Make it two: Marta García takes race 3 victory at Red Bull Ring
Marta García defended from the charging Hamda al Qubaisi to take her second win of the weekend at Red Bull Ring, at the inaugural round of the F1 Academy championship which she now leads by 22 points.
Marta García rounded out the first ever weekend in the history of F1 Academy with a second victory in the two 30-minute races, holding off the Al Qubaisi sisters in the final laps of the race.
García had started from the top spot following a double pole position on Friday, when Abbi Pulling – who had finished in front by a few thousands of a second, was disqualified for a team’s technical irregularity, having fitted a non-homologated part which gained no performance according to Rodin Carlin.
The post-qualifying penalties promoted Bianca Bustamante to second place, as the Filipina lined up on the front row for both race 1 and race 3. Bustamante, though, had a technical issue just before the start and had to be pushed back into the pitlane, as the cars completed a second formation lap. Bianca was eventually able to start the race a few laps behind, as Prema found the issue.
At the start of the final race of the Austrian weekend, García had a great getaway and held the lead, ahead of Nerea Martí. Léna Bühler – who had claimed a podium in race 2 – lost a few places and slipped from third to fifth, with both the Al Qubaisi sisters sprinting away. Hamda had the best launch and was soon in the slipstream of Nerea Martí, followed by her sister Amna.
The top four pulled away, showcasing great pace. Behind them, big battles saw Carrie Schreiner moving up to fifth, ahead of her ART GP teammate Chloe Grant and Lola Lovinfosse. Léna Bühler was in fact demoted to ninth on the second lap, but could make a position back when Chloe Grant was pushed wide by Lovinfosse.
Having started once again from the back, Abbi Pulling was quickly moving up the order: the Alpine Academy driver was already ninth on the first lap and, by lap 5, she broke in the top five, having passed a very solid Schreiner.
On the fifth lap, Hamda Al Qubaisi found a way past Nerea Martí after a long fight with the fast Valencian. Once in clear air, Hamda had a significant gap to close to Marta García, but the MP Motorsport driver continued to set fast laps and caught the race leader.
Behind them, the midfield was incredibly tight: a group of eight cars traded positions: Lola Lovinfosse went wide, clipped the gravel and lost three places on lap 8, promoting Léna Buhler, Chloe Grant and Jessica Edgar.
Chloe Chong – sixth in her car racing debut in a highly positive race 1 – was also cutting her teeth in close wheel to wheel racing; the 16 year old racer overtook Emely de Heus and Megan Gilkes, then continued to swap places with the Rodin Carlin driver.
On lap 11, Nerea Martí was struggling to keep the pace and, under pressure from Amna Al Qubaisi, lost out to the Emirati first, and to Abbi Pulling one lap later.
A few seconds behind, Léna Bühler emerged as the winner of that group of cars, having passed Grant and Schreiner for sixth, completing a good recovery after the first hectic laps.
Marta García was coming under pressure from the fast charging Hamda Al Qubaisi: with three laps to go, Hamda was glued to the back of the Prema car, but couldn’t find a way past. Al Qubaisi attempted a move around the outside of Turn 4, but García kept the inside and defended. This duel allowed Amna to close in again; the race 2 winner, though, had opened a small safe gap to Abbi Pulling, and did not force further to potentially hamper her sister’s chances to go for a move for the lead.
After 16 very intense laps, Marta García emerged victorious for the second time of the day, edging Hamda Al Qubaisi by three tenths of a second across the line. Amna was one second behind, with a couple of second margin over Pulling – who nevertheless scored the fastest lap of the race after an impressive charge from 14th to 4th.
Nerea Martí had an unfortunate weekend and could not capitalize on her speed; the disqualification from race 1 – caused by a team technical infringement – weighed on her points tally, despite two top-five finishes in race 2 and 3.
Léna Bühler had another positive race in sixth, and led a 7-car train across the line, including Carrie Schreiner, Jessica Edgar and Chloe Grant. Schreiner scored her first points with seventh place – confirming a promising trend for the German racer, who is readapting to formula cars after seven years of GT racing.
Edgar was in the points again – after a spectacular race 1 podium, while Grant had good battles but was unlucky with a few contacts. Megan Gilkes edged Chloe Chong for the final point – but the youngest driver on the grid has plenty of positives to take home after her step up from karting.
Emely de Heus finished ahead of Lola Lovinfosse and Maite Caceres – who showed big progress throughout the sessions after an unlucky start of the weekend on Thursday testing, which left the Uruguayan with very little running in practice and qualifying.
After three races, Marta García capitalized on Abbi Pulling’s difficult weekend and leads the standings by 22 points over Amna Al Qubaisi, second at 36. Hamda and Abbi Pulling follow at a close distance, as we get ready for a back-to-back in Valencia, Spain in a week’s time.