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Abbi Pulling: "Championship-wise, I still have P2 in my eyesight"

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Abbi Pulling fought for the win in all three races at Monza - returning to the front-running positions where she belongs after a very unlucky start of the F1 Academy season.

Here's the weekend through her eyes.

Photo by: Racers - Behind the Helmet

The fifth round of the 2023 F1 Academy season - the inaugural year of the all-female championship promoted by F1 in order to provide a pathway for talented female drivers on the single seater ladder - saw the return of one of its highly-anticipated protagonists to the front. At Monza, Alpine Academy driver Abbi Pulling was in fact back in the positions where she belongs to, battling for victories in all three races. Pulling's season has not been an easy one: starting off the year with two pole positions, the Rodin Carlin was then forced to start from the back due to her team's disqualification from qualifying for a technical infringement that had no impact on performance; with good recoveries, the British racer was still able to salvage two fourth place finishes - but then struggled again in the first two Valencia race, before scoring her first podium of the year in race 3. Barcelona was a good weekend for Pulling, who added two more podiums to her tally - but her first win in the series continued to slip away, as the whole Rodin Carlin team had to recover after a difficult qualifying. One month later in Zandvoort, Pulling endured another rough weekend with a seventh place as her only point-scoring race of the round. While her pace was always there, all season - lots of misfortune have prevented her from battling consistently at the front with fellow title contenders Marta Garcia, Hamda Al Qubaisi and Léna Bühler. But right from free practice, the fifth round at Monza quickly offered a glimpse of what it could have been. Pulling and Garcia were separated by thousands of a second in both practice sessions and the battle continued into qualifying - where Pulling secured pole position. "Qualifying was really positive", she recalled. "I finished Q1 on P3 and Q2 on pole - which is huge and I like to think that it's my third pole of the season even though technically it isn't", she joked. "Massive thanks to the team, the car felt great." Pulling was on course to claim fastest lap in Q1 with two purple sectors - but traffic towards the very end of a damp session meant that she had to settle on the second row. "I was a bit disappointed for Q1, it was mixed conditions on the slicks and I know that's where I excel", Abbi explained. "I lost almost as second in my middle sector on my last lap - which would have been the best obviously on a drier track. It was down to traffic - we were purple. As soon as I came back to the pits I was confident I could snatch Q2 from everyone else." With her 1:52.926 pole lap in Q2, Pulling would have been on pole position in this year's Italian F4 race 1 at Monza - and in the top ten on the grid of race 2.

Photo by: Racers - Behind the Helmet

It was then time to capitalize on her pace - and an action-packed race 1 saw Pulling, her Rodin Carlin teammates Edgar and Gilkes, Garcia and Bühler all fighting for the win in an photofinish finale that almost resembled the legendary 1971 Italian Grand Prix.

Pulling, though, also had to nurse the car to the finish due to a contact that happened at the beginning of the race.

"I got hit at the rear which broke my drive shaft, so we were struggling a lot in the straight line", she explained. "That kinda put us out of the race really; I still was in the battle for P1 but was mainly getting ourselves room to finish the race because actually it wasn't in good nick when we looked at it after."

"I knew from lap 1 that it was broken. I think coming out of that race there was a bit more aggression that I could have had, but in the back of my mind I could feel the drive shaft wasn't right, so it probably played a bit too much into that."

Pulling still managed to finish fourth, one hundredths of a second away from third and half a second off race winner Marta Garcia.

"It was then a P6 start for race 2 - I got a good launch, and I think in lap one I should have stayed in P6 but someone cut turn 1 and then kinda halted my progression", Pulling said. "We were really quick and we got the fastest lap. Anyway P3 on track was quite good - and in the battle again for P1."

From pole position in Race 3, Pulling continued her weekend with yet another battle for the win - where the British racer fought Bianca Bustamante until the very end of the race.

"I got a really good launch - which was something I didn't quite get at the start of the season and was down to a few things, but me and the team have made some changes. I couldn’t start how I wanted to, I couldn’t get my feet how I wanted to at the start of the season, but now I can and my starts are ten times better," she explained.

"I was leading coming out of turn 1 and 2 - I said before the race that as long as I'd do that, I have the win in the bag basically, as I was really confident in my pace all weekend."

"Unfortunately I just didn't have the straight line speed that that red car had behind me", she continued. "I think keeping her behind as long as I did, I'm very happy with - my racecraft and everything I did to keep her behind was good. She was doing the exact same times behind me, and I was out front pushing my own air - I'm happy with that."

"P2 is still good, I'm very confident in myself - I maximised what I could do. Obviously the Prema also had four new tyres, so she had that advantage as well."

Pulling scored 39 points across the weekend - the most she had ever recorded at any previous rounds - grabbing fourth in the championship standings.

Photo by: Racers - Behind the Helmet

"Championship-wise, I still have P2 in my eyesight", she commented. "I could do P2, while P1 would be a stretch. Points-wise it's doable, but it would be a stretch. I’m quite confident I can out race Hamda, she’s very quick but I think I’ve got the race craft and the aggression on her, so we'll see."

Abbi Pulling now aims to carry momentum into Paul Ricard, the final European race of the F1 Academy season, where she'll attempt to get closer to her first win of the season and add a few more podiums to the five already collected this year.

"At Paul Ricard we've got a better setup from where we started at the beginning of the season", Abbi concluded - as the British racer also looks forward to COTA, a track where she had a breakthrough performance in W Series.

While the 2023 season certainly started on the back foot for Pulling, we are surely going to see a very exciting competition for the top three in the championship.

F1 Academy will return to the track next week (18th-19th July) for the pre-event test at Paul Ricard, which precedes the sixth round of the championship from 29–30 July in the South of France.



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