FIA F3: Battling round for Floersch in first Silverstone weekend
Updated: Aug 3
Starting from the back after yesterday's incident, Sophia Floersch finished the first Silverstone round barely outside the top-20, in yet another very fought FIA F3 race.
The first race day for the Silverstone double-header is upon us, with the racing action on the iconic British racetrack commencing with the FIA Formula 3 second race - the earlier start of the season at 08:45 local time - which meant sunny yet chilly conditions.
German F3 rookie Sophia Floersch had a rough day on Saturday, completing the feature race in 22nd position after being spun around at Vale corner by Dennis Hauger as early as the second lap. Floersch, who was running around P15 following her best qualifying of the season, saw her race compromised and had to wait the intervention of a Safety Car to rejoin the group. She managed to gain few more places and took the chequered flag in P22, which also represented her starting position for Sunday's race.
Alexander Smolyar slotted into reverse grid pole after finishing 10th yesterday, with David Beckmann lining up alongside him. Olli Caldwell was cleared to race after his monumental shunt in the closing laps of the first race, while Lukas Dunner - the other driver involved in the crash - had his car completely rebuilt overnight by the MP Motorsport crew.
Fewtrell, who was deemed guilty to have caused the incident, started from last on the grid.
At the race start, it was a clean getaway for the whole field and Smolyar, unlike the Budapest round when he was taken out at Turn one after securing his first pole position, managed to hold on to the lead and tried to break away from Beckmann, Novalak and Peroni.
Sebastian Fernandez's race was pretty much over before the lights went out, as the ART driver was slow off the line on the formation lap and charged through the field to re-gain his starting slot, but was caught out of position at the Safety Car line and received a 10-second stop & go penalty - which he served on the third lap, leaving fourth place to Alex Peroni.
Prema's teammates Logan Sargeant and Oscar Piastri had a few scraps on the second lap, when they went off line and into the gravel at Luffield, but both rejoined and avoided major damages. The championship leader, though, saw his race going from bad to worse when his DRS got stuck open and had to pit, subsequently retiring his car.
Another driver to endure a torrid weekend was HWA's Jack Doohan: the Australian, who was collected by Bent Viscaal yesterday, suffered a puncture in the opening laps and took it to the radio communications to express his frustration for his ill-fated British GP.
Sophia Floersch had a great start off the line and took the inside line to gain one position, but was then briefly down to P24 before re-claiming her starting place.
The Safety Car was deployed on lap 5, after Igor Fraga's car came to a halt on the Wellington Straight. Green flags were back in the air on lap 8 and Smolyar started to visibly wave on the straights to defend from Beckmann and Novalak, both looking aggressive behind the race leader.
At the restart, Floersch was very close to Bent Viscaal and, despite she couldn't make a move stick on the Dutch racer, she advanced to P21 when Piastri dropped back.
With DRS now available, the top four were running incredibly close and more tow-breaking maneuvres from the leader attracted the attention of the race stewards, who instructed Smolyar to stop the direction changes on the straights.
Trident's David Beckmann was reluctant to attack Smolyar, having his mirrors full of Novalak. Peroni struggled to keep up the pace with the leading trio and was joined by Frederick Vesti, who had won a battle for fifth with Liam Lawson. Vesti, after catching up with the leading group though, could not find a way past Peroni and they all bunched up behind Smolyar again.
Floersch passed Cameron Das and moved up to P20 when the German racer completed a stunning move around the outside at Brooklands. Das fought back at Luffield, but Floersch held on to her racing line and the American went wide onto the gravel, losing more positions.
After 20 closely fought laps, it was a lights-to-flag victory for Alexander Smolyar, who crossed the finish line to win his first race of the season ahead of David Beckmann and Clement Novalak - despite the latter had an off at Copse during the last lap. Alex Peroni took fourth, just ahead of Vesti. Logan Sargeant passed Lawson for sixth in an important move for the championship in the final laps.
Sophia Floersch, who was set to add another top-20 to her championship tally, lost out to Fewtrell on the last lap and was classified P21 after a battling round, ultimately compromised by the Race 1 incident.
The FIA Formula 3 championship will be back on track next week for its second Silverstone round in support of F1. With plenty of data from the first two races, Floersch and her Campos team will now look forward to capitalise on the pace progresses that the young German driver has shown and improve on the qualifying performances - which could ultimately help avoiding first laps' mishaps.
UPDATE: Post-race penalties have reshuffled the second FIA F3 race, as race winner Alexander Smolyar was stripped of his win and handed a five-second time penalty for waving on the straights. The decision demotes the Russian to sixth. David Beckmann thus inherits the win, with Alex Peroni getting his second podium of the season.
Sophia Floersch also received a penalty for her overtaking move on Cameron Das. The Campos driver was deemed guilty of pushing her opponent wide - despite the two cars never made contact.