Martí and Sidorkova complete first FIA F3 test at Magny Cours
W Series Academy drivers Nerea Martí and Irina Sidorkova had their first taste of FIA F3 machinery at Magny Cours – a first step to facilitate female access to the series. With two qualifying and two race simulations, the drivers had a lot to take in, from tyres to DRS.
In one of the most important developments since joining the F1 platform, the all-female W Series championship announced last week a plan to create a bridge with FIA F3 to facilitate female drivers to advance to the two top F1 feeder series. The programme is part of a joint mission with FIA F3 and FIA F2 promoters that also includes other female-oriented projects such as Iron Dames. On 9th November, the two W Series Academy members – and youngest drivers on the 2021 grid - Nerea Martí and Irina Sidorkova hit the track at Magny Cours for their first ever taste of FIA F3 machinery. Martí, 19, and Sidorkova, 18, were in fact used to the Regional F3 Tatuus car which is fundamentally different from the Dallara used in the international category: while the T318 used in W Series features an Alfa Romeo/Autotecnica 1.7L engine able to generate 270 hp, the Dallara car features a 3.4L Mecachrome engine with a power of almost 400 hp. More fundamental differences include tyres – Hankook for the Tatuus W Series car and Pirelli on the Dallara FIA F3 – and the presence of DRS. Driver thus only had one day to take on a huge amount of new information and make the most out of the sessions to learn as much as possible. Nevertheless, they could count two very important benchmarks: 2021 series champion Dennis Hauger and Prema Powerteam. The Norwegian driver started the day by setting the reference lap times and supported Martí and Sidorkova throughout the day during the data analysis sessions – also assisted by Magny-Cours racing School's instructor Julien Gilbert. The aim of the test was to introduce Martí and Sidorkova with the new category, the features of the cars and the challenges of its setup. Each driver was provided with 3 sets of Pirelli dry tyres and 3 sets of wet weather compounds, as they experimented with the different feelings of the rubber. In the sunny yet chilly morning session, hauger went out on track and set the reference lap times, before Nerea and Irina followed, initially focusing on the use of DRS. A qualifying simulation ended the morning's session, before a first round of coaching and data analysis. In the afternoon, Martí and Sidorkova returned to the track with a 15-lap race simulation, as they experienced race setups and higher fuel loads. A second qualifying run and another 14-lap race simulation ended the day – always alternated with data analysis debriefings. Nerea Martí, who finished fourth at her first season in W Series and was the highest placed rookie, was very happy with her performance - as well as grateful for the opportunity. “It was a very good day. I enjoyed it a lot! It was a very good day for me and my career. It was my first time in this car and on this track." – she said. "I would like to thank the FIA Formula 3 and W Series for this great opportunity." Both drivers were presented with the specific challenges of the Pirelli compound, which generally requires a more rigorous management compared to Hankook's. “Managing the Pirelli tyres is key." – explained Nerea. "During the race simulation, it was perfect at the beginning, but then, the tyres started to grain. It is difficult. But it is something that I need to learn, and I need to put in practice in the longer runs." The different tyre - which can also have an impact on the lines the drivers have to go for – was one of the main learning points also for Sidorkova, who had driven the F3 Regional car both on the Hankook and Giti Tire compound used in the F3 Asian Championship. “It was quite a good day." – stated the Russian teenager. "I learned a lot of new things: a new car, new tyres, DRS…There was a lot of information to absorb today! I usually need time to adapt, but I was improving session by session. I am quite happy about this." “I really like the Pirelli tyres as well. I think I would like more time with these tyres and this car. The track temperatures were quite cold, so it was not easy to find a good grip", she added. While the Tatuus T318 has been often reported to be one of the hardest and most physically-demanding cars to drive, Sidorkova was positively impressed by the steering of the Dallara FIA F3 car. “I really like the car. It’s amazing to drive. It is so fast. I was quite surprised regarding the steering wheel because I could manage it easier than I expected." The involvement of series powerhouse Prema, one of the very best teams in all junior categories, was certainly a very important point for the FIA Formula 3 commitment in this programme, as well as the presence of series champion Hauger. “I think we did great work with Dennis [Hauger] and Julien [Gilbert]", continued Nerea. "They helped me a lot during the day. I learned a lot of things that I did not know before." "That was a lot of information in one day. Now I have to assimilate everything. Next test, I will be even better prepared", she concluded, as the Spaniard hopes to get back behind the wheel of the F3 car for more track time ahead of a potential jump into the championship in the future. According to F3 Technical Director Didier Perrin, Nerea and Irina adapted quickly to the new car and provided the team with interesting feedback despite the amount of new information they had to process during the day. "We are quite pleased with both drivers’ work today.” – he concluded. On Tuesday, it will be Maya Weug and Doriane Pin's turn. For both of them, it will be their first ever time in a car bigger than a F4. While this is only the first step, it certainly represents a very important move towards tearing down that glass ceiling that women have recently found at F3 level.