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Andersson Saves Best For Last To Claim First F1H2O Championship

Team Sweden driver Jonas Andersson saved his best for last winning back-to-back Grand Prix races in Portugal in 72 hours to come from behind and earn the 2021 Union Internationale F1H2O World Championship drivers title in Figueira Da Foz on Sunday afternoon.

Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson (center) won consecutive Grand Prix races in Portugal last weekend to claim his first F1H2O drivers world championship, edging out Team Abu Dhabi teammates Thani Al Qemzi (left) and Shaun Torrente. Photo courtesy F1H2O

The 47-year-old driver from Frovi, Sweden, dominated in Portugal—winning both pole positions and leading all 80 laps of the pair of races to finish with 40 championship points, one better than Team Abu Dhabi driver Thani Al Qemzi, who finished third in the race, two spots ahead of his teammate and two-time world champion Shaun Torrente. The driver from Florida came from the back of the pack in 14th position to take fifth on Sunday, earning him third place overall this season.

“It’s been a frustrating two years waiting for redemption after losing the championship title in 2019 tied in points to Shaun,” Andersson said in an F1H2O release following Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portugal. “We worked hard for the sweep this week and I want to thank all my crew for their help in making me a world champion for the first time in my career in F1.”

Andersson celebrated with his team after winning the first world championship of his 15-year F1H2O career. Photo courtesy F1H2O

Andersson had to battle thru a restart after Marit Strømøy crashed on the front straightaway on the 29th lap holding off two-time world champion Sami Selio with sensational Finnish rookie driver Alec Weckstrom of Gillman Racing back in third.

On the final restart, Andersson powered away in first while four other drivers were charging into turn four with little space separating them. Weckstrom and Selio collided while battling for second and Selio got the worst of it, sinking his boat and ending his dream of a third world title at the same time.

With debris in the water, the rescue team worked to get the course cleared for another restart but time and the 40 laps ran out, and Andersson was declared the winner of the race and world champion for the first time in his 15-year F1 career. He edged out Al Qemzi by a single point, preventing the Emirati from becoming the first Arab driver to win the F1H2O crown.

Although the finish was heartbreaking for both Team Abu Dhabi drivers who were hoping to have one more chance to get in front with both having a shot to win their own world titles, they were pleased to earn the team its fourth-straight points championship.

Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi finished second overall in the 2021 F1H2O World Championship points standings. Photo courtesy Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club.

After high winds making conditions dangerous forced the postponement of Saturday’s three-stage qualifying session, Sunday morning’s rescheduled fight for pole position was dramatically cut short for Torrente.

The defending champion set a good early time in Q2, but by then he had already felt a worrying vibration in the boat. After stopping to see if there was a possible propeller problem, Torrente set off again and his engine blew up moments later.

Although it was a longshot starting in the back of the pack, Torrente gave his all knowing that a third-place finish would see him complete a world title hat-trick. He ended up two places short but was happy to celebrate another world team championship success with Al Qemzi.

“I’m really proud of our team as usual—this was the time in three years that I experienced a failure, and it just happened at the wrong time,” said Torrente, whose Team Abu Dhabi mechanics fit a new engine for the Grand Prix. “I was proud of how I drove all week, considering we haven’t been in our normal groove with the usual number of races. I really enjoyed the race Friday when I finished second; I enjoyed it a lot. It felt like we had everything under control before the engine failure, and the boat was really quick. I felt like we were going to be in the top six and have a chance at pole.

“Starting in last honestly reminded me of old times having to drive through the field,” he continued. “On the restart, I got through some traffic and got alongside Thani, and then the second crash happened. We came close but it just wasn’t meant to be. Jonas did what he needed to do and I’m happy for him. We’ll go at it again next year, see what we have, and try to get that one back.”

Other notable performances on Sunday included Alec Weckstrom winning the Rookie of the Year honors with his runner-up trophy in only his third event, and another rookie, Finland’s Kalle Viippo, came up from 15th to finish sixth.

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