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FIA F3: Sophia Floersch gains 10 positions to finish P16 in Austrian race 2

Sophia Floersch completed her first FIA F3 race weekend with an impressive performance in Sunday's sprint race, as the young German racer gained 10 places to finish just outside the top-15.

Photo credits: Diederik van der Laan / Dutch Photo Agency

German upcoming star Sophia Floersch made her FIA Formula 3 debut yesterday during the first race of the Austrian weekend, as the Red Bull Ring hosted the season opener of the delayed F1, F2 and F3 seasons.

Saturday's feature race, which was won by Australian Oscar Piastri, finished with a 26th place for Floersch, who was starting from 28th following a troubled qualifying session caused by a DRS mulfunction. The young lady from Munich had actually enjoyed a positive practice session on Friday, where she was very close on pace with her more experienced teammate Alex Peroni. On a track with three DRS zones, the technical issue proved very detrimental on single-lap performance and influenced Saturday's race result. Starting from the back and in an extraordinary competitive grid, Floersch could make up a couple of positions and spent most of her race battling with compatriot David Schumacher.

With the top 22 within one second in qualifying and the whole field only separated by around 30 seconds after the first race, the Formula 3 grid proved to be one of the most closely-fought in motorsport and it's still very early to assess the driver's targets for the season.

"We have a really high level of drivers this year" - said Floersch in a Thurdsay's instagram live session. "Of course your teammates are always your biggest rivals. Alex [Peroni] showed good pace last year, and then we'll see who's gonna be on similar pace than me. After the weekend we'll see where we're going to stand."

The only female racer in the whole F1 weekend lined up in 26th place for Sunday's morning race, alongside David Schumacher in 13th row. Just as Saturday's competition, the second race was contested in sunny conditions and saw Clement Novalak and Alexander Smolyar sharing the front row after the top ten inversion from yesterday's results. It was the first time that FIA F3 assigned reverse-grid pole to P10 rather than the usual P8. On the other end of the grid, it was yesterday's polesitter Sebastian Fernandez, who had an unfortunate contact at Turn one yesterday and was forced to retire.

As the lights went out, it was a slow start for Smolyar, who was passed by Beckmann who had a good getaway from the second row. It was a clean start for the whole field and Sophia Floersch held her position despite going slightly wide into the runoff of Turn one.

Novalak led Beckmann and Lawson after the first lap, with the New Zealander immediately very aggressive in the rear-view mirrors of the Trident driver. The battle for second allowed Richard Verschoor to join the scraps.

Immediately behind them, more frantic action saw a four-wide battle with yesterday's podium finisher Alex Peroni, Logan Sergeant, Bent Viscaal and Oscar Piastri, who struggled to make up positions given the very similar pace of the whole field. Coming three wide into Turn 4 on the second lap, Sargeant clipped Viscaal's front wing and picked up a puncture.

With a decisive move, Beckmann went into the lead after signing the fastest lap. Novalak soon fell into Lawson's clutches, but tried to respond to the new leader by diving on the inside of Turn 2 - an attempt that was ultimately unsuccessful as the Carlin driver went wide and was passed by Lawson as well. The constant positions changes at the front resulted in a huge train of cars, all running within few tenths of a second.

Floersch overtook Nannini and caught up with David Schumacher again, as the compatriots battled for P23. When Doohan pitted with technical issues, they both gained one position.

Liam Lawson made it into the lead on lap 6, followed by nine competitors all within DRS range. Beckmann lost second to Novalak as well, allowing Lawson to breath and to extend his lead to over a second, denying his pursuers the use of DRS.

Alex Peroni, after his stunning return to racing after his scary Monza crash last year, parked his car on the side of the track and had to abandon race 2, leading to the first race neutralization with the Virtual Safety Car. Peroni, slowed down by a technical issue and was hit Pourchaire, as the French driver could not avoid the Campos car.

When the action resumed on lap 13, Floersch had recovered to P21 and was still lapping on par with most of the field, trying to find a way past Dunner and Stanek. When Malvestiti dropped back losing some positions, Floersch entered the top-20 for the first time in her FIA F3 debut weekend.

Ahead, 2019 Macau winner Richard Verschoor found a way past Novalak and moved up to second. They would briefly switch back one lap later, but Novalak couldn't make the move stick.

The Safety Car was deployed when Roman Stanek went wide at the final corner, destroying the DRS activation sign. After the marshalls had cleared the debris from the polystyrene board, Lawson saw his lead disappearing and had to defend in the final two laps from the charge of MP Motorsport's Verschoor.

When the chequered flag fell, Liam Lawson held on to take his first race victory in the FIA Formula 3 championship, ahead of Verschoor and Novalak. Beckmann was fourth, one place ahead of fellow German Lirim Zendeli. Vesti, Smolyar and Piastri rounded out the top eight.

Sophia Floersch enjoyed a very positive second race and kept moving up the order in the second part of the race. In such a competitive field of 30 cars, Floersch crossed the finish line in 16th position, marginally behind David Schumacher and almost claiming a top-15 in her FIA F3 race debut.

Despite a difficult qualifying session, the 19-year old gained 10 places and proved to belong to one of the best F3 grids to date.

Just as F2 and F1, the Formula 3 Championship will be back on the same track next weekend for the second round of the season. With plenty of data to analyze, Sophia Floersch will work closely with the Campos team in the coming days and will target the top-half of the standings in six-days time.



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