FIA F3: Sophia Floersch taken out early in the race, finishes P22
In Silverstone's first race of the British double-header, Sophia Floersch was hit and spun in the early stages, after her best qualifying in the series on Friday.
Following a one-week stop, the F1 paddock moved to Silverstone, one of the most historical venues in motor racing, for a British Grand Prix double-header.
Coming from her best result in FIA Formula 3 so far at Hungaroring, Sophia Floersch entered her fourth round in the International F3 championship with high hopes, aware of her potential to get increasingly close to the top 10 after showing progresses in the previous rounds.
New French sensation Theo Pourchaire topped the timesheets in a very warm Friday practice session, as Floersch was 20th fastest, less than a second adrift the session leader - confirming the competitive level of the series.
Qualifying, again contested in torrid weather, saw Prema's Logan Sargeant taking his first pole position, with 2020 race winners Liam Lawson and Oscar Piastri right behind the American driver. Floersch was steadily in the top-15 for the majority of the session and finished P16, her best qualifying result to date - despite missing the very last attempt having taken the chequered flag a few seconds ahead of a potential last flying lap due to the heavy traffic.
"My best quali so far." - Floersch wrote on her Twitter. "Silverstone is not an easy track. 5.9 km. Big fun" - she added, after a session which saw again 17 drivers within a one-second margin.
The German racer lined up on the 17th grid spot on Saturday morning though, after her Campos teammate Alex Peroni was given back his laptime initially deleted for track limits.
The F3 feature race went underway in very different weather conditions compared to the warm Friday, with way cooler air and track temperatures.
As the 30 Dallara cars went on the grid, David Schumacher pulled back into the pitlane with a technical issue during the formation lap and saw his race compromised before the lights went out. It was a clean start for the whole field, with Sargeant holding on to first place despite the aggressive charge of Lawson during the first lap. It wasn't long before the New Zealander could move into the lead though, as he pulled off an outstanding move around the outside at Stowe on the second lap.
In the leading group, Vesti and Piastri also battled for position, with the Dane attempting a move on his Prema teammate at Maggotts.
Sophia Floersch gained one position at the start and was running in the crowded midfield when she was hit by Dennis Hauger at Vale on the second lap. Floersch spun and dropped to the back of the pack, effectively losing the chance to further advance in Saturday's race.
Hauger was later handed a five-second time penalty for the incident, which left him in 16th position.
Matteo Nannini was off in the grass at Luffield shortly after, prompting the first race neutralization: the Virtual Safety Car was briefly deployed and gaps were freezed, with Floersch having to close a 10-seconds margin to Cameron Das.
Lawson led Sargeant, Piastri, Vesti and Peroni - the Australian having closed in with the front-runners after signing the fastest lap. Jack Doohan was caught out by the VSC and hit the back of Barnicoat's car, but both escaped damages. 23- year old Ben Barnicoat returned to single seater racing after four years to contest his home race with Carlin, after Enham Ahmed had parted ways with the team in the days prior to the race event.
When the race resumed, Floersch was P27, ahead of teammate Alessio Deledda.
Budapest's protagonist Ben Viscaal made a great move on Caldwell, but the Brit switched back and defended his position, just as Oscar Piastri could find a way past poleman Logan Sargeant and moved up into second place, with Frederick Vesti also trying to replicate the move. Home driver Jake Hughes had a better exit from the Becketts section and passed Peroni on the Hangar Straight. Hughes was having a great run and quickly catched up with Vesti, finally overtaking him on lap 10.
Meanwhile, Piastri was only half a second behind Liam Lawson and started to put pressure on the Red Bull-backed driver. The battle for the lead was fully on shortly after, as Piastri looked faster than Lawson and attacked the New Zealander on the Hangar Straight. The pair went side by side at Stowe - Piastri also getting some air time when he went hard on the outside kerb. An exciting wheel-to-wheel fight followed, as the drivers raced alongside each other for several corners.
The action was interrupted by a crash involving Jack Doohan and Bent Viscaal, who had collided at the entry of the old pitlane. The Dutch driver spun into the path of the HWA entry after having a scrap with Barnicoat at Luffield, bringing out a lengthy Safety Car.
The race resumed with four laps to go, but it wasn't a long time until the AMG Safety Car was back out on track again: Olli Caldwell was hit by Fewtrell at the final chicane, likely got a puncture and spun at Club corner just ahead of the fast approaching Lukas Dunner, who crashed heavily into the Trident driver. Both drivers were luckily unharmed, but with Caldwell's car literally truncated into two pieces, the race was ended behind the Safety Car.
Liam Lawson held on to win his first race of the season after an unfortunate streak of three consecutive DNFs, as Piastri was second and extended his championship lead over teammate Logan Sargeant, third at the finish line. Hughes was a very convincing fourth, ahead of Vesti, Peroni, Fernandez and Novalak. ART's Alexander Smolyar rounded out the top ten and will thus start from reverse-grid pole on Sunday morning.
Sophia Floersch was P22 across the line and will take the start of tomorrow's race from the eleventh row on the grid - a surely disappointing result for the German racer, who saw her weekend partly compromised by an incident in which she was faultless spectator.
But, with plenty of overtaking opporunities on the Silverstone circuit, she will certainly eye another top-15 finish in Sunday's second race - which will go green at 08:45 local time (09:45 CET).