Marta García takes F1 Academy pole after Carlin’s disqualification
Marta García has secured the first pole positions in the history of F1 Academy after Rodin Carlin's disqualification.
The forecasted rain eventually arrived at the Red Bull Ring just minutes before the start of the first ever qualifying in the history of the series – leaving drivers and teams on uncharted territory after dry test and practice sessions.
While Hamda Al Qubaisi was looking strong on a dry track - despite still recovering from a wrist fracture - it would be Abbi Pulling to initially secured two pole positions in the 15 minute sessions on Friday afternoon, which will set the grids for race 1 and race 3.
All cars were out on track on wet weather tyres. Marta García (Prema Racing) led the way in the opening stages of Q1, as rain intensified.
Bianca Bustamante also set fast times and the two Prema drivers were on top of the leaderboard after the first run - before Léna Bühler improved.
Times dropped and Marta García returned on top, then beaten by Rodin Carlin’s Abbi Pulling in the pink Alpine-liveried Tatuus.
Nerea Martí was always just a few tenths behind, with Jessica Edgar, Carrie Schreiner and Megan Gilkes all improving as well. The Canadian went fastest at one point, but then got stuck in traffic in the closing minutes and could not climb further.
In the final lap, Chloe Chong was setting her fastest sectors, but went off at the final corner, bringing out a red flag.
Abbi Pulling therefore claimed the honors of first ever F1 Academy pole winner, one tenth ahead of Marta García.
After qualifying, though, a technical infringement for all three Rodin Carlins meant that Pulling lost her pole position, which went to Marta García.
Bianca Bustamante was a strong third and thus advances to second, in a Orena front row lock-out.
Nerea Martí had mixed feelings about her qualifying, but hopes to have better race pace and capitalize on Saturday: she will nevertheless start from third in race 1.
Jessica Edgar and Carrie Schreiner were fifth and sixth - in a remarkable performance for both drivers, on a very positive trend after testing. Edgar, though lost her qualifying results as well.
Schreiner, at her single seaters return, will line up in fourth place.
Initially seventh and eighth fastest, Emily de Heus and Léna Bühler would have shared the first row for the reverse grid 20-minute race. They now move up to fifth and sixth. While it was not an ideal qualifying for Bühler – who proved to be a front runner on pace – the Swiss driver will have the chance to put her experience to good use in the races.
For De Heus, it was her first time in the rain in this car.
Megan Gilkes would have ended ninth; Lola Lovinfosse is now promoted to seventh - on the front row for race 2 - with reverse grid pole will go to Amna Al Qubaisi. Amna has previously showed good pace, so she might be expected to put on a fight for the race 2 win, as well as move up the order in the others.
Chloe Grant was left a bit disappointed with a P9 and will start just ahead of Chloe Chong, who was on a very good final lap before the accident that damaged the front right suspension. Luckily, she was okay.
Hamda Al Qubaisi was the biggest surprise at the bottom of the order: the Emirati had a electrical issue and had to sit out Q1.
Maite Caceres rounds out the grid after a very unfortunate start of the season. After an accident in testing on Thursday, the Uruguayan had very limited running before qualifying, effectively learning the track and in rainy conditions.
After a five minute delay to allow for the recovery of the stricken Prema, the second qualifying was a repeat of Q1: Abbi Pulling and Marta García battling out for the top spot, thousands of a second splitting them.
A red flag mid way through the session interrupted the action when Megan Gilkes went off in the gravel; the Canadian, though, had set a lap fast enough for sixth at the end of the session – before the team’s disqualification.
Jessica Edgar was one of the protagonists with a 1:44.317 that put the Brit in third place for race 3, six tenths adrift the leading duo. The Carlin driver, though, will have to start from the back of the pack.
Léna Bühler and Amna Al Qubaisi will be fourth and fifth– both eager to recover after strong practice sessions in the dry.
Emely de Heus is getting up to speed and once again finished in the top ten: the Dutchwoman will start P6, just ahead her MP Motorsport’s teammate Hamda Al Qubaisi, who continued to suffer from technical gremlins and with the red flag stopping her best lap.
ART teammates Carrie Schreiner and Chloe Grant were P8 and P9 - ahead of an unfortunate Lola Lovinfosse.
Maite Caceres received a black-and-orange flag for a malfunctioning rain light and could not continue the session.
As the first day comes to a close, the uncertaint weather for race day is the big talking point. With low temperatures and no wind, though, the track is likely to stay damp – resulting in challenging three races.
The season starts with a dramatic turns of events, as Abbi Pulling will have to charge through the field to score as many points as possible.