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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Nerea Marti leads FP1 at Le Castellet

Nerea Marti edged Abbi Pulling and Hamda Al Qubaisi after the first practice session at Circuit Paul Ricard, penultimate round of the F1 Academy inaugural season.

Photo credits: Racers - Behind the Helmet

Mercantile Campos Racing’s Nerea Marti has topped the first practice session of the penultimate F1 Academy round of the season, in a sunny morning at Circuit Paul Ricard.

Marti took the top of the leaderboard in the final minutes, having beaten Abbi Pulling’s time.

The session got underway at 9am local, after a two test day last week on the same track. All drivers therefore had plenty of data, while temperatures are higher which could result in higher tyre deg.

Emely de Heus set the early pace once times started to drop, before MP Motorsport’s teammate Hamda Al Qubaisi improved with a 1:27.906.

Championship leader Marta Garcia improved three laps in a row and took the top of the charts a few minutes later, but the Emirati – also her main title rival – would post a 1:27.519 and a 1:27.356 that demoted Garcia.

Abbi Pulling – who had also led most of the sessions in testing, both before the start of the season and in-season – would be the only drivers to challenge her, going faster with a 1:27.231 lap 23 minutes into the session.

Léna Buhler was fast in almost all sectors, but couldn’t put all the lap together; the ART GP drivers were then all forced to sit stationary in pitlane for a 10 minute penalty, after having run the installation lap on wet weather tyres.

With Buhler, Schreiner and Grant losing valuable time, Hamda Al Qubaisi improved her time but wasn’t ultimately enough to demote Abbi Pulling from the top position. The only driver able to do so was in fact Nerea Marti: with 10 minutes left on the clock, the Spaniard clocked a 1:27.013 that became the new benchmark for FP1.

Marti further improved her first sector one lap later, but was eventually 2 thousandths of a second behind her overall best.

Marti therefore edged Pulling in the opening session of the weekend by 0.150. In the final minutes, Amna Al Qubaisi had a good lap and slotted into fourth place, 55 thousand behind her sister Hamda.

All three Prema cars pulled into the garage with almost 10 minutes left on the clock and did not run again in the final attempts. Marta Garcia was therefore fifth fastest, ahead of Jessica Edgar – once again in remarkable form and close to the top five.

Home hero Lola Lovinfosse had a great run and finished seventh, ahead of Léna Buhler, Carrie Schreiner and Maite Caceres. The Uruguayan driver enjoyed a highly positive testing and is keeping up the trend after the first practice.

Emely de Heus finished 11th fastest, ahead of Megan Gilkes – with 12 cars within a one second margin. Chloe Chong was merely 0.001 behind, with ART’s Chloe Grant a few more thousands adrift. Bianca Bustamante rounded out the order, as drivers will be back on track at 12:15 local time.



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