Euro 4: Aurelia Nobels recovers 7 positions in Monza race 1, escapes big crash in race 2
Aurelia Nobels bounced back from a difficult qualifying, recovering 7 positions in the Euro 4 Championship first race in Monza - but was then involved in a massive shunt in race 2 where she fortunately escaped injuries.
Aurelia Nobels endured a challenging weekend at Monza, for the second round of the brand-new Euro 4 Championship which is designed to be the continental Formula 4 series, gathering the best up-and-coming talents of the single seater scene.
Nobels, 16, is contesting her first season in Italian F4 with support from Ferrari Driver Academy, having won last year's edition of the FIA Girls On Track - Rising Stars programme. Amidst promising performances, Aurelia's season has often been hampered by unfortunate circumstances, as well as incidents with no fault of her own.
The Euro 4 Monza weekend was yet another proof, as the Prema Racing driver had her weekend cut short by a massive accident in the opening stages of race 2, when she was involved in a multiple-car pile up that sent her Tatuus upside down.
In a wet start of the weekend, Nobels placed P22 in the first practice session – then remained on the doorsteps of the top-20 in the second practice on a dry track, when she worked on the car's set-up ahead of Saturday's qualifying.
After the first 15 minutes of Q1, Aurelia recorded a 1:54.308 that put her in P22 for the grid of race 1; the Belgian-Brazilian was in fact out of position and couldn't maximise her speed after traffic in most of the session prevented her from setting a representative lap time.
Q2 had a similar outcome and Aurelia's 1:53.562 put her in P24 for race 2.
“Hard weekend here in Monza, starting from a very difficult qualifying with a lot of traffic" – Nobels commented. "I got only one push, which was the last one, so we had to start the races from the back."
Prema's Freddie Slater - at his first ever international single seater race - took pole position and battled with Tuukka Taponen at the start of race 1 – which gave US Racing's Kacper Sztuka the chance to snatch the lead of the race.
Just before a first safety car intervention for the accident of Nandhavud Bhirombhakdi, Aurelia Nobels had moved up to P21 on the opening lap.
The race was back under green with 19 minutes to go and it was again a matter of avoiding contacts in the midfield: Nobels picked up more positions and charged up to P18, as she chased fellow female racer Tina Hausmann right ahead.
Non-stop drama saw several front runners dropping out of contention, including Taponen – who pitted with damage – as well as Ugochukwu and Slater. Aurelia Nobels had solid pace and, with smart driving, she seized every opportunities to gain positions: having battled with Pedrini, De La Torre, Lund and Hausmann, Aurelia climbed the order up until P15, where she eventually crossed the finish line after a highly positive first race.
"The first race was quite positive starting from P22 and arriving in P15, starting well and doing some good moves in the battles", Aurelia said, after gaining 7 positions from the start. "I was really happy."
Her pace was promising ahead of Sunday's morning race 2, where Nobels aimed to repeat the charge up the order from the previous day.
From P24 on the grid, the FDA driver had a good start and gained a position over the first lap - which remained under green despite an accident involving Bhirombhakdi.
Showing good pace, Nobels joined a group of battling cars that included Lund, Olivieri, Deligny. Just ahead, Alfio Spina picked up rear suspension damage on lap 5 and, as his car crawled across the track, the Italian was collected by Enzo Deligny, Flavio Olivieri, Davide Larini and Aurelia Nobels, who ended her race upside down in a scary shunt. Aurelia luckily climbed out of the car and was promptly attended by the medical team, as the safety car was deployed.
"I was confident for race 2 starting P24", she explained. "I had a great start and a very good pace. Unfortunately, on lap 5 I had a crash in the first chicane. I could not enter race 3 for precaution and now we will focus on recovering for Mugello.”
Nobels, who had pain in her right hand, fortunately escaped injuries, but sat out the third contest of the weekend out of precaution.
While her streak of bad luck continued, a positive first race with many positions gained and good battles remains as a positive take-away from the Euro 4 Monza weekend, as Nobels will now turn her focus to the penultimate round of the Italian F4 Championship in Mugello in two weeks' time, on 29 September–1 October.