Nerea Martí secures first F1 Academy victory at Paul Ricard
Nerea Martí claimed her first victory in F1 Academy in the first Paul Ricard race, with a blistering start that gave the Spaniard the edge over pole sitter Abbi Pulling. Home hero Lovinfosse returns to the podium with a superb drive in P3.
Alpine Academy’s Abbi Pulling had claimed her second pole position of the season on Saturday, after a remarkably close qualifying session that saw the top four drivers in one tenth of a second.
Alongside Pulling, Nerea Martí has been blistering quick all weekend, as Mercantile Racing Campos’ cars have been the ones to beat: home hero Lola Lovinfosse qualified third in both Q1 and Q2, as the Frenchwoman aimed to step back on the podium – but would have to fight with Léna Bühler, who then took pole in Q2.
The very warm weather of the South of France welcomed the drivers on Sunday morning for the start of the first of three races on the same day.
A superb start for Nerea Marti gave the Campos Racing driver the lead over pole sitter Abbi Pulling as the lights went out, while Lola Lovinfosse retained third from the fast Léna Bühler. Starting P14 due to a grid drop penalty from Monza, Chloe Chong had an issue at the start but could eventually get away, albeit far back from the pack.
Amna Al Qubaisi passed Schreiner, with also Caceres having a great getaway to slot into ninth ahead of Jessica Edgar, who dropped down the order.
Marti was able to open a small gap, as Lovinfosse and Bühler tried to put pressure on Pulling.
Garcia was also closing in on her main title rival Hamda Al Qubaisi, as her sister Amna also joined the front running cars ahead.
After 5 laps, Marti had extended her gap to 2.5 seconds, albeit Pulling gained a few tenths over the next laps.
Emely de Heus overtook Megan Gilkes for eleventh place – but the Canadian switched back soon after.
There was trouble for Jessica Edgar, who pitted for a new front wing after contact and then rejoined, losing a position to Chloe Chong.
Maite Caceres confirmed Campos’ big step forward and closed in on Schreiner, showing great race pace.
In the closing stages, Pulling was able to get back under the two second gap to Marti, as Bühler also attempted one final attack on Lovinfosse for the podium.
With three laps to go, Maite Caceres found a way past Carrie Schreiner and moved up to P8 – equalling her best finish to date, conquered in Monza race 2.
After 18 laps around the 3C configuration of the Paul Ricard Circuit Nerea Marti crossed the finish line with a 1.1 second gap to Abbi Pulling; by doing so, the Valencian secured her first win in F1 Academy – and her first ever victory in single-seater. Lola Lovinfosse survived the attacks of Léna Bühler and stepped on the podium for the second time this season, returning to the top three after the opening weekend at Red Bull Ring.
Bühler and Hamda Al Qubaisi rounded out the top five, as the Emirati gained 2 points to championship rival Marta Garcia, sixth across the line.
Amna Al Qubaisi gained one position from the start and was seventh; she will start from reverse grid pole in race 2, on a track that proved to be tricky to pass on.
Caceres, Schreiner and Chloe Grant took the remaining points in race 1, while Bianca Bustamante made her way from the back of the field after a post-qualifying penalty to finish P11. A contact in the opening stages of the race left the Filipina with a bent steering for the whole race.
Megan Gilkes was 12th, half a second ahead of Chloe Chong – who managed to catch back the pack after the difficult start, without a safety car intervention.
Emely de Heus – who had contact in the closing laps and Jessica Edgar rounded out the field.
The second race is set to get underway at 12:35 local time.