Jessica Edgar clinches maiden win at F1 Academy season finale
Jessica Edgar has secured her first ever victory in car racing - and she did so at the very final race of the F1 Academy season, leading from lights to flag in a dominant run that represents a breakthrough moment for the career of the 18 year old British racer.
Jessica Edgar has secured her first ever victory in car racing – and she did so at the very final race of the F1 Academy season, leading from lights to flag in a dominant run that represents a breakthrough moment for the career of the 18 year old British racer. Edgar, at her second season of competitions in single seaters after graduating from karting, entered the inaugural F1 Academy campaign as one of the least experienced drivers on the field but showed outstanding improvements and racecraft that gained her four podiums and her first success. 21 races, six months of exciting action across seven race weekends and six countries: 8 different winners, 11 drivers finished on the podium, three drivers fighting for the title until the final round. A sterling inaugural season of the all-female championship promoted by F1 came to an end at Circuit of the Americas, with yet another nail-biting contest that saw some of the most promising female talents sharing the paddock for the first time with F1. While Marta García, 23, had secured the title after her race 1 victory, the remaining races were not short of action either, as there were plenty of interesting battles throughout the field: Léna Bühler and Hamda Al Qubaisi would be fighting for the runner up spot, as well as several drivers behind had chances to finish the season in the top five. On Friday afternoon, Jessica Edgar was the star of the day, having led the second practice session and then went on to beat Marta García in Q2 after a flawless final run. She would share the front row with the newly-crowned champion, ahead of Nerea Martí and Léna Bühler – and with the top three covered by less than one tenth of a second. The 15 drivers lined up on the grid in colder conditions compared to Saturday, as the fog slightly dissipated up the hill of the iconic first corner just before the green flag for the formation lap. Garcia had a good start and Edgar immediately had to cover the inside – but both had to deal with the blistering launch of Nerea Martí, who fired into second place and tried to attack Edgar in the first sector. Jessica, though, managed to hold onto the lead after the first lap and preceded the Valencian duo of Martí and García, with Bühler and Al Qubaisi following behind. The race 2 winner had in fact gained a position at the start. Also the protagonist of a great start, Chloe Chong held seventh, just behind Abbi Pulling. The latter opened a small gap and tried to chase the top five after a difficult getaway. Bianca Bustamante – who had a clutch issue in race 2 and had to complete a spectacular recovery drive – was again slow off the line and dropped to P12. De Heus found a way past Chong for seventh on the second lap - after the latter was on used tyres – and Grant was also close behind. While Nerea Martí seemed initially able to put pressure on Edgar, the Rodin Carlin driver slowly started to pull away and set the fastest lap of the race on lap 5, extending her margin to over a second to Martí and García. Bustamante was also faster than some other cars and closed in on Lovinfosse. Behind them, Megan Gilkes was aiming to make the most out of her final race of her professional career before moving on to an engineering role at Aston Martin F1 Team: the Canadian attacked Maite Caceres and the two traded positions. After an incredible wheel to wheel duel on the back straight, Caceres defended and held off the rival; Gilkes attempted again at turn 1, but the Uruguayan had a tighter line and was soon back ahead. Gilkes eventually managed to secure 13th place on lap 8. Further ahead, the fight for fourth also heated up: Hamda Al Qubaisi was glued to the back of the Sauber-liveried ART Grand Prix car of Léna Bühler, but the Swiss was never under threat. Just as positions seemed settled, it would be Amna Al Qubaisi to shake up the order, as the Emirati driver overtook Lola Lovinfosse with a brilliant pass, but then ran wide at turn 1, handing another chance to Lovinfosse to switch back: a side by side battle followed through the esses and Amna was through once again. Bustamante tried to join the party and, having temporarily passed the Frenchwoman, the two made contact and spun at turn 15. Lovinfosse received a 5 second penalty for the collision. With two laps to go, García increased her pressure over Martí – who was struggling with some oversteer – but it wasn't ultimately enough to demote her compatriot. In a superbly controlled performance, Jessica Edgar claimed her first ever win in single seaters, in one of the biggest races of her career so far. Edgar scored 42 points over the US GP weekend - the most of anyone – and moved up to eighth in the championship standings. The young British driver is aiming to return to F1 Academy for a second season. With second place, Nerea Martí edged Abbi Pulling in the battle for fourth in the standings: the Spaniard finishes 7 points ahead despite losing P4 in race 1 to a post race penalty. Marta García was third and finished the season on a high; her 12th podium wasn't enough to grab the record for the most top three this year, who went to Léna Bühler: the Sauber junior in fact stepped on the rostrum 13th times and signed off her F1 Academy season with the Vice-Champion title. Fifth across the line, Hamda Al Qubaisi also completed a widely positive season – made even more incredible by her recovery from the arm injury at the start of the season. The Emirati is the only driver other than García to have won more than two races. Abbi Pulling was sixth and preceded by over ten seconds Emely de Heus – who returned in the points-paying position after five races. It was by far Chloe Chong's best weekend of the season: the 16-year-old and youngest driver on the grid had her most competitive qualifying and went on to score points in all three races, adding a seventh place in race 3 that allows the Prema Racing team to secure the team's championship. The British-Canadian racer doubled her points in just one weekend: having entered the season finale with 12 points, she will leave Austin with 25 in her very first season of car racing. Chloe Grant was also back in the points with a solid P9, and preceded Amna Al Qubaisi in tenth. It was a valuable point for Amna, as it allowed the two time race winner to keep sixth in the championship standings from Bianca Bustamante. Megan Gilkes rounded out her professional racing career with a positive P11, having battled elbows out with Maite Caceres; at her first season of international motorsport, Caceres showed great progression, often improving several seconds throughout the race meetings. Bustamante was unfortunately out of the points in P13 – but the Filipino star will have more opportunities next year, having been already announced as the McLaren representative at ART Grand Prix. Carrie Schreiner and Lola Lovinfosse concluded the field of race three, although the 18 year old Frenchwoman finishes tenth in the championship standings thanks to 13 point-scoring races and three podiums. Although the Circuit of the Americas round was the first to be televised, the 2023 F1 Academy season has featured some amazing racing action in a highly competitive field; the junior series is now set to join permanently the F1 support bill from 2024, inevitably gaining traction and popularity. Many stories emerged from the inaugural year – and many more are waiting to be told.