FIA F3: Sophia Floersch rounds out debut season in Mugello
Less than three months since the first FIA Formula 3 race of 2020, the Mugello round concluded Sophia Floersch's rookie season in one of the most competitive grids to date. After a season of highs and lows, Floersch now switches her focus to the biggest endurance race: the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Three months that flashed by; three months marked by the impressive challenges of a debut in one of the most competitive racing series in the world, in its highest-level season to date. Three months that followed frustrating and uncertain times, but that were then equivalent of excitement, hope, commitment, potential, improvement. The highs and the inevitable lows of a rookie season spent in the crowded midfield, where one tenth of a second is the gap that can separate a point-scoring position to a P20 in and an uphill race weekend.
Three months spent on some of the most famous motorsport venues in the world, in conjunction with the elite racing series per definition, which despite having to face its most surreal season managed to put together a first-class compressed calendar. Three months that went by too fast, but that will remain in the history books for the breath-taking last-race title fight, which ultimately crowned Australian Oscar Piastri.
Three months that meant the world to German racing star Sophia Floersch, one of the most promising and highly-ranked female racing drivers worldwide, who worked hard to advance to the FIA F3 championship having completed a solid Formula Regional European Championship campaign in 2019. After her return to Macau - the legendary track that brought her under the global spotlight after her infamous crash in 2018 - Floersch saw the chances of joining the International F3 series getting slim as her historic partner HWA Racelab signed Jake Hughes, Enzo Fittipaldi and Jack Doohan at the start of 2020.
It was only marginally before pre-season testing in Bahrain that the 19-year old announced her surprise deal with Spanish squad Campos Racing, a team that had struggled heavily in 2019 finishing last in the standings. But it was always going to be a learning season for Floersch, who entered her first race in Zeltweg targeting the first half of the classify.
She marginally missed out on a top-15, scoring a P16 finish in her second ever race, but a series of tough qualifying sessions hampered her first half of the season.
A double top 20 in Budapest - and her 14th place finish in race 2 - marked Floersch's most consistent weekend result-wise, before the young lady from Munich could showcase her racecraft skills in Silverstone first race, where she managed to recover 9 positions in one of the few races not influenced by external issues.
After a challenging round in Barcelona and some recurring braking issues on the #31 Campos car, Floersch missed the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps and made her sportscar debut at Circuit Paul Ricard for Richard Mille Racing in the European Le Mans Series. With the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours approaching, Sophia still had to make her race debut in the LMP2 car in fact, and she did it in style at the 240 Le Castellet event in the south of France. The ELMS round was a real confidence boost for Floersch, who was back to competitive form and showed promising speed in her first outing in endurance racing.
Andreas Estner - who subbed in for Floersch in the Belgian round - was P27 and P20 in the third Campos car.
Sophia kept momentum into the Monza round and scored her best FIA F3 result of her maiden campaign in the second race, where she finished 12th after race-long battles in the Italian Temple of Speed.
The final weekend at Mugello - a track that saw Floersch taking a sixth place in the Formula Regional 2019 season - proved one of the most challenging ones for the young German.
Another difficult qualifying put her in P25, before post-session penalties moved her up by two grid slots. The Campos driver advanced to P20 at one point, but in the latter stages her pace dropped and was 22nd across the finish line.
On the backdrop of one of the most exciting title fights of recent memory, Frederick Vesti claimed another win for Prema, but missed out on the extra points for fastest lap - which put the Dane out of title contention. Logan Sargeant, Oscar Piastri and Theo Pourchaire thus went into the season finale only separated by a handful of points and with Liam Lawson starting from reverse grid pole.
Lawson got away well from the first row, but all the eyes were further behind, where the three-way battle for the championship took a thrilling turn: American Logan Sargeant made contact with Lirim Zendeli and the two drivers went off at Turn 2, where their race would come to an abrupt end. Stuck in the gravel, there were Sargeant's crown chances, as teammate Oscar Piastri could move up four positions.
After the Safety Car, Piastri dropped to tenth and Pourchaire, the only contender left on track, gave it his all. The young Frenchman had to climb at least into third place but struggled to pass Enzo Fittipaldi.
Further down the order, Vesti was instructed to let his Prema teammate past and, even when his rival could finally grab the final step of the podium, the Australian was safely home in seventh, securing the title after a nail-biting finale.
Lawson took his third victory of the season, followed by David Beckmann and Theo Pourchaire. Enzo Fittipaldi was fourth - in his best performance of the season - with Richard Verschoor fifth and Jake Hughes sixth. Sebastian Fernandez, Frederick Vesti and Alexander Smolyar completed the top-10.
Sophia Floersch rounded out her first season in the FIA F3 championship with a P24 finish across the line. Starting 22nd, Floersch lost out a couple of positions on lap 4 after the Safety Car restart. She then battled closely with Das and Viscaal for most of the race, before engaging in yet another fight with Federico Malvestiti after the Italian had made a mistake on lap 20.
29th out of the 35 drivers entering the 2020 championship, Floersch could not ultimately score points in her maiden F3 season, but completed an experience-building campaign at the highest level of international motorsport.
"Many emotions in such a short and quick season." - she commented. "First race was at Red Bull Ring beginning of July and now we ended the season today in Mugello."
"Well what can I say....it was my rookie season with Campos Racing and I think we’ve done some steps forward this year. It’s the hardest junior class championship in Formulas. Quali is most important as we’re all similar speeds but we’ve been pretty unlucky on those ones and never really nailed it. There is so much things to take with me and most important is experience! I am sure that at some point all the work will pay off and I will be able to prove what I can do."
"Congrats to Oscar Piastri for winning that championship today! Onto the biggest race worldwide now".
Sophia Floersch will in fact enter her first Le Mans 24 Hours next week in the all-female Richard Mille Racing entry, together with Tatiana Calderon and Beitske Visser in a FIA Women in Motorsport-supported program in the LMP2 category. They will be joined by Iron Lynx in the second fully-female squad, as Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and Manuela Gostner will compete in the GTE-Am class.
The biggest endurance race on the planet will kick off on Thursday 17th September at 10:00 CEST for the first practice session, while the French flag will wave on the main straight declaring the start of the 24 Hours countdown on Saturday at 14:30 CEST.