FIA F3: Challenging first race for Floersch in Barcelona
With the FIA F3 paddock moving to Barcelona for yet another back-to-back weekend, Sophia Floersch endured a challenging first race in Spain, finishing P27.
Formula 1 has hit the track again for its third back-to-back weekend in a row - this time on the Barcelona Montmeló circuit - and with it, the FIA Formula 3 championship also made its on-track return.
Sophia Floersch had just completed a positive second race at Silverstone when, despite a difficult qualifying, she was able to gain 9 positions and finish in P20 in her first trouble-free race of the season. The young German had in fact battled braking issues on her Campos Racing Dallara F3 car, which were seemingly fixed on Sunday morning.
"Mixed feelings" - she commented after last week's results. "Race pace was pretty good and we were fighting quite a lot gaining positions over the weekend."
"Quali is still the issue and we just need to have the luck on our side for once."
"Love the championship and all the battles happening there." - she added on her instagram before heading to Barcelona, one of her favourite tracks on the FIA F3 calendar - and where she scored a top-five finish last year in the Formula Regional European Championship.
"Race pace is improving every time, just quali needs to be better which is more about having luck."
Unfortunately, the Spanish weekend didn't start in the best possible way for Floersch, who was down to P29 in Friday's practice session, as she could not improve on her last set of new tyres following an accident at Turn 4 by her Campos teammate Alessio Deledda that brought out the red flag.
Under scorching temperatures at the Catalan circuit, the afternoon's qualifying session unfortunately brought the same result for the driver of the #31 car: with such a tight and competitive field in the 2020 FIA Formula 3 championship, 23 cars finished within a second and - on a notoriously difficult track to pass - Floersch's P29 meant another uphill battle for the talented 19-year old from Munich.
Championship leader Logan Sargeant locked another pole position and started the first race alongside HWA's Jake Hughes. Liam Lawson shared second row with Oscar Piastri, as the championship contenders in this first half of the season were divided by less than two tenths of a second.
When the lights went out, it was a clean start for the front row of the grid and Sargeant maintained the lead over Hughes and Lawson. Piastri was down to fifth, while Sebastian Fernandez was slow off the line and lost six positions, dropping to eleventh.
The first Safety Car was deployed when Bent Viscaal went off into the gravel and the race was neutralized to allow the marshals to recover th stricken MP Motorsport car.
On lap 3, Piastri could move back up into third as he passed Clement Novalak at La Caixa. The race continued with the whole field bunched up until Alessio Deledda spun at the final chicane. The battle for the lead then heated up: Jake Hughes closed in on Sargeant and completed a great move at Turn 1. The Brit was quickly out of DRS range and the Prema rival was told to push in order not to drop further back.
On the other hand, there were very few passes in the midfield and drivers followed each other closely for most of the race. Sophia Floersch, P28 after the start, managed to pass Federico Malvestiti and Igor Fraga - advancing to 26th. In the first half of the race, her pace proved once again competitive enough for a top-20 finish, but then her lap times went dramatically up, as the German likely struggled with tyre wear by following the other cars for so many laps.
The Safety Car made another appearance on lap 7, when Frederick Vesti's car came to a stop at the exit of Turn 4.
At the restart, Hughes was unchallenged by Sargeant, who never seemed able to equal the Brit's race pace. Behind them, Oscar Piastri made a mistake at the last corner and was off line as the field was back up to speed. The Australian was overtaken by Novalak and Beckmann, both quickly seizing the opportunity and passing Piastri before the start-finish line. David Schumacher made a similar mistake on the last chicane kerb soon after and dropped to P23.
When the DRS was re-enabled, Jake Hughes had opened a 1.5 seconds gap that secured him first place again. Sargeant then came under pressure from Liam Lawson - the New Zealander completing the successful pass for second with three laps to go at Turn 2.
Piastri showed improved pace in the final laps but couldn't catch up with Beckmann, as the whole field held position until the chequered flag.
HWA's Jake Hughes crossed the line to take his first win of the season and dedicated it to Anthoine Hubert, almost one year after the Frenchman's fatal accident.
Hughes, who extended his lead by over two seconds over his closest competitor, finished ahead of Liam Lawson and championship leader Logan Sargeant.
Novalak led Beckmann and Piastri, with 16-year old star Theo Pourchaire in seventh and just in front of Alex Peroni. Matteo Nannini, making its FIA F3 return in place of Ben Barnicoat at Carlin, scored his first championship point and will start tomorrow's sprint race from reverse grid pole.
It was a challenging race for Sophia Floersch, who crossed the finish line in P27.
"Really dark race weekend again." - she said. "My car feels like doing a wet race. Tough days. A lot of work to understand what’s going on."
Surely, such a compressed schedule could prove extra demanding for the Spanish squad, which will have to identify and fix the issues that prevented Floersch to fully show her potential in this first half of the championship.
The second FIA F3 race will see the green flag on Sunday at 09:45 CEST, with Sophia Floersch taking the start from the 14th row.