Léna Bühler tops Monza first practice
F1 Academy's first practice session at Monza saw three drivers alternating on top of the timesheets, topping each other's times by thousands of a second at a time. It would be Léna Bühler to finish on top, edging Abbi Pulling and championship leader Marta Garcia – all separated by one tenth after the first 40 minutes of practice.
ART Grand Prix’s Léna Bühler topped the first practice session of the F1 Academy Monza weekend, fifth round of the inaugural all-female championship launched by F1. The Swiss – who is part of the Sauber Academy – was able to grab the top of the timing sheets in the final 10 minutes, edging Abbi Pulling and Marta Garcia by less than a tenth of a second.
The first session of the F1 Academy weekend went underway in scorching temperatures, as most of the teams and drivers were getting up to speed with a track they had never visited before.
The Campos trio of Maite Caceres, Lola Lovinfosse and Nerea Marti were the first drivers to set lap times, as the Spanish squad were eager to collect data, having not raced previously at the home of the Italian GP.
Home team Prema, on the other hand, is arguably the most experienced around the Temple of Speed; Bianca Bustamante was the first driver to break the 2 minute barrier ten minutes into the session. The first competitive lap times were then set by Rodin Carlin’s Abbi Pulling, who further improved with three purple sectors and posted a 1:55.956. A few hundredths of a second behind was championship leader Marta Garcia (Prema Racing), who immediately proved to be competitive despite having never raced at Monza before.
Throughout the session, Pulling and Garcia topped each other’s benchmarks by almost identical times; just behind them, Léna Bühler and Hamda Al Qubaisi were following a few tenths adrift, while the rest of the field had more significant gaps.
Marta Garcia went fastest – but again Pulling snatched the first place a few minutes later. In the closing stages, Léna Bühler set the fastest third sector overall and also joined the two front-runners at a very close gap.
The Swiss driver would eventually improve to grab the lead, posting a 1:54.628 that eventually remained the fastest of the first session.
Abbi Pulling followed in second place , 55 thousands adrift and one tenth ahead of Marta Garcia – in an extremely competitive session.
Hamda Al Qubaisi was the fastest of the MP Motorsport drivers in fourth and was the only other driver on the 1:54s. Bianca Bustamante rounded out the top five with a good start of the weekend for the Filipina, who mentions Monza as one of her favourite circuits.
Carrie Schreiner had a very positive first session in sixth place, just ahead of Nerea Marti – the fastest of the Campos drivers. With no previous reference from any of the drivers at Monza, Mercantile Campos Racing aims to build more speed into the second session.
Jessica Edgar and Megan Gilkes were eighth and ninth fastest, showing promising pace. Amna Al Qubaisi sat stationary for most of the session in pitlane, then eventually ventured out on track and set a 1:56.109 that put the Emirati in tenth place. A gearbox issue, though, continued to hinder her run and she stopped on track in the final minute.
Chloe Chong was just four thousands behind; the British-Canadian was briefly off track at Parabolica in the opening minutes, causing a red flag. She would make it back to the pitlane with no damage.
She preceded Chloe Grant, 12th fastest, and Emely de Heus.
Mercantile Campos’ Lola Lovinfosse and Maite Caceres rounded out the field in FP1, both improving several seconds across the first session.
The second 40-minute practice session is scheduled for 15:40 on Friday.