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F1 Academy: Monza preview

F1 Academy starts its second half of the season at the Temple of Speed; here are a few notes ahead of the Italian round, as the title fight gets exciting.

Photo by: Racers - Behind the Helmet

The inaugural F1 Academy championship is about to start its second half of the season, as drivers gear up for the fifth round at the Temple of Speed.

A circuit so filled with motorsport history breathing through its tarmac and so peculiar with its high-speed configuration that is often among the highest rated from drivers and fans alike.

F1 Academy heads to Monza with an exciting title battle – re-opened after the latest round at Zandvoort, where Hamda Al Qubaisi mowed down the gap to Marta Garcia from 41 to 5 points in a single weekend.

Racing alongside FIA WEC, F1 Academy is certainly in for another action-packed weekend at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, with several drivers climbing the ranks or redeeming themselves after unlucky races. At the same, the two main championship contenders will need more points to keep up their title runs: Marta Garcia visits the home of the Italian GP for the first time in her career – surprisingly – but will have the support of Prema Racing, arguably the team with the most experience and data around the 5.793 km track located in the middle of the biggest public park in Europe.

Prema has been dominant in Italian Formula 4 in the last few years and this is possibly expected to mitigate Marta’s lack of experience on this particular circuit. Her rival Hamda Al Qubaisi is on a mission and seems mentally very strong after her dominant Dutch weekend. Hamda has plenty of experience at Monza, having raced three times at Monza in F4 and one in Formula Regional. Al Qubaisi has historically been fast at Monza, having also scored points twice in the uber-competitive Italian series.

MP Motorsport lead the teams’ standings with all three drivers having already collected at least a race win. It will not be an easy weekend for the Dutch squad following the loss of Dilano van’t Hoff last week at Spa, but the team, racing in his honor, is focused on maintaining the lead over home team Prema.

Léna Bühler is currently third in the standings and also has raced at Monza before, albeit in FRECA. Both Nerea Marti and Abbi Pulling race here for the first time – as the battle for the top 8 positions is heating up.

Among them is Bianca Bustamante, who has tested here on a few occasions and showed good speed. The Filipina often mentions Monza as the track that she had looked forward the most on the calendar and, while she doesn’t want to put too much pressure on herself, she’s clearly eyeing another podium finish.

The Monza layout might also suit Carrie Schreiner – after the German racer collected a spectacular win in Zandvoort’s second race. Carrie has contested the Italian GT championship in 2021 and might have learnt a few secrets of the track – which might only look easy due to the few corners but that is actually a very technical circuit where time can be made or lost easily.

Lola Lovinfosse will have to serve a three place grid penalty on the grid of race one due to a contact in Zandvoort’s third race, but the young Frenchwoman might be another driver to watch. The Campos driver has been one of the best overtaker of the season so far, with great passes at Valencia, Barcelona and Zandvoort – all tracks famously not easy to overtake on – and eyes a good qualifying in order to start further up the order and better capitalize on her speed.

While she was unlucky with technical issues in the two Spanish rounds, Lovinfosse now says she has been working on improving her one lap confidence and risk-taking attitude coming into the next qualifyings.

Qualifying strategy is notoriously crucial at Monza, with slipstream playing a huge factor. We might potentially see team work from several drivers – but the nature of the track also provides several overtaking opportunities. Running in the pack and making the move at the right time will be the secret to win this weekend, with tyre degradation likely playing a minor role compared to circuits like Barcelona and Valencia, as confirmed on Thursday by the drivers.

After a downpour on Thursday morning, weather is forecasted to be sunny and hot for the rest of the weekend. Drivers will hit the track on Friday morning for the first practice session at 10:00 local time, followed by a second 40 minute session at 15:40. Saturday is expected to be the busiest day, with two qualifying sessions – respectively at 09:00 and 09:20 – and two races in the afternoon: the longer Race 1 will go green at 12:55, while the reverse grid 20-minute race will start at 18:40.

Sunday morning’s third race is scheduled for 09:00 – as the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Monza will take the stage later in the day.



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