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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Sophia Floersch displays race pace with double top-20 at Barcelona

Sophia Floersch enjoyed a positive weekend in the latest round of the FIA Formula 3 Championship at Circuit de Catalunya, where she again closed the gap to the top in qualifying and achieved two top-20 results despite some technical issues.

"Our aim is to fix these problems to be closer to the front for my personal favourite race of the season in Austria.”

Sophia Floersch, Van Amersfoort Racing, Alpine Academy, Spanish GP, FIA Formula 3 Barcelona 2024
Photo credits: XPB

Sophia Floersch enjoyed a positive weekend as she achieved two top-20 results in the latest round of the FIA Formula 3 Championship at Circuit de Catalunya. After qualifying in 24th, just eight tenths of a second away from pole position, Floersch produced two excellent drives where she managed the tyres to good effect.

Finishing 20th in the shorter sprint race, the Alpine Academy driver was among the fastest on track in the latter stages of race two as Sophia ended the weekend with an 18th place result.

Sophia arrived at Barcelona aiming to recapture the form she showed at Imola which saw the Alpine Academy driver contend for points scoring finishes in both races. Despite not achieving the ultimate results last time out at Monaco, Floersch continued her step forward in performance and narrowly missed out on claiming sprint race pole position. Replicating this improvement in qualifying would be crucial to a good weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya with the track renown for making overtaking challenging, while also tough on tyres.

With drivers familiar with the circuit from testing, together with the tyre restrictions in FIA Formula 3, the early stages of free practice were quiet. While some teams chose to complete installation laps at the beginning of the session, the first representative times were not set until halfway through the forty-five-minute practice session.

Floersch’s initial lap placed her inside the top-10, but with the drivers gaining confidence as the session progressed, the times continued to improve. With just five minutes remaining, Sophia and her rivals were set for one final run until Mari Boya found the tyre barrier at turn one and therefore the session was red flagged and unable to be resumed. Ending practice in 24th position, Floersch was just one second away from the top-5.

Qualifying was held in equally fine conditions with hot track temperatures at Circuit de Catalunya and this led to the tyres providing just one lap of peak performance. Three runs were made by all the FIA Formula 3 drivers, with Floersch’s first qualifying run seeing her placed as the highest Van Amersfoort Racing driver in 24th.

Improving by a full second on run two, Sophia’s new fastest time of a 1:29.688 was 25th fastest, but just eight tenths of a second away from provisional pole position. Finding further improvements on her final run, particularly within the middle sector, Floersch qualified 24th with a time of 1:29.345, again less than one second away from Christian Mansell’s quickest lap.

“Being only eight-tenths off pole position meant that we have been successful in closing the gap to the front runners in Qualifying", Sophia stated. "This was our goal even though it only put us in 24th overall."

Race one of the weekend was held on Saturday morning with Sophia lining up from 24th on the grid. It was a clean start for the Alpine Academy driver who held her position while negotiating the busy run down the first turn. Ending the opening lap in 26th, Floersch then lost out to Joshua Dufek on lap two as she fell to 27th position.

Lap three saw the safety car deployed after two separate collisions, with Sami Meguetounif, Callum Voisin and Nikita Bedrin all stranded on track. Santiago Ramos also suffered a puncture and fell to the rear of the field and these incidents promoted Floersch to 23rd.

The race restarted on lap eight and Sophia was immediately on the move, overtaking Matias Zagazeta to move into 22nd. As the drivers remained in a DRS train, progress was challenging, and one small mistake or loss of momentum could be costly. After falling behind Zagazeta on lap 11, Floersch remained in 23rd for the majority of the second half of the race.

On lap 18, an incident involving Sebastian Montoya and Gabriele Mini saw both drivers in the gravel trap at turn 5 and a second safety car period was required. Now in 21st position, Sophia was unable to improve on-track as the race ended behind the safety car, however she was promoted to 20th following a penalty for Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak.

Sophia Floersch, Van Amersfoort Racing, Alpine Academy, Spanish GP, FIA Formula 3 Barcelona 2024
Photo credits: James Gasperotti Photography

Race two of the weekend took place on Sunday morning with cloudy and cool conditions at the Circuit de Catalunya. Floersch got off the line well and ended the opening lap in 25th position as a hard-charging Sebastian Montoya made his way through.

As Montoya moved ahead of Nikita Bedrin on lap two, Sophia took advantage of this manoeuvre by also overtaking the AIX Racing driver to regain 24th. Looking to continue her move forward, Floersch then made a smart overtake on Max Esterson on lap three to gain a further position.

The race then settled down into an early rhythm with a DRS train preventing many moves from taking place. Nonetheless, Floersch’s race pace appeared to be strong and this saw her overtake Cian Shields on lap nine, while then applying pressure to the Rodin Motorsport machine of Joseph Loake. While attempting to pass Loake, Joshua Dufek moved ahead which saw Sophia drop back to 23rd position at the end of lap 12.

Dufek’s pace was excellent at this stage of the race and the AIX Racing driver was able to pass Loake on lap 15, with Floersch capitalising and also moving ahead of the British racer. From there, the Alpine Academy driver was able to build a comfortable gap behind and was focused on securing her second top-20 result of the weekend.

Sophia’s pace was now on par with the race leaders and after overtaking Prema Racing’s Gabriele Mini on lap 21, she was the second fastest driver on track. After managing her tyres in the initial stages, Floersch was making significant inroads and the Alpine Academy driver entered the top-20 on the penultimate lap.

A clean move on Matias Zagazeta followed by puncture for Laurens Van Hoepen elevated Sophia to 19th as light rain began to fall in the final sector. Managing the conditions well, Floersch gained a further position on the last lap to finish race two of the weekend in 18th position and secure her best ever FIA Formula 3 result at Circuit de Catalunya.

Negotiating high tyre wear and challenging conditions, Sophia drove well in Barcelona to collect two top-20 results at one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar. Once again, her race pace was excellent and this enabled Floersch to move forward in both races, while her late-race speed in the second contest was a particular highlight.

"In the races, I was able to gain positions and finished 20th and 18th in the end", Floersch summed up. "There are definitely more things to work on as we were faced with some technical issues over the weekend. Our aim is to fix these problems to be closer to the front for my personal favourite race of the season in Austria.”

It is a quick turnaround for the FIA Formula 3 drivers who will be back on track next weekend as they tackle the Red Bull Ring in Austria.



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