Final preparations are well under way for the opening round of the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship the Kopiko Grand Prix of Indonesia, which takes place on Lake Toba in the northern part of the island of Sumatra on the 24 – 26 February. Down at the Sharjah Team’s F1H2O race pit both Sami Seliö and Ferdinand Zandbergen are looking forward once again to competing against the top circuit boat racers in the world.
With his extremely high standard Sami Seliö is the first to admit that last season was a huge disappointment to both him and the whole team. “At times it felt like a painful roller coaster ride going from the highs of leading the French Grand Prix from pole position then moments later breaking down with a small part failing, to the highs of Zandbergen taking his first victory to me crashing out in qualifying and the race. We had so much bad luck that the guys were actually getting use to it” said Seliö. “But that’s what racing is all about and now we need to make positive changes.” Last December at the final championship round His Excellency Zainudin Amali, Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs for the Republic of Indonesia, accepted the handover of the championship flag from His Excellency Khalid Al-Midfa, the Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.
“With the handing over of the UIM – F1H2O World Championship flag, Indonesia will be the Thirty-third country to host a UIM-F1H2O World Championship event and of course, this brings the stunning Lake Toba to the eyes of the world” said Amali. State-owned tourism holding firm InJourney’s Director Dony Oskaria, recently announced that the Wet Paddock and Dry paddock had been completed at the host venue of Balige on the southern shore of Lake Toba and that the container cargo had also arrived in Belawan, Indonesia’s busiest seaport outside of Java. The race circuit is quite unique because it’s taking place on the largest volcanic lake in the world and at over nine hundred metres above sea level the circuit, which lap measures just over two kilometres could provide a few engine issues to those more use to racing at a lower altitude. “Yes, sure our Mercury engines require a specific amount of air to run properly. So, due to the lower level of oxygen at higher altitudes, we may notice a significant decrease in power and performance, but every team will have that to contend with not just us” said Seliö. With two new race venues to start the season with has Seliö made any changes to his team philosophy of ‘the minimum for the team is a place on the podium’? “We are all race drivers and always want to win. Perhaps this season just how hard we need to push especially in Indonesia and China might need to be looked at.” Since the Christmas break Seliö has been balancing his time between the Sharjah Team and being a brand ambassador for Finland’s proudest boat-builders Finnmaster and Grandezza. “In Finland boats are so much more than a means of transport. Boats are freedom, passion and tradition but above all, a lifestyle and I’m honoured to help this family owned business develop their ties with the UAE.”
For now though Seliö thoughts will be on the Sharjah Team safely passing through the Technical Scrutineering without any issues on Thursday. Then following the Drivers Briefing on Friday both he and Zandbergen will be out testing their set up during the Extra Free Practice before the BRM sponsored Qualifying session starts on Saturday at 15:00 local time (08:00 GMT). Following the huge announcement that H2O Racing, who promote F1H2O have signed a ground-breaking five year agreement with Warner Brothers Discovery (WBD) to broadcast live race action and highlights of the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship across Europe and Asia through television coverage on Eurosport and streaming on Discovery+ and the Eurosport App, you can now follow the fortunes of the Sharjah Team as they battle to secure the Championship titles from your very own living room. “Yes, this is great it is maybe one of biggest news of my time in F1, finally we have serious coverage all around not like only some countries” Seliö commented. Indonesia will mark the start of eleven months of hard, competitive racing culminating in the final round taking place at the teams home Grand Prix in Sharjah during December. Exactly twenty-two years ago just across the Malacca Strait in Johor Bahru, Malaysia a young Sami Seliö stood on the winners podium at the opening round of the 2001 Championship alongside Laith Pharaon and Francesco Cantando. Will we see the Finn master the volcanic water of Lake Toba this weekend and climb the winners podium steps again?