Marta García becomes first F1 Academy champion after Race 1 win at COTA
Updated: Oct 22
After her seventh win of the season, Marta García led from lights to finish at Circuit of the Americas despite pressure from Abbi Pulling and clinched the inaugural F1 Academy title with two races to spare. The Spaniard thus became the first driver in the series' history to take a pole position, to score a victory and to be crowned champion.
23 year old Marta García became the first ever cF1 Academy pole sitter and race winner in Austria - and six months later wrapped up the championship by becoming the inaugural F1 Academy champion with a lights-to-flag victory at Circuit of the Americas, in the series first race outside of Europe. García had claimed the two extra points for pole position on Friday, extending her margin to second-placed Léna Bühler to 50 ahead of the first race of the weekend. Any spots on the podium would have granted the Spaniard the title, as well as a fourth place without the fastest lap for Sauber Academy-supported Buhler. No complex maths was eventually required, as García led from start to finish and, despite having big pressure from Abbi Pulling throughout the race, the Prema Racing driver was crowned with a victory that sums up her season. García lined up alongside Pulling after a very close qualifying on Friday; the Valencian had a perfect getaway, but Pulling was able to break deeper and went alongside as they navigated through turn 1. Marta held on, as Nerea Marti - third on the grid - was also ready to pick up the pieces. One of Friday's heroes, Jessica Edgar, crucially gained a position on Buhler at the start, as also Bianca Bustamante had a blistering launch and fired into P6. On the second lap, Maite Caceres launched an attack on Chloe Grant after the Uruguayan had passed Gilkes on the first lap; with Emely de Heus going three-wide around the outside, the three made contact at turn 1 and tangled. The racing incident resulted in all three drivers having to retire from the race and the safety car was deployed. Garcia had managed to hold on from the fast charging Pulling, but would have to do it again at the restart: the race resumed on lap 6 and Marta García had a smart restart, although the pink BWT-sponsored Carlin car of Pulling was not far behind. Léna Bühler made a move stick at turn one and reclaimed fourth from Jessica Edgar, who was then also under pressure from Bustamante. The slipstream proved powerful on the long back-straight and Abbi Pulling increased her pressure on Marta García. Meanwhile, Bühler had to quickly make up positions and she recovered one more place at turn 1 with another great pass on Nerea Marti. The Spaniard fought back; Buhler switched back and held third, although the scrap allowed Jessica Edgar to attempt a pass on Marti as well. The leading duo was pulling away and Bühler, now 2 and a half seconds behind, would have to close in to keep her chances alive. The Swiss racer didn't have enough speed to catch the top two, but settled in third with a good margin to the battling drivers behind. Having attempted a different tyre strategy on Friday, Edgar in fact fell into the clutches of Bianca Bustamante as the race progressed - also followed closely by Hamda Al Qubaisi. Edgar ran wide at turn 12 and Bustamante was quick to snatch the position on lap 10. Ahead, García set the fastest lap of the race and remained in control, albeit Pulling was not giving up a metre to the Spaniard. Once in clear air, her teammate Bustamante was able to catch up with Nerea Marti for fourth, but couldn't make a move stick. Despite a last lap attack from Pulling, Marta García crossed the finish line in the lead and became the first ever F1 Academy champion with two races to spare. Marta collected her seventh race win of the season - and third consecutive one - as well as her eleventh podium this year. It is Marta's first title in car racing, having previously finished fourth in W Series. With second place in race 1, Abbi Pulling closed in on Marti in the points - now only eight behind. Léna Bühler maximized her opportunities and was third, making up positions after a challenging start. The Swiss racer is on a 12-race uninterrupted streak of point scoring finishes and her consistency means that she is the driver with more podiums to her name (12), one more tha García. The Swiss driver will aim to defend second in the championship standings in the remaining two races of the season. Nerea Marti scored again big points with a fourth place and preceded Bianca Bustamante and Jessica Edgar. Hamda Al Qubaisi gained a position from the start and slotted into seventh place. Chloe Chong had a strong race in eighth place: the youngest driver on the grid ran on a good pace and secured P8 - her fourth point-scoring finish of the year and second consecutive one. After a difficult qualifying, Amna Al Qubaisi lined up in 12th place and still climbed up the field to P9, scoring two points. Lola Lovinfosse had good pace in practice but a challenging qualifying put her on the back foot; she still gained a few positions to round out the top ten. Carrie Schreiner was just outside the top-ten in P11 and preceded Rodin Carlin's Megan Gilkes across the line. De Heus, Grant and Caceres were unfortunately out of the race. Saturday will see another race - the penultimate of the season - getting underway: the 20 minute reverse grid race 2 is scheduled for 15:30 local time, with Hamda Al Qubaisi sharing the front row of the grid with Chloe Chong.
Update: Nerea Marti has received a post race five second penalty which drops the Campos Racing driver from fourth to ninth.