In a very cold morning at Red Bull Ring, Abbi Pulling and Hamda Al Qubaisi topped the timing sheets in the first ever official practice sessions of F1 Academy, ahead of a potentially wet qualifying.
Abbi Pulling and Hamda Al Qubaisi led the first ever official practice sessions of the brand new F1 Academy series, held at Red Bull Ring.
In an extremely cold morning, FP1 went underway at 8:15 in difficult grip conditions. Having completed a collective test day on Thursday, drivers already had a good mileage on the track under their belt and elected to sit out the first practice or run a limited amount of laps and save tyres. The MP Motorsport team decided to skip the session entirely.
Abbi Pulling topped the timing sheets in the first 30 minute session, setting a 1:31.315 on her eighth lap. The British driver edged her rival Marta García (Prema Racing) by a little over one tenth.
“It’s definitely positive to finish P1 in the first test of the day before qualifying - there’s still more in it, it was a very cold session and did quite a lot of mistakes through the lap. I’ve got to put it together in qualifying”
Léna Bühler continues to be a strong contender and placed third, clocking a 1:31.690 in her Alfa Romeo Sauber-liveried ART GP Tatuus. The Swiss driver is getting up to rhythm and improving every session since joining the French squad.
Megan Gilkes had a good first session in fourth place, while Lola Lovinfosse was the strongest of the Campos cars, half a second from the top. Jessica Edgar and Chloe Grant were just outside the top five, ahead of two other strong contenders such as Nerea Martí and Bianca Bustamante.
In the second session, temperatures increased and grip improved – but many teams were keeping their eyes peeled to the weather forecast for later in the afternoon, with seemingly a high chance of rain that would make practice data not very relevant.
Hamda Al Qubaisi – who also topped the times on Thursday morning – shone in FP2 after not turning a lap in the early morning.
The Emirati talent is still recovering from a wrist fracture and has spent pre-season testing trying to get up to speed only two months after surgery.
A multiple race winner in F4 already, Hamda is undoubtedly going to be in the mix for the win as she physically recovers.
“I feel like the pace has been getting better and better and my recovery has been getting better as well. I still struggle a bit with the arm but it’s good to be on top even with the arm like this”.
Over two seconds off the pace in the first test, she is progressively getting closer at each outing and led the way in FP2 with a 1:31.362 effort that puts her four tenths clear of Marta García.
Sauber Junior Léna Bühler was once again third, preceding Amna Al Qubaisi - as both sisters are looking strong on the Austrian track, where ironically they raced together for the first time in Italian F4 in 2019.
Megan Gilkes was in the top five again for Rodin Carlin, preceding Carrie Schreiner, Nerea Martí and Bianca Bustamante.
Abbi Pulling had very limited running and was not looking for a lap time, as also Chloe Chong sat out the session altogether to save a set of tyres for qualifying. The British rookie – the youngest on the grid and the only driver to make her debut in formulas – was second fastest on Thursday and has displayed remarkable race pace.
The first of the two qualifying sessions - which will set the grid for tomorrow’s race 1 and 3 - will go green on Friday at 15:10 local time.