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First Top-20 of the season for Sophia Floersch in Melbourne

Sophia Floersch collected her first top-20 of the season at Melbourne, where the German showed good racecraft and effective tyre management in race 1 recovering six places to finish P19 following a tough qualifying. She was unfortunately taken out of race 2 – as she now looks forward to the in-season tests at Barcelona.

Sophia Floersch, Van Amersfoort Racing, Alpine Academy, 2024 Australian GP, Melbourne, FIA Formula 3
Photo credits: @SophiaFloersch

Sophia Floersch secured her first top-20 of the season in FIA Formula 3, as the series returned to Melbourne Albert Park circuit for the second time in its history.

Floersch has endured a challenging start of her racing season, experiencing two retirements in four races - equalling her total DNFs over the previous two seasons combined - to no fault of her own.

Floersch return to Van Amersfoort Racing was off to a highly promising start at Macau, when the German racer was reunited with the Dutch squad and just missed out on a top ten in the extraordinarily competitive Macau final; since the start of the 2024 FIA F3 season, though, the VAR outfit has struggled for pace and has so far failed to score any points with all of its three drivers.

For Sophia, the opening weekend in Bahrain represented a tough kick-off of her campaign, but still showed racecraft in race 1, where she gained two places from her starting position - as well as in race 2, where she had shown highly encouraging race pace in high tyre degradation condition - a skill that has often characterized Sophia.

“Australia was a weekend I was really looking forward to taking part in. The track is amazing and coming here also gives you a smile knowing that so many fans will be out there cheering you on." - Sophia said.

Teams then travelled to Melbourne for the second round of the 10-event calendar that features the Australian appointment for the second time. As a returning driver, Floersch had previous experience of the 5.278 km Albert Park circuit and was eager to maximise that knowledge to make a further step forward.

Floersch was in fact soon up to speed in practice, although the nature of the track resulted in several red flag interruptions and she completed the first session of the weekend in P23, with a 1:35.345 lap.

More accidents led to another red-flag disrupted qualifying. Floersch ran in the top-20 for most of the 30 minute session, and was sitting P18 when a crash at the final corner for Sami Meguetounif brought out the red flag with 4 minutes to go. She improved when the session was resumed, but a further accident for Joseph Loake followed.

Leonardo Fornaroli (Trident) took his second pole position in F3, while Sophia Floersch was 25th fastest, clocking a 1:34.902.

The top 12 was reversed for the sprint race which therefore saw Laurens van Hoepen on pole, alongside Martinius Stenshorne. Light rain in the build-up to race 1 was an extra variable to add to the track complexities, with cloudy and windy conditions marking Saturday's morning. The track, though, was fully dried up again as the 30 cars lined up on the grid.

A very clean first lap of the race saw everyone making it through the opening stages, with Van Hoepen leading Stenshorne, Mansell and Goethe. Minì had a great first lap and overtook Beganovic and Tsolov – who was losing ground after receiving a 3 place grid penalty for a practice accident.

Sophia Floersch battled hard in the second half of the pack and, while she dropped to 28th after one lap, she would soon gain back positions on Shields and Smith, claiming back her starting position on lap 3.

On a 1:37 pace, Floersch was faster than the cars immediately ahead of her; she moved up to P24 when championship leader Luke Browning pitted with an issue, then caught up with Esterson. Stenshorne found his way past van Hoepen for the race lead after a couple of position changes; Arvid Lindblad had meanwhile made his way up to fourth, before the Red Bull junior made a move stick on Mansell for third on lap 6.

Floersch overtook Esterson for P23 on lap 7 and immediately closed in on Inthraphuvasak, opening a small gap to the cars behind. She cleared the PHM AIX Racing car one lap later, as she ran a second faster than Sami Meguetounif and Joseph Loake ahead.

As the race reached its mid-way point, Sophia had picked up another position and was now hunting down fellow Alpine Academy driver Nikola Tsolov, who was struggling for pace. While she did pass the Bulgarian, Sophia lost out again to Loake - in a four car battle for the top-20. In this close duels, Inthraphuvasak found himself in the gravel at turn 1 after contact from Smith.

Ahead, Stenshorne and Lindblad - who had meanwhile passed van Hoepen - had managed to break away from the rest of the field and they saw their advantage being neutralized by the safety car with 6 laps to go.

Up to P21, Floersch followed Sztuka closely at the restart and they both cleared Joshua Dufek with 2 laps to go. Floersch's tyre management proved effective once again and she attacked Voisin on the final lap for P19 - although ended up losing one place to Esterston, in an extremely tight midfield. Floersch nevertheless did score a top-20 in race 1, as Sztuka received a 5 second penalty for track limits and therefore dropped to P24.

Hitech's Martinius Stenshorne took victory in one of the most exciting FIA F3 races so far, ahead of Arvid Lindblad and Laurens van Hoepen. Mari Boya, Oliver Goethe and Dino Beganovoc traded positions for the top five, putting up a show in the final laps.

With 19th, Floersch improved on her personal best since the start of the season.

"Enjoyed some moves", Sophia wrote. "Started from P24 because of a bad quali again- We have to improve there", she summed up.

Sophia Floersch, VAR, Alpine Academy, 2024 Australian GP, Melbourne, FIA Formula 3
Photo credits: Dutch Photo Agency

Leonardo Fornaroli shared an all-Italian front row with Gabriele Mini on Sunday morning, as Baganovic and Bedrin would start the feature race from third and fourth. Following the challenging qualifying, Sophia Floersch would have to make her way forward once again after an overall positive first race on Saturday.

What looked like another clean start throughout the field soon turned out to be a nightmare just after turn 1: Tim Tramnitz went deep and hit Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak, who was sent into the back of Sophia Floersch's #21 car. Tramnitz picked up a puncture and Inthraphuvasak was off, while Floersch initially managed to complete a lap before coming to a halt with damage: the German driver unfortunately had to retire. It was her second DNF in two weekends, after completing every single race in 2023.

"A driver spun into my rear car. Couldn't do anything", she said. "Annoying. Race done in lap 1."

The race resumed on lap 6, with Fornaroli having a strong restart in the lead. Positions in the midfield kept changing by the corner - with battles including Noel Leon and Santiago Ramos ending in damage for both. Montoya was once again charging up the field into the top ten. Ahead, Fornaroli had Minì on DRS range - but Beganovic was faster than his Prema teammate and overtook the Italian on lap 13, then significantly closed in on Fornaroli.

Minì was struggling and lost fourth to Browning one lap later, then lost contact with the leading trio. The lead of the race changed hands on lap 14, when Dino Beganovic made a move stick on the Trident car, who nevertheless remained close behind.

Montoya made more passes and grabbed sixth - just behind an equally impressive Wurz - as most of the field was now struggling with tyre wear.

As positions seemed settled at the front, Gabriele Minì found more pace in the final laps and overtook Browning for third - then tried to hunt down his compatriot Fornaroli, who had fallen just outside the DRS range of Dino Beganovic on the last lap. The Swede held on and took victory in the Melbourne feature race, ahead of Fornaroli and Minì - who made two Prema cars on the podium.

Floersch's retirement was certainly an unfortunate end to her weekend, although the top-20 on Saturday signals a small step forward from Bahrain, with pace and tyre management matters of satisfaction in race 1. Floersch's racecraft gained her several positions despite a difficult qualifying - which will be one of the areas to improve during the season - and the return of the series to Europe, in Imola could be an opportunity for the Van Amersfoort Racing driver to make the most out of her experience, on a track where she has historically performed well across racing series.

"The weekend did not go as wanted in the end" - Floersch summed up. "We struggled on our final run on the new set of tyres in Qualifying which meant we would start from the back of the grid for both races. Finishing 19th in the Sprint Race was the maximum we could do unfortunately, and a DNF in Sunday’s Feature after getting hit from a car spinning completed a weekend of ill fortune."

"There are always positives to take, we learned a lot and we know where to put the focus for the upcoming test in Barcelona. We will come back stronger.”

Before the Imola race weekend, though, the FIA F3 paddock will gather at Barcelona for the in-season testing on 16-18 April.



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