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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Sophia Floersch narrowly misses out on points after impressive drive at Red Bull Ring

"It shows our promise, and we will aim to keep that momentum going into Silverstone" – Sophia Floersch achieved her best finish of the FIA Formula 3 season with an excellent 11th place result at the Red Bull Ring, fighting back well from adversity suffered in race one to produce an excellent drive to end the weekend.


Sophia Floersch, Van Amersfoort Racing, FIA Formula 3 Championship, 2024 Red Bull Ring Austrian Grand Prix
Photo credits: Dutch Photo Agency

Alpine Academy driver Sophia Floersch achieved her best finish of the FIA Formula 3 season with an excellent 11th place result at the Red Bull Ring. After qualifying inside the top-20, Floersch was challenging for a position in the top-15 in race one, before a damaged front wing put pay to a strong result. Nonetheless, she bounced back superbly in race two to finish in 11th position with a series of confident overtakes in her Van Amersfoort Racing machine.


Arriving into the weekend, Floersch was aiming to carry forward her strong race pace from the Circuit de Catalunya which saw her achieve a pair of top-20 finishes, including an excellent drive in the second race of the weekend. Sophia ranks the Red Bull Ring as one of her favourite circuits and therefore she was looking to challenge for points scoring finishes across the event.


The Red Bull Ring was also the sight of one of Floersch’s finest performances in 2023 as the Alpine Academy driver challenged for a top-10 finish in the feature race with a hard-charging drive through the field.


Conditions were set to be dry and warm throughout the weekend and the drivers were keen to gain valuable track time in Saturday morning’s practice session. Using the hard compound tyres which were carried over from Circuit de Catalunya, Floersch was busy in the first half of the session and was holding a strong position within the top-10.


In the latter stages of practice, some drivers switched to a set of soft tyres, with Sophia remaining on the harder compound. Her pace through sector one was particularly impressive as she recorded the 22nd fastest time, just three tenths of a second away from the top-10.


Qualifying was held in more overcast conditions with Floersch getting her first running on the soft compound tyre. It was an encouraging start to the session as the Van Amersfoort Racing driver negotiated heavy traffic to sit in 17th position at the halfway point of the session, eight tenths of a second adrift of provisional pole.


Light rain drops fell as the final qualifying runs got underway, however the shower was brief and isolated which allowed all drivers to complete their second new tyre laps. Improving by six tenths of a second from her earlier benchmark, Floersch qualified 19th while setting one of the fastest first sector times of any driver.


The opening race of the weekend was held in good conditions on Sunday morning with Floersch lining up from 19th on the grid. Sophia made an excellent start and gained three positions on the first lap, negotiating a spinning Dino Beganovic while making up places round the outside of the opening turns. Due to the stranded MP Motorsport machine of Kacper Sztuka, the safety car was then deployed with the Alpine Academy driver running in a strong 16th.


As the race got back underway on lap five, Floersch enjoyed a fantastic battle with Max Esterson as the pair ran side by side with the Jenzer Motorsport driver holding position in the top-15. On lap eight, a hard-charging Leonardo Fornaroli made his way ahead, with misfortune then striking on the following lap.


As Mari Boya, Callum Voisin and Matias Zagazeta moved ahead, Floersch picked up damage to the front wing which forced the Van Amersfoort Racing driver to come into the pits. A fast change from the team saw her remain on the lead lap, however Sophia was now hoping for a safety car period to regain lost positions.


The race had reached the halfway point when Floersch rejoined the circuit and her lap times were competitive, often matching the race leaders. On lap 17, the safety car was indeed deployed following an incident between Alex Dunne and Sebastian Montoya which left the Campos car stranded on track.


Despite a sizeable cleanup process, the race was able to get back underway with one lap left. Sophia remained on the lead lap in 27th position and was able to gain one position on the final lap as she overtook Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak to end race one in 26th.


"I was able to get up to 16th in the Sprint Race by the end of the first lap with some promising pace but due to contact with another car we were forced to change the front wing which knocked us down the order", Floersch commented.


Sophia started race two from 19th position and was looking to move forward at a circuit which both enjoys and had experienced previous success at. It was a good start from the Van Amersfoort Racing driver who moved up one position on the opening lap, before running side-by-side with teammate Tommy Smith as the second lap began.


Smith was then able to clear Floersch, before the race settled into somewhat of a rhythm. The Alpine Academy driver appeared faster than her rivals and displayed this speed on lap four by overtaking Smith, before moving into 17th following the retirement of Sebastian Montoya.


Floersch was still focusing forward and on lap seven she overtook Max Esterson, before a superb move round the outside of Cian Shields elevated Sophia into the top-15 for the first time. The Van Amersfoort driver was now overtaking one car each lap and this continued with passes on both Nikita Bedrin and Sami Meguetounif.


On lap 11, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed after Bedrin was stranded on track. Initially, this appeared to come at an unfortunate time for Sophia who had built a comfortable gap behind, however she was able to bridge the gap to the pack of drivers ahead.


On lap 13, Meguetounif found a way back through, but Floersch remained 13th following a puncture for teammate Noel Leon. Recovering from a poor qualifying result, Leonardo Fornaroli was moving through the field and he overtook the Alpine Academy driver on lap 17, however Floersch was determined to follow the Trident driver as he made up positions.


On lap 20, Sophia re-passed Meguetounif who was now under pressure from behind and although Floersch was not within DRS range of the drivers ahead, she could focus on setting fast lap times in pursuit of those ahead.


Floersch’s speed was excellent in the latter stages of the race and with a range of penalties assessed to drivers ahead, points remained a possibility. Remaining in 13th position, Sophia finished the race strong and defended smartly from Mari Boya on the final lap to take the checkered flag in 13th position.


With penalties applied to those ahead, the Alpine Academy driver was classified in 11th, just four tenths of a second away from claiming the final point. Nonetheless, it was an excellent driver from Sophia who once again displayed her skill and racecraft at the Red Bull Ring.


“We got some positives out of our weekend in Austria, racing at my favourite track of the season", Floersch said. "We started 19th in both races due to some issues and mistakes we made in Qualifying, and the field was very close the whole weekend, so it came down to the small details."


"The Feature Race was our best finish so far this season and we were so close to points in 11th", she explained. "We had some really good fights and finished just 0.4secs from 10th. It shows our promise, and we will aim to keep that momentum going into Silverstone this weekend.”


Floersch fought back well from the adversity suffered in race one to produce an excellent drive to end the weekend. The Van Amersfoort Racing driver was unlucky to miss out on scoring her first points of the season, however her race pace was once again impressive and this will give cause for optimism heading into the third event of the triple header portion of the season which takes place at Silverstone in less than one week.

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