ever since for a motorbike, but he fears since motorbikes are very dangerous. So if I were to participate in another race, it would be moto GP.
What is your dream team in F1 and a teammate you would love to race with? And why?
My dream team is obviously Ferrari since Ferrari has had such a rich history, and I think everybody would want to end their career in a Ferrari team. And I would love my teammate to be another female driver, Carmen Jorda, who I adore so much. She is a driver herself and was an F1 test driver for Lotus. This woman is so extremely talented.
While Amna herself is a bundle of talent and joy to speak to, she aspires to break more records in the future and reach the pinnacle of Motorsport, aka the Formula One, in the coming 5-6 years. And we, at Brown, hope to see her race to the top in her F1 car soon.