F1 Academy: Léna Bühler wins action-packed race 2 at Monza
Sauber Academy's Léna Bühler won an action-packed second race at Monza, preceding an equally impressive Bianca Bustamante by one tenth of a second. With a spectacularly consistent season Bühler joins the title fight.
Léna Bühler claimed her second win in F1 Academy after an action-packed Saturday at Monza, which saw two hectic races and two close finishes for the win across the finish line – in true Monza tradition.
The high-speed track is in fact notorious for its long straights and passing opportunities, which often provide great racing. Race 1 winner and championship leader Marta Garcia had extended her points margin in the early afternoon, capitalizing on a difficult race for main challenger Hamda Al Qubaisi.
With eighth in Q1 in the morning, her sister Amna had snatched her third reverse grid pole for the 20 minute race. Al Qubaisi was joined on the front row of the grid by Nerea Marti, who had been building speed in an overall difficult weekend for Campos Racing.
Megan Gilkes and Carrie Schreiner shared the second row of the grid – as the German driver had her car repaired in time after she was involved in the earlier big crash of her teammate Chloe Grant. Grant was released from the circuit medical centre with no major injuries, but she had to withdraw from the rest of the weekend.
Amna Al Qubaisi has been a strong contender in all reverse grid races this season and she was again looking good for another remarkable result after a good launch off the line.
Amna covered the inside from Marti and Schreiner – the latter having a brilliant getaway from fourth.
Marti and Gilkes ended up cutting the first chicane and the Spaniard, having to give the position back, slipped behind Schreiner as well. Bühler was following in fourth, as the Swiss driver leapfrogged Gilkes.
Marti passed Schreiner on the second lap at turn 1, with Bühler also closing in and eventually overtaking her ART GP teammate Schreiner on lap 3.
In another dramatic moment for the championship, Hamda Al Qubaisi came together with Megan Gilkes at turn 1 and spun; the Emirati dropped all the way down the field and, with no neutralizations, she had to chase the pack in order to start her recovery.
Bustamante and Pulling were meanwhile battling hard for fifth place – the Filipina showing great speed; despite the battle, they were able to join the front runners.
Positions changed again when Bühler passed Marti for second – but the Spaniard tried to fight back at the First Chicane and ended up hitting the race leader Amna Al Qubaisi, who spun and rejoined just ahead of her sister Hamda, way down the order.
Léna Bühler eventually completed a clean pass at Ascari to take the lead – followed by Schreiner at Parabolica – as Marti had picked up front wing damage and was struggling to defend. Bustamante emerged in third place, with Pulling also trying to clear Marti. In a drag race on the main straight, Bustamante made up another position and passed Schreiner, while Marti and de Heus almost came together at the chicane.
Bühler was already under pressure from Bustamante, while Schreiner and Pulling battled for the final step of the podium – 1 second further behind. Bianca, though, lost momentum and was soon caught by Carrie and Abbi – now in a four car fight for the win.
Nerea Marti was handed a drive through penalty for causing the contact with Amna Al Qubaisi and dropped out of the top ten.
With two laps to go Bustamante attacked Bühler at La Roggia chicane but had to take the escape road; she would hand back the position but, in a brilliant final lap, the leaders continued to follow each other closely.
Similarly to race 1, the race was eventually decided by a small margin across the finish line: Léna Bühler took her second win of the season, 1 tenth ahead of Bianca Bustamante – and three tenths ahead of Abbi Pulling, who had set the fastest lap of the race and edged Schreiner for the podium.
After her victory at Zandvoort, Schreiner has been consistently at the front and, despite being crashed out in race 1, she could salvage the day with a great performance in race 2.
Jessica Edgar was a bit more distant fifth, in yet another top five for the British racer, who gains significant points in the standings.
From eighth on the grid, Marta Garcia had a tricky race and finished sixth, still extending her lead over Al Qubaisi.
With a great recovery, Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi completed an amazing recovery drive to still finish in the points, with a seventh and eighth place. While the Emirati sisters were locked in battles in the final laps, they managed to catch back the pack and gained several positions.
Maite Caceres scored her best result of the season with ninth in race 2 – topping two tenth place finishes at Valencia and Zandvoort. Unfortunately she missed out on points due to the different point allocation for race 2, but the Uruguayan showed once again good improvements throughout the weekend.
A contact on the final lap for Lola Lovinfosse and Emely de Heus left the French racer with a broken front wing and the Dutchwoman off into the barrier at turn 4.
Megan Gilkes was the only retirement of the race.
After two races in Monza, Marta Garcia brought her gap from 5 to 24 points; Hamda Al Qubaisi’s unfortunate day – and Léna Bühler’s extraordinarily consistent season – is putting the Sauber Academy driver back in contention, as they are now separated by only 9 points.
Abbi Pulling’s podium means that the Alpine Academy member overtakes Nerea Marti by one point for fourth in the championship.
The third race is expected to be just as exciting: lights will go out at 09:00 on Sunday morning.