F1 Academy: Marta García wins the Valencian duel
Updated: May 8
Marta García turned around her weekend with a her third win of the F1 Academy season, after a brilliant duel with fellow Valencian Nerea Martí.
Marta García emerged as the winner in an all-Valencian battle for the win at Circuito Ricardo Tormo, after the championship leader held off a fast Nerea Martí – the latter having to settle for second after her second podium of the weekend.
The grid of race 3 - one of the two 30-minutes contests that award the most points - was shuffled by an avalanche of track limits penalties on Friday night, when on board cameras from every car were reviewed by race direction.
Marta García- who had lost pole position for race 1 - retained the top spot for race 3, and would share the front row for the first time this year with Abbi Pulling, following the cancellation of all lap times for Hamda Al Qubaisi.
Coming off some unbelievably unfortunate first two round, Pulling finally had the chance to start from the front, aiming for her first podium.
At the start of Sunday’s race - in scorching temperatures - García had a perfect launch and fired into the lead, followed by Nerea Martí, who managed to get ahead of Pulling, also under pressure from Bühler. It was soon clear that García and Martí would be the duel for the win, as the two local heroes were unreachable for everyone else’s pace.
Emely de Heus had a difficult start and dropped down the order, while Hamda Al Qubaisi - race winner of race 1 - was determined to make up ground quickly; with a blistering start, Hamda was already up to ninth at the end of the first lap.
From sixth on the grid, Chloe Grant also had a great launch and advanced to fifth, where she would stay for the remainder of the race.
Amna Al Qubaisi was also on the move and the Emirati overtook Jessica Edgar for sixth, as the British driver lost momentum and was also passed by Lola Lovinfosse and Hamda Al Qubaisi.
García tried to stretch her legs and set the fastest time to open a small gap to Martí, who also had a couple of seconds margin over the battling Pulling and Bühler.
Behind them, the midfield was highly competitive, with group of cars trading positions at each lap.
Lovinfosse and Amna Al Qubaisi went wheel to wheel in more than an occasion; the Frenchwoman eventually got the position. Edgar, Gilkes, Caceres, Bustamante – who had recovered to 12th – De Heus, Schreiner and Chong were also engaged in close battles. Edgar had to pit, having been shown the black and orange flag for wing damage.
Schreiner and de Heus went side by side multiple times, but always kept it clean.
Bustamante also made a great move stick in Gilkes after a long fight.
On lap 7, Hamda Al Qubaisi found a way past her sister - who has been working together with her sister since the opening round at Spielberg, facilitating the pass once Hamda was faster.
Just as Marta García seemed to have checked out, Nerea Martí responded with the fastest lap and got closer again.
Everything was still to play for though, as on lap 12 Lola Lovinfosse spun at turn one, as she was attacking Chloe Grant for fifth.
Lovinfosse was having a brilliant race, but her Campos #2 Tatuus was stuck into the gravel trap and she had to retire. The incident brought out the Safety Car.
In the final four laps under green flag, Marta García had to defend from the charging Nerea Martí, in an exciting duel for the win that brought the Spanish fans in their feet.
García held on, and secured her third win of the season in an action packed third race in Valencia. The Prema racer is the only driver to have claimed more than one victory so far.
Nerea Martí was a convincing second, making up for the disappointment of Saturday afternoon, where an engine issue prevented her from taking the start. With two second place finishes in the second round, Nerea now moves into third place of the championship standings.
Abbi Pulling brought home a hard-fought first podium of her season, having endured big pressure from Léna Bühler throughout the race. The Sauber Academy driver had a superb weekend, claiming two podiums and a fourth place. She now moves up to fourth, with 51 points.
Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi were fifth and sixth, after a track limit time penalty hit Chloe Grant in the closing stages. With the safety car intervention, Grant dropped all the down to P11.
From the back of the pack, Hamda Al Qubaisi was again protagonists of one of her recovery drives, scoring important points.
Bianca Bustamante had a clean race, made good passes and came home with a positive seventh place after losing all her laps in qualifying. The race 2 winner is clearly making progress and is now sixth on the points tally, three points ahead of Abbi Pulling.
Despite a highly unfortunate weekend, Schreiner bagged some points with an eighth place in race 3, ahead of Jessica Edgar - who recovered from last after the safety car restart - and Emely de Heus, in the top 10.
Chloe Grant and Maite Caceres missed out on points - but the Uruguayan had shown a huge step forward at Valencia, always battling on pace with the pack.
Megan Gilkes and Chloe Chong had an unfortunate contact on the last lap, as Chong went for a move and Gilkes closed the door, eventually ending both drivers’ races in the gravel at turn 1.
With six races now in the books, the F1 Academy championship sees Marta García on top with 96 points, 25 clear of Hamda Al Qubaisi, now the closest contender.
After a mid-week collective test at Valencia on Tuesday and Wednesday, racing will resume in two weeks’ time at Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona.