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Doriane Pin kicks off F1 Academy season with fastest time around Jeddah

Doriane Pin led the sole practice session at Jeddah for the 2024 F1 Academy season opener and was the only driver to lap under the 2:05 mark, preceding Abbi Pulling and an impressive Lia Block.


Doriane Pin, Prema Racing, F1 Academy
Photo courtesy: Prema Racing

Highly anticipated Mercedes AMG junior Doriane Pin led the Jeddah practice session, improving on the testing fastest lap around the Saudi street circuit and establishing herself as the driver to beat, although Abbi Pulling - who had been fastest two weeks ago - followed at a short distance.


The first and only practice of the weekend kicked off the 2024 F1 Academy season - the second ever in the series' history. Amidst many changes to the format, the most obvious one is clearly the stepped up involvement of the F1 teams, now each supporting at least one driver. 10 drivers are now sporting F1-inspired liveries, with several of them having joined the team's junior programs.


The calendar has now also fully aligned with F1, in another major change from last year. This represents an important development for the drivers' exposure, who now get to race under the eyes of F1 teams and audience as well as a significant TV broadcast in over 160 territories globally; at the same time, the weekend track time has taken a significant hit, with one race, one qualifying and, at least on the first weekend, one practice being axed.


Testing at Barcelona and Jeddah offered a glimpse of the upcoming season, but with teams completing different programs, it would only be the first round this weekend to provide a real picture, albeit on an unconventional track by F4 standards, where most of the field would have previous experience.


When the green flag waved, Doriane Pin set the early pace, running close to the 2:05 pace on her first timed lap, just ahead of Bianca Bustamante and Abbi Pulling - both among the fastest in last week's tests, with already respectable times. The Mercedes driver soon took away almost half a second and continued to set purple sectors, as Pulling and Marti followed. The Alpine driver - who's always showcased extraordinary skills on street tracks - was the closest pursuer as the Brit went under the 2:06 mark.


Lia Block - just entering her fourth ever racing weekend in a formula car - was the first driver to spin on track, but rejoined promptly - as also Amna Al Qubaisi explored the limits of the track.


After the first runs, Pin led Pulling, Marti, Weug and Lovinfosse - who had put the Charlotte Tilbury-liveried Rodin car in the top five ahead of Chloe Chambers and Bianca Bustamante as the session reached its mid-way point. Drivers went out for the second run with 10 minutes to go - and Pulling set the new fastest first sector, clocking a 2:05.441 which was soon topped by Pin's 2:04.895, a new fastest ever lap around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit for a F4 car by almost a tenth of a second.


Half a second clear, Pin had over a second margin to Marti and Weug in third and fourth. Lia Block moved up to fifth with a strong lap - and Lovinfosse impressed with third with three minutes to go. Doriane Pin moved again the benchmark, but Pulling closed in with a 2:05.161 as the session entered its final minutes. Both Nerea Marti and Maya Weug improved - but were demoted by the impressive Lia Block, who's 2:06.646 put the Williams Academy driver in third.


Lola Lovinfosse held sixth at the chequered flag and preceded Carrie Schreiner, in an equally positive first session for the German. Tina Hausmann - who had a moment on a kerb on her final push lap - was ninth fastest, while race winner Jessica Edgar completed the top ten. Amna Al Qubaisi, Aurelia Nobels and Bianca Bustamante followed just outside the top-10, one and a half second off.


MP Motorsport's Emely de Heus - sporting a Red Bull/Ford livery for the first time that highlights the new partnership - and Hamda Al Qubaisi were P13 and P14 respectively. The Emirati is the most winning female driver in F4 ever and was third in the championship standings last year; technical issues in pre-season testing hindered her preparation - and the Saudi practice made for another difficult session for one of the title favourites.


Wild card entry Reema Juffali - at her first single seater weekend since her 2021 GB3 campaign - was 16th, albeit not far behind the rest of the field. The established GT racer and team owner of Theeba Motorsport is in fact the first ever F1 Academy wild card entry and will contest the home race in the fourth Prema car.


Practice times, though, will have to take into account the tyre set limitations and very different conditions to this evening's qualifying, which will be contested in night time.

Each car has in fact 3,5 sets of new Pirelli tyres throughout the weekend and tyre strategy and management will play a role over the race meeting.

Qualifying will get underway at 21:30 local time and will see a single session setting the grid for both race 1 and race 2, unlike last year's separate sessions.

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