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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Double top-15 for Sophia Floersch at Imola

"These are decent results, and we had some good lap times" - Sophia Floersch enjoyed an excellent weekend in FIA F3 at Imola, showing great race pace to claim a best result of 12th. Using her experience to gain 12 positions across the two races, Sophia aims to build up momentum for the remainder of the season.

Sophia Floersch, Van Amersfoort Racing, Alpine Academy, FIA F3, 2024
Photo credits: Sophia Floersch

Sophia Floersch enjoyed an excellent weekend in the FIA Formula 3 Championship at Imola. The Alpine Academy driver showed superb race pace to claim a best result of 12th in race two. Floersch was also running in 12th place during race one, until a late virtual safety car period saw her finish in 15th. Nonetheless, it was a brilliant weekend for Sophia who used her experience to gain 12 positions across the two races and build up momentum for the remainder of the season.

Imola has traditionally been a strong circuit for Sophia and therefore this weekend was the perfect opportunity for the Van Amersvoort Racing driver to bounce back from a challenging start to the season.

The Italian track was the site of her best finish in the Formula Regional European Series, but this would be her first start at the circuit in FIA Formula 3. Floersch has shown promise in the opening two rounds of the season but has suffered from a large slice of misfortune with these setbacks leading to a best result of 19th at Albert Park in Melbourne.

Starting the event on a positive note would be vital to a strong weekend and Sophia’s times in the early stages of practice were encouraging. In a disrupted session with red flags for both Sebastian Montoya and Piotr Wisnicki, Floersch completed 12 laps, the most of any driver, setting a quick time of a 1:33.318. With this lap just half a second away from a top-10 position, qualifying was set to be an equally close session.

Managing both tyre preparation and traffic was the key to a fast qualifying lap, with the close confines of the Imola circuit adding to the challenge. Rodin Motorsport driver Callum Voisin brought out a red flag during the opening run with Sophia sitting around the top-20. Following the mid-session tyre change, Floersch was looking to make progress and showed excellent speed in the final sector especially.

 At the end of the session, the Van Amersvoort Racing driver’s best lap time of a 1:33.046 placed her 21st. Following the disqualification of MP Motorsport driver Alex Dunne and a penalty for Voisin, Floersch would line up 19th for race one.

Sophia made an excellent start to race one, moving up to 17th position at the end of lap one while negotiating the stalled car of Martinius Stenshorne off the line. The safety car was quickly deployed as Campos Racing’s Mari Boya was in the gravel, leading to a neutralisation period. As the racing got back underway, Floersch was poised to make up ground and she overtook fellow Alpine Academy driver Nikola Tsolov, before the safety car was called for once again.

Now in 16th position, Floersch was edging her way closer to a points paying position and her quest for a season’s best result was made easier as Sami Meguetounif found the gravel. Also moving ahead of Matias Zagazeta, Sophia was up to 14th position as a third safety car period took the race beyond the halfway mark. Out front, Floersch’s Van Amersvoort Racing teammate Noel Leon was in control of the race and was timing his restarts well to maintain his advantage.

Sophia was keen to replicate this and was on the gearbox of Christian Mansell at the next restart, shaping for a move into the opening chicane. Her attack on the ART Grand Prix racer was thwarted by a fourth safety car period, with this stoppage lasting for just one lap.

Maintaining her composure despite the rhythm of the race being lost, Floersch was once again challenging Mansell as the race got back underway. Sophia did an excellent job to place pressure on her rival which saw him fall out of DRS range of the car ahead. As a result, the Alpine Academy driver was able to close in further and made a superb pass for 13th position on the penultimate lap, with Floersch later gaining 12th following an incident for Luke Browning.

Sophia looked set to claim a fantastic result in light of the limited green flag running, when a virtual safety car was initiated on the final lap. As the drivers were released from the delta time, Floersch lost out to Mansell, Tsolov and Alex Dunne, taking the checkered flag in 15th position. Nonetheless, it was still a season’s best result for Floersch who drove superbly to make her way up the order.

Race two of the weekend began on Sunday morning with Sophia starting 20th position. It was another excellent start as placed her car well to move up to 19th as the power of the DRS kept the cars in close proximity. It was important for Floersch to focus forward in the early stages as a number of fast cars would be charging from the rear of the field. Callum Voisin was directly ahead and the Rodin Motorsport driver mounted a challenge on Charlie Wurz, allowing Sophia to follow through and move into 18th by the end of lap four.

Maintaining momentum was important to move forward, however with Matias Zagazeta, Mari Boya and Wurz now overtaking Sophia, she was fighting hard to regain this energy. A fantastic side-by-side battle with Boya and Wurz initially demoted Floersch to 20th on lap nine, however she completed the lap in 18th following an overtake on Zagazeta and a puncture for Nikita Bedrin.

On lap 10, Sebastian Montoya moved ahead with Sophia aiming to follow the Campos Racing driver through the field as he was setting lap times which matched the leaders. Using her experience in regard to tyre management, Sophia now began to gain significant time on her rivals. First passing Voisin and then Wurz, ART Grand Prix driver Christian Mansell was the next target. On lap 15, she overtook the Australian before making a superb move on Red Bull Junior driver Kacper Sztuka.

Following the move on Sztuka, Sophia set the fastest middle sector time of any driver on that lap to underline her pace. Both Floersch and Montoya were consistently the quickest drivers on track at this stage and were effectively moving through the field, with teammate Noel Leon the next target for Sophia. Leon had a ten-second time penalty for an earlier incident, therefore it was not paramount to pass the fellow Van Amersvoort Racing driver.

Leon had meanwhile passed Laurens Van Hoepen and this allowed Floersch to line up a pass on the Dutch driver. This was an important move for position and Sophia completed it on the final lap of the race to move into 14th position. Taking the checkered flag in 14th, Floersch was promoted to 12th following penalties for Leon and Martinius Stenshorne, with Sophia doing a great job to remain within ten seconds of the Norwegian driver despite focusing on overtaking on-track.

It was an excellent weekend for Floersch at Imola as she kickstarted her FIA Formula 3 season with two superb races. The nature of the races was vastly different, with the first featuring a number of short restarts, whereas race two ran under green flag conditions from lights to flag. This highlighted Sophia’s versatility as a racer as she achieved season’s best results in both instances.

“Overall, the weekend in Imola was positive", Sophia said. "Even though small details put us in 20th at the end of Qualifying, which was a shame, we still showed the improvement in pace and good race craft across both Saturday and Sunday to finish 15th and 12th respectively."

"These are decent results, and we had some good lap times. In the end we need to improve on the short run performance to give us the results we want.

I am excited to head to Monaco this coming weekend and get straight back into racing.”

Her tyre management in race two was particularly impressive as she charged through the field and ran lap times which often compared to the leaders. The next challenge for the FIA Formula 3 drivers will be contrasting as they visit Circuit de Monaco on the weekend of 25th/26th May.



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