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F4 Spain: Stellar recovery drives for Lia Block at Le Castellet

Lia Block enjoyed her best weekend in Spanish F4 to date with a remarkable performance at Circuit Paul Ricard, recovering 32 positions across three races to achieve her personal best finish of 17th, showcasing significant progress in the highly-competitive series.

Lia Block, GRS Team, Spanish Formula 4 Championship, 2024 Le Castellet
Photo credits: GRS Team

Lia Block enjoyed by far her best weekend in single seaters with a remarkable showing at Circuit Paul Ricard, which hosted the third round of the Spanish Formula 4 Championship.

The 17 year old Williams Academy driver bounced back from an extremely close qualifying, which saw 35 cars in a little over one and a half second, to recover an impressive 32 positions throughout the weekend. This feat secured her a personal best finish in the series, placing 17th in race 1.

Block, who previously raced in off-road competitions and only transitioned to single seaters at the beginning of the season, has made enormous progression over the first half of the year, having made her F4 debut in the highly-competitive Formula Winter Series with Spanish team GRS before joining the all-female F1 Academy championship.

Representing Williams Racing, Block steadily improved over the first F1 Academy weekends, showing particularly positive qualifying performances. At the second round in Miami, the American scored her first point with a tenth place in race 2, then made a further step forward at Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, on a track where she had tested before. She was twice in the points and topped her personal best finish with a sixth place.

At the same time, Block maximized her track time with additional outings in the competitive Spanish F4 series, joining the grid from the second round at Portimao. Competing in the closely-contested midfield, her best finish was 25th in Race 2.

A month later, Lia headed to Circuit Paul Ricard, one of Europe's most renowned circuits, for the third round of the Spanish F4 - which returned to the South of France for the first time since 2021- aiming to further develop her skills in F4 machinery.

In an incredibly tight 35-car field where everyone was within 2 seconds in practice, Lia was right in the mix, improving after each session. In the first qualifying session, she set a lap time of 2:07.660, later improving to 2:07.397, securing P32. Matteo Colnaghi took pole, followed by Keanu Al Azhari.

Due to a few post-qualifying penalties, Block started the race from P31. From the very start, Block set her eyes forward and, with a stellar getaway, she rocketed up to P24 by the first corner, navigating through the chaos with precision. By the end of sector 1, she had further advanced to P20, capitalizing on her strong start.

The race saw an early safety car deployment when Lucas Fluxa stalled on the track. Once the track was cleared, racing resumed with Colnaghi in the lead. Block, maintaining her composure, kept her position at P20 and began to put pressure on Adam Al Azhari. She then took advantage of a mistake by another driver, moving up to P19.

Her steady improvement in sector times allowed her to close in on the cars ahead: by lap 5, she had gained another position when championship leader Keanu Al Azhari ran over a kerb, damaging his front wing and forcing him to pit.

Block continued her climb up the order, reaching P16 by lap 7. Despite a competitive midfield, she maintained her pace, even when overtaken by Pedersen and Lambert. Block successfully defended her position against Bouzinelos, and a late-race battle with Enzo Tarnvanichkul saw her secure a one-second margin, crossing the finish line in P17.

This result marked her first top-20 finish in the Spanish F4 championship, having gained a whopping 14 positions.

Lia Block, GRS Team, Spanish Formula 4 Championship, 2024 Le Castellet
Photo credits: GRS Team

In the second qualifying session on Sunday morning, Lia Block faced another incredibly close competition, with 35 cars within 1.7 seconds. She set a time of 2:07.669, placing her 34th on the grid. Maciej Gladysz secured pole position, followed by James Egozi and Keanu Al Azhari.

Despite starting from the back, Block's performance in Race 2 was again nothing short of spectacular: she gained four positions right off the line and continued her charge, moving up six more places by the end of the first lap, reaching P23.

The race was then interrupted by a big accident involving Gerhards, Lambert, and Restrepo at the final corner, prompting a red flag. Block's quick reactions allowed her to avoid the incident and move up to P20 before the neutralization.

After a lengthy delay, the race resumed under the safety car, which was extended due to a contact between Yevan David and Adam Al Azhari. Block found herself in P19 when the race finally restarted with 10 minutes remaining; she had a clean restart and, despite losing P19 briefly, maintained a safe margin over Ried.

By lap 6, she significantly improved her lap times, consistently running in the 2:08 mark. Block's persistence paid off as she regained P19 and engaged in a tight battle in the closing laps.

On lap 9, she overtook Tarnvanichkul and then gained another position to move up to P18 on the final lap. A late-race incident involving Lucas Fluxa allowed Block to finish P17. However, a 5-second penalty was later imposed, demoting her to P23. Despite this setback, she showcased another remarkable recovery, moving from P34 to P23 and gaining 11 positions.

Lia Block, GRS Team, Spanish Formula 4 Championship, 2024 Le Castellet
Photo credits: GRS Team

Starting from P34 in the final race of the weekend, Block was again determined to complete another recovery drive. She quickly moved up to P33 at lights out and gained three more positions by the end of the first lap. By lap 2, she had passed several competitors, including Lammers, Hakim, Fiorentino, and Cota, advancing to P26.

The midfield battles were intense, and Block was in the thick of it, fighting fiercely with Al Azhari and Restrepo. Although she initially dropped to P28, she fiercely fought back to P27 with five minutes remaining on the clock. On lap 12, Block overtook Bouzinelos and gained another position, although the Rodin Motorsport driver managed to reclaim his spot shortly after.

Despite struggling slightly for pace in the final race, Block's tenacity shone through: she crossed the finish line in P27, having made up ground from the start and gaining valuable racing experience.

"Paul Ricard, you were fun. Amazingly iconic track to race at. Lots of improvements in these three races with my highest finish of 17th in Race 1, coming from 31st on the grid."

Overall, Lia Block's recovery of 32 positions throughout the weekend was a testament to her development as a racing driver, and her commitments to also competing in high-level mixed-gender series is paying off. With continued progress also in the latest F1 Academy rounds, the Williams Academy driver clearly proved that she still has a big room for improvement and we can expect more strong performances as the season progresses.



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