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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Sophia Floersch returns to FIA Formula 3 action at Bahrain

Sophia Floersch experienced a challenging weekend in FIA Formula 3 at Bahrain where an intermittent technical issue prevented her from achieving higher results and causing only her second retirement in 36 career FIA F3 races. The Alpine Academy driver still gained two positions over the opening race.

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

Sophia Floersch experienced a challenging weekend in FIA Formula 3 at Bahrain, where an intermittent technical issue prevented her from achieving higher results. The Alpine Academy driver qualified 25th before finishing 23rd in a closely-fought opening race.

Floersch’s pace was extremely strong in race two, often matching that of the leaders, however a technical issue forced her into a retirement with one lap remaining. Nonetheless, Floersch’s reunion with Van Amersfoort Racing showed excellent potential and she will be aiming to build upon this as the season progresses.

Sophia made a return to Van Amersfoort Racing after a productive 2023 season which saw her lead the PHM Racing by Charouz team to ninth in the FIA Formula 3 teams’ championship standings. The undoubted highlight of her season came at Spa-Francorchamps where Floersch finished seventh and secured a historic points finish, however she also displayed superb pace at both the Red Bull Ring and Monza.

In 2018, Sophia teamed up with the Dutch outfit for a partial campaign in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, before making her Macau Grand Prix debut with Van Amersfoort Racing later that year. Remaining with the team in 2019, Floersch scored six top-5 finishes in the Formula Regional European Championship on her way to seventh in the overall standings. Reuniting with the team for the 2023 Macau Grand Prix, Sophia showed excellent speed on her way to finishing 11th in the main race, with the Alpine Academy driver aiming to build upon this showing as she entered her third season in FIA Formula 3.

Pre-season testing at Bahrain saw Sophia gain crucial track time ahead of the opening round of the season, completing 149 laps across the three days with her best lap time of a 1:47.194 coming on Sunday morning.

With an adjusted schedule for the weekend at Bahrain International Circuit, free practice took place on Thursday morning at 10:55am and this would be the earliest the drivers took to the track throughout the weekend. As a result, the first half of the session featured a quiet track with no drivers setting a lap time. Following a brief red flag for a spin for Prema Racing’s Gabriele Mini, drivers had just five minutes to clock a fast time. Sophia was one of a number of drivers having their fastest lap times deleted for track limits, however her quickest time would’ve put her solidly inside the top-15.

Qualifying took place later in the afternoon with Floersch aiming to extract the maximum from her Van Amersfoort Racing machine. Two-thirds of the drivers completed a lap time within the opening ten minutes of the session and this initial run was promising as the Alpine Academy driver sat in sixth, just behind teammate Noel Leon.

Two further runs followed, with the times extremely close among the 30 young racers and therefore small margins made a sizeable difference on the timing sheets. Floersch ended qualifying 25th with a best lap of a 1:47.812, just over half a second away from the top-15.

An eventful start to race one saw Floersch avoiding the stalled car of teammate Noel Leon and this dropped the Alpine Academy driver a number of positions, however she was able to recover well to end lap one in 25th. As Leon and Trident racer Santiago Ramos recovered from early incidents, Sophia was tasked with negotiating these faster cars as they looked to make up for lost time. Losing out to Leon and Ramos by the end of lap five, Floersch was aiming to find her rhythm and start moving her way forward.

This persistence paid off following a spin for Rodin Motorsport driver Joseph Loake which elevated Sophia to 26th, while her pace continued to improve despite being stuck in a DRS train. Floersch’s experience with the Pirelli tyres was soon evident as she overtook both Ramos and Joshua Dufek with a nice move into turn one to move into 24th. With a gap now ahead of her, Sophia set her fastest middle sector of the race in pursuit of her Van Amersfoort Racing teammates. Lapping at a comparable pace to the race leaders, Floersch’s tyre management skills enabled her to be within touching distance of the top-20.

Her progress was aided by contact between teammate Tommy Smith and Jenzer Motorsport driver Matias Zagazeta. Following closely behind Ramos for the final laps, Floersch’s pace continued to match those in the leading group and was making sizeable progress on the drivers ahead as the checkered flag flew after 19 hard-fought laps. Sophia’s finish of 23rd did not represent the pace she showed in the second half of the race and the Alpine Academy driver was keen to use her experience to make further progress in race two.

Following a grid penalty for Matias Zagazeta, Floersch lined up 24th for the final race of the weekend. After initially dropping down to 26th at the end of the opening sector, Sophia used her experience to negotiate a busy opening lap with a series of overtakes to move her up to 23rd.

While on the attack at the beginning of lap two, a technical issue occurred on the exit of turn two which saw her lose around 30 seconds and drop to the rear of the field. With the problem seemingly now resolved, the Van Amersfoort Racing driver was now hoping for a safety car in order to salvage a good finish.

Lapping in clean air in 28th position, Floersch’s speed was excellent as she regularly lapped faster than race leader Luke Browning. This highlighted the potential of the Alpine Academy driver at a demanding circuit which saw significant tyre degradation throughout the field. Sophia’s determination was clear to see as she made sizeable inroads on a group of drivers ahead, putting herself within DRS range of Piotr Wisnicki by the conclusion of lap 20.

Following a smart move on her former teammate, in addition to an overtake on Joshua Dufek, Floersch was up to 26th and was poised to make further moves in the closing laps. Misfortune then struck with one lap remaining as the intermittent technical issue returned and forced Floersch into retirement, only her second retirement in 36 career FIA Formula 3 races.

Despite a challenging return to FIA Formula 3, Sophia should be encouraged by the speed she displayed during race two at Bahrain. Her ability to lap on pace with the leaders highlights her potential and combining this speed with track position will be central to future successes this season.

Enjoying close wheel-to-wheel battles in race one, Floersch will be aiming to use this experience to push into the top half of the field when the FIA Formula 3 drivers return to action at Albert Park in Melbourne on the weekend of 23rd/24th March.



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