Alexandra Mohnhaupt claims double podium at racing return
"I feel very proud of the results since I had not been in a racing car in five years and I was able to fight for the lead" – At her return to competitions, Alexandra Mohnhaupt's goal was to get back in the rhythm, but it was soon clear that she had pace to battle at the top-end of NACAM F4, claiming two podiums.
Alexandra Mohnhaupt left her mark once again at her racing return, in an impressive comeback that suggests that the Mexican driver is likely to fight for the F4 NACAM championship title, five years since last entering a race.
Mohnhaupt attracted worldwide attention in 2018, when she became the first ever woman to win a FIA-sanctioned Formula 4 race: the then-19 year old claimed her first victory at Autódromo Internacional Miguel E. Abed, Puebla, where she made history in race 1 – and repeated the success in race 2.
The historic achievement was not a one-off either: she collected eight podiums over the course of the season to finish fifth in the drivers' standings.
Unfortunately, her career came to a sudden halt at the end of 2018, when she was eyeing a step up to British F3: Mohnhaupt had in fact also contested a few rounds in British F4 between 2016 and 2017 – but a serious testing accident at Spa Francorchamps put her career on hold and she announced her retirement from competitions.
Five years later, Mohnhaupt was ready to make her surprise return behind the wheel: the 23-year-old Mexican sealed a deal with top team Ram Racing for her fourth season in NACAM F4 Championship, a few days ahead of the season opener at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
"I thought I would never say this again…I am thrilled to announce that I will be racing the F4 NACAM Championship with Ram Racing Team", Mohnhaupt announced on April 12th, 2023. "I am more than ready for my comeback to the racing tracks. Let’s do this!"
And as soon as the #5 Mygale F4 car hit the track, it was like she had never left.
"I arrived at the race weekend not knowing what to expect", Mohnhaupt told us after the weekend. "The goal of the team and myself was to test the car, pick up the pace and get used to everything again. However, from practice one I felt very comfortable."
"In practice one I managed to drive in third place, in practice two we tried a few things on the car and improved the time a lot. For qualifying, I could only do three laps and I qualified second."
It was soon clear that Alexandra would be battling at the top end of the field, as she topped the times in the second practice session and then lined up on the front row for Saturday's first race.
Pole sitter Pedro Juan Moreno (Ram Racing) had a good start, while Mohnhaupt was down to fifth after a small contact on the first lap. While still getting back into the rhythm, Mohnhaupt was not going to give up on a podium finish: she kept the pressure and, on lap 4, she had a better exit out of the final corner and made a move stick for third on Marco Alquicira – also immediately hunting down Cristian Cantu after the latter locked up his front tyres under pressure.
The two would battle wheel to wheel on lap 7, with Mohnhaupt taking second after a few switch-backs. A safety car on lap 10 neutralized the race – and allowed Mohnhaupt to close back in with race leader Juan Moreno, who had opened a small gap.
When the green flag waved again, Juan Moreno was late on the throttle and Cantu snatched second on the main straight. Mohnhaupt was faster, but couldn't eventually get back ahead on the final couple of laps. Colombian racer Pedro Juan Moreno took victory in the first race of the F4 NACAM season, as Alexandra Mohnhaupt secured a brilliant podium at her racing return.
"In the first race we had a small contact that sent us to fifth. I was analyzing everything and I was able to pass them to finish third." – she recalled.
The second race of the opening triple header at Mexico City turned out to be a Colombian lock-out. In an incident-filled race, Moreno started from fourth and soon moved up the order – but had to fight with Cantu for the lead. The two made contact but, despite a spin, Moreno could recover to take a back-to-back victory ahead of compatriot David Esteban Cardenas and Cristian Cantu.
Alexandra Mohnhaupt had an unfortunate race, having been hit by one of her competitors and ultimately retiring. But she had one more race to bounce back and showcase her racecraft.
From fourth on the grid, Mohnhaupt held position at the start, just behind Cristian Cantu, Juan Moreno and Marco Alquicira who fought for the lead after a close battle on the first lap. On lap 2, though, Mohnhaupt dropped to seventh after a scrap at turn 3.
Moreno pulled away but, 13 minutes into the race, he suffered a puncture and had to pit, handing over the lead to Cristian Cantu.
Alexandra Mohnhaput had pace and chased Arturo Flores, eventually passing him around the outside of the final corner. When the safety car was deployed to recover a stricken car, Mohnhaupt was already up to fourth – and grabbed third place on the final lap of the race, when Alquicira made a mistake at the restart.
Cantu took victory by 3 seconds, preceding Cardenas – who held on despite the pressure of Mohnhaupt, third and less than a second behind.
"For the third race, we went up positions and I took another podium in third place", Alexandra said, after stepping on the podium for the tenth time in her F4 career.
"I took two podiums out of three, both were in third place but I feel very proud of the results since I had not been in a racing car in five years and I was able to fight for the lead", she continued, at the end of a highly impressive return to competitions.
"Now I’m in fourth in the championship and I know we can fight for it and win it this year!"
The second round of the 2023 NACAM F3 Championship is scheduled in a month's time at Autodromo de Queretaro.