F1 Academy: Léna Bühler tops shortened FP2 in Zandvoort
Sauber junior Léna Bühler ended Friday on top of the timing sheets after a shortened F1 Academy second practice session at Zandvoort, three tenths faster than Jessica Edgar and Nerea Martí - who had traded positions at the top in the final minute of the session.
Léna Bühler ended day 1 at Zandvoort on top of the leaderboard after a shortened second practice session that saw drivers alternating in the lead throughout the final minutes.
The 40 minute session was in fact initially delayed from 16:55 to 17:35 local time, and eventually shortened to a 15 minute session due to track repair at Turn 3 following an accident in the Porsche Carrera Cup Benelux free practice.
The Swiss driver, part of the Sauber Academy, carries momentum after scoring her first pole position and her first victory in Barcelona. With four podiums, Bühler is now third in the championship standings, at the half-way point of the season.
When the green flag was waved for the almost qualifying simulation session, drivers completed all an installation lap before going back out on track. Hamda Al Qubaisi took the top of the timesheets with an already competitive 1:38.170 at her first timed lap, followed by her sister Amna. The ART GP duo of Chloe Grant and Carrie Schreiner were the next drivers to set representative times, but it would be once again Abbi Pulling to slot into second place as the closest driver to Al Qubaisi - who had meanwhile once again clocked a sub-1:38 lap with a fastest third sector.
Léna Bühler and Bianca Bustamante improved Hamda's final sector but were fourth and fifth.
With 3 minutes left on the clock, Jessica Edgar fired at the top of the leaderboard - but her time was then topped in rapid succession by Léna Bühler and Nerea Martí - the latter recording the overall best second sector.
Hamda Al Qubaisi further improved but was second fastest, two tenths off Buhler; positions at the top changed by the second and Nerea Martí was able to grab the top spot - only to be demoted in the final seconds by Jessica Edgar and Léna Bühler once again, who set a 1:36.689 - the first lap of the weekend in the 1:36s - three tenths faster than Edgar and Martí.
"I feel quite good, the car is really good and I'm happy to finish in P1 - I hope to do the same tomorrow for quali", Bühler commented, on her second visit at the Zandvoort circuit, but first in F4 machinery.
Marti's final attempt was 13 thousands off her previous benchmark and had to settle in third, with Edgar showing impressive speed after her breakthrough podium at the season opener.
After a promising morning session in sixth, Chloe Grant made further steps forward and was fourth fastest, ahead of Bianca Bustamante. The Filipina was the fastest of the Prema drivers throughout the session and moved into the top five on her final flying lap, beating Rodin Carlin's Abbi Pulling.
Fifth in the morning, championship leader Marta García was seventh in the shortened second practice - just ahead of Hamda Al Qubaisi. The Emirati was looking strong for another top three but despite the fastest first sector overall, she couldn't improve further from eighth in the hectic final stages.
Carrie Schreiner was back in the top 10 after an equally strong first session, with Lola Lovinfosse in tenth - within one second to the top. MP Motorsport teammates Emely de Heus and Amna Al Qubaisi were P11 and P12, ahead of Megan Gilkes and Chloe Chong - who both improved by over one second from FP1. Mercantile Campos Racing's driver Maite Caceres also improved by 1.3 seconds from her morning personal best.
With gaps in the thousands of seconds across the field, the battle for pole position is shaping up to be another exciting contest: Q1 is set to get underway at 08:00 local time, while the second 15 minute qualifying session that will shape the grid of race 3 will follow at 08:20.