At the end of two unbelievably close qualifying sessions, Emely de Heus and Léna Bühler emerged as the two first-time pole sitters in F1 Academy, as Nerea Marti will start from pole in the reverse grid race.
F1 Academy has two new pole sitters, as Emely de Heus and Léna Bühler claimed their maiden pole positions in single seaters at the end of two incredibly close sessions.
De Heus put in a stunning lap towards the end of Q1 to secure pole position for race 1, 35 thousands of a second ahead of Sauber Academy junior Léna Buhler – who was again among the very front-runners in Q2, eventually scoring her maiden pole position by 93 thousands over Hamda Al Qubaisi.
Rodin Carlin’s Jessica Edgar and Megan Gilkes traded the top spot in the early minutes of Q1, as most drivers returned to the pits after an installation lap.
The first representative time came over 8 minutes into the session, when Abbi Pulling took the top of the timing screens with a 1:42.425.
One minute later, Hamda Al Qubaisi – who had finished both Friday practice sessions on top with a rather dominant performance – significantly improved and set a new benchmark of 1:41.800.
Abbi Pulling and Hamda Al Qubaisi were looking like the two drivers with the most chances to battle for pole, as both improved with a 1:41.584 and 1:41.486.
But it would be Emely de Heus to stun everyone with a 1:41.344 with less than 4 minutes left on the clock; Léna Bühler moved up to second in the closing stages, but the Swiss driver could not top De Heus by 0.035 of a second. Pulling and Al Qubaisi followed, with four cars covered by one tenth of a second.
De Heus, 20, is currently 14th in the driver standings after a few unlucky DNFs in the opening rounds, but had shown great pace on Friday at Barcelona as well, running close to the top five.
The current championship leader Marta Garcia will start fifth in race 1, after all the Prema team had struggled with understeer. Bianca Bustamante – who had a superb Friday – was just behind in sixth, 5 hundredths adrift, despite having recorded the fastest sector 1 overall.
Amna Al Qubaisi was seventh fastest – and will therefore share the front row of the grid of race 2 with Nerea Marti, whose eighth place will gain her the reverse grid pole.
The Campos Racing drivers all had a troubled session; Lola Lovinfosse was stationary in pit lane for most of the second half of the session and only went out with one minute to go, which wasn’t enough to set a lap time after she had her times deleted for track limits in her first attempt. Similarly, Maite Caceres also incurred in track limits and had her times deleted, but could set a 1:42.936 that put her in P14.
Carrie Schreiner was P9, ahead of ART Grand Prix teammate Chloe Grant. Megan Gilkes qualified in P11, but will have to serve a 3 place grid drop penalty after a last lap incident in Valencia two weeks ago. Chloe Chong will therefore move up to eleventh, with Jess Edgar and Maite Caceres also gaining a spot on the grid.
Edgar Schreiner and Lovinfosse all led the early stages of Q2, before nerea Marti posted a 1:41.516 midway through the 15-minute session.
The Spaniard was topped by three tenths by Abbi Pulling, whose best lap remained on top of the timing sheets for around one minute, when Hamda Al Qubaisi went for the first time under the 1:40 mark: the Emirati was again a strong contender for pole position, but she had to fight hard with the super quick Léna Bühler, who is definitely looking confident ahead of the Barcelona races after running at the front in all sessions.
Bühler in fact posted a 1:40.870 with three minutes to go that would remain unbeaten. The Sauber junior thus claimed pole position for Sunday’s race 3 – her first of her career in race cars.
Hamda Al Qubaisi followed 0.093 seconds behind, with Marta Garcia and Abbi Pulling also within one tenth. Amna Al Qubaisi – who had a brake bias issue in Q1 – was fifth in Q2, ahead of Emely de Heus. All three MP Motorsport cars are in fact in the top six.
Megan Gilkes had a strong second session to qualify seventh, as Marti was eighth fastest in both sessions.
Bianca Bustamante will line up on the fifth row alongside Lola Lovinfosse, while Carrie Schreiner, Chloe Grant and Chloe Chong were just outside the top ten, but merely one second adrift the pole lap. Maite Caceres rounded out the field, having again all her lap times deleted for track limits.
The first race of the weekend will get underway at 15:05 local time; with a few drivers looking to recover and the weather holding on, we might be in for another thrilling competition.