FIA F3: Sophia Floersch P18 in Hungaroring race 1
German FIA F3 rookie Sophia Floersch advanced six places to finish P18 after a tricky wet-dry race 1 in Budapest.
Formula 1's third-tier championship was back for its third back-to-back weekend of the season after the restart, as the FIA F3 drivers headed to Hungaroring.
The first two races showed a massively competitive grid, with more than 20 drivers within a second in qualifying and with plenty of interesting upcoming talents.
Among them, German rookie Sophia Floersch made her debut in the International F3 championship in the Austrian races and proved to belong to such a competitive field; her practice pace was often enough for a top-15, but misfortune in the two qualifying runs at the Red Bull Ring put the lady from Munich into more challenging situations in the races.
Nonetheless, Floersch always moved up the order and showed speed in the midfield battles, until her first retirement in the Styrian GP Sunday's race.
Coming to Budapest's Hungaroring after her ELMS test day at Le Castellet, Floersch found again very difficult track conditions on Friday, with the heavy rain again influencing the first day of running.
Qualifying was then hindered by more showers and, after an initial attempt, the session was rescheduled for the late afternoon.
Even then, it was a wet session for the F3 drivers on the Hungarian racetrack, which saw Alexander Smolyar taking pole position from Logan Sargeant and new race-winner Theo Pourchaire. Sophia Floersch was 14th for most of the second part of qualifying, but could not improve on her last set of tyres when the track was significantly drier and was relegated to P24 out of the 30 cars grid.
Saturday morning at the Hungaroring presented again the drivers of the FIA Formula 3 championship with a very damp track, but all the teams opted to start with slicks.
Already from the formation lap, it was clear how the drivers had to wrestle their cars to stay on track in such challenging conditions and, when the lights went out, the race was quickly neutralized by a Safety Car following a multiple-car crash at Turn 1. Logan Sargeant took the wetter inside line, losing his car and hitting pole-man Smolyar. More chaos behind unfolded and Frederick Vesti found himself up against Calan Williams' sidepod.
Floersch managed to avoid the carnage and made it past turn one, but was down to P25.
In front, Theo Pourchaire led the field for the second time in two weeks after the top-2 had collided - ahead of Piastri, Sargeant and Lawson.
When the race was restarted, the low level of grip caught out more drivers: Zendeli and Doohan made contact and, despite rejoining the track, they both had to retire their cars into the pits due to the damages.
It was a short-lived green flag though: after an interesting battle for third with Prema's Sargeant, Liam Lawson's engine went up in flames on the main straight, spilling a river of oil that would cause several other drivers to went deep into Turn one's runoff.
The New-Zealander parked his car at Turn 2 and the Safety Car was again deployed. With marshals having to work on such a long section of the circuit, the race was then red flagged.
With a very dusty track, the Safety car escorted the field for some more laps, before a second restart on lap 9 - where drivers were certainly more cautious and everyone made it past turn one cleanly. Enzo Fittipaldi completed a great double-pass around the outside of Turn 2, but soon received the communication of a drive through penalty for being in the fast lane at the restart. Plenty of other penalties were handed out by the race direction: Hughes received a 10 seconds stop&go for multiple Safety Car infringements, Caldwell got a 5 seconds penalty for speeding in the pitlane and Nannini was penalized for a SC restart infringement.
Floersch, P23 at the restart, gained positions and advanced to 19th place.
The biggest mover in the front-running positions was Macau race winner Richard Verschoor, who overtook Bent Viscaal and ART's Sebastian Fernandez, as the Venezuelan-Spanish driver also lost a position to Viscaal on lap 15.
Pourchaire was immediately able to break away from the rest of the pack and quickly gained a significant gap from Piastri. The runner up was in fact struggling to keep Sargeant behind, as the American closed in on his Prema's teammate after he avoided a penalty for the Turn 1 incident at the race start. Piastri defended hard though, and held on to second.
With a quickly drying up track, tyre degradation played a bigger role in the final stages and drivers could hardly improve their laptimes.
Sophia Floersch caught up with Campos teammate Alessio Deledda and passed the Italian for P18 with two laps to go. She then closed in on Das, but was never close enough to attempt a move on the American before the chequered flag.
While the Prema drivers battled for second place, MP Motorsport teammates Verschoor and Viscaal swapped positions in the final lap, as the Dutch racer secured his F3 best ever finish with fourth.
16-year old Theo Pourchaire crossed the finish line to claim his second race victory in a row after a commanding drive and an impressive series of fastest laps, 12 seconds ahead of Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant. Viscaal led Verschoor, Fernandez, Peroni and Hauger - the Norwegian enjoying his first championship points in the FIA F3. Behind Novalak, David Beckmann was tenth and will thus start tomorrow's race from reverse grid pole.
Sophia Floersch advanced six places from her starting position and was 18th across the finish line. She will start from the ninth row in Sunday's sprint race tomorrow - which will go green at 09:45 local time.