F1 Academy: Marta García dominates qualifying on home soil
Unstoppable on home soil: F1 Academy early championship leader Marta García swept the qualifying at Valencia, claiming her fourth pole position of the season.
Marta García swept qualifying at her home track in Valencia, conquering two pole positions in Q1 and Q2 – which will shape the grid for the two 30-minute races.
García has therefore claimed pole position in each qualifying session since the start of the series.
As qualifying went green, Chloe Chong was the early pace setter, before Hamda Al Qubaisi caught up and topped the times with a new benchmark. Midway through the 15 minute session, Alpine driver Abbi Pulling was the new pace-setter and it was looking good for Rodin Carlin, until Marta García completed her first representative lap quite late in the session, having mostly waited in the pits until the final 5 minutes.
It only took two laps for García to move into provisional pole, and then further improved on her last run to set a 1:34.802 that resulted in her third pole position in a row. Behind the Valencian, Bianca Bustamante will again start from the first row after another brilliant performance by the Filipina. Bustamante was two tenths off her teammate, and could safely stay ahead of Abbi Pulling once the latter returned to the pits before the chequered flag.
Nerea Martí – who had topped free practice in the morning and is one of the favourites also at her home track – couldn’t find those last tenths to eventually battle for pole with her compatriot, but will still start from the second row in fourth.
Hamda Al Qubaisi didn’t get to qualify in Austria, but showed that she has speed to stay at the front: the young Emirati will line up in fifth place, alongide Léna Bühler – the Swiss driver losing some running time in the first half of the session for a technical issue then promptly fixed by the team.
Chloe Grant had a good run in seventh – having also shown promising pace in testing on Thursday – and will share the front row of the reverse-grid race with Emely de Heus: eighth in Q1, the Dutchwoman secured her first pole position in race cars.
Maite Caceres was ninth, eighth tenths from pole in a highly positive progression for the Uruguayan on a track that she knows. Schreiner rounded out the top ten, ahead of a disappointed Amna Al Qubaisi, who had a tyre pressure issues.
Megan Gilkes, Jessica Edgar and Chloe Chong were barely over the one second gap – as the whole field continues to be extremely close.
Lola Lovinfosse’s #2 Campos Racing car had a technical problem and didn’t get to set a lap, as mechanics worked on the Tatuus F4 car without engine cover.
A few minutes later, lights turned green at the end of the pitlane for the second session, which would set the grid for the second 30-minute race 3 on Sunday.
Emely de Heus was the first driver to set a lap, but it would be her MP Motorsport’s teammate Hamda Al Qubaisi to grab the lead and hold on to it for most of the first part of the session.
Hamda traded positions with Pulling, who remains one of the drivers to beat. Al Qubaisi improved further – but the Prema of Marta García again displaced everyone with a 1:34.489 that won her the fourth pole position of her F1 Academy season, in just as many sessions.
Al Qubaisi set good sector times and eventually ended only 88 thousands of a second behind the Spaniard, which will still allow the Emirati to start from the front row on Sunday, on a track where it is clearly more difficult to pass than the Austrian one.
Léna Buhler put on a great lap to edge Abbi Pulling for third – the Swiss driver having consistently ran within the top five so far at Valencia.
Bianca Bustamante was a close fifth, ahead of Nerea Martí and Jessica Edgar – with 7 cars within half a second.
With eighth place, Carrie Schreiner is now a steady presence in the top ten; the German preceded Emely de Heus and Chloe Grant. Second in the championship standings, Amna Al Qubaisi will have some work to do as she is set to start all three races from P11 in order to bag as many points as possible and limit the damages from today’s issue.
Maite Caceres will start in P12, ahead of Campos Racing’s teammate Lola Lovinfosse, Megan Gilkes and Chloe Chong.
With track limits being possibly the biggest talking point in between practice sessions and just before qualifying, results remain provisional as the race direction is reviewing all on-board cameras post-session.
On Saturday, drivers will battle out for the first two races of the weekend – the 30 minute race 1 and the shorter 20-minute race 2 – at 12:10 local and 16:10 respectively.