Marta García smiles at the camera against a blue background

García and Pulling fastest at inaugural F1 Academy test in Barcelona

The first of two official tests of the newly founded F1 Academy took place earlier this week in Barcelona. Here are Feeder Series’ takeaways.

By Jan Husmann

All 15 drivers that will take part in the inaugural F1 Academy season gathered at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to test their Tatuus T421 cars. The all-female racing series is ready to start the season at the end of April in Spielberg and the two testing days have given us a first glimpse at what the pecking order might look like.

Prema look good early on

Given that we are talking about a Formula 4 series – or any feeder series for that matter – it should be no surprise to see Prema at the sharp end of the field. They reiterated their claim for pre-season favourites in the first session on Tuesday morning.

Marta García had the most laps of the morning session while also setting the fastest lap in the process. Second in terms of laps completed was her rookie team-mate Chloe Chong and second fastest was her other teammate Bianca Bustamante. 

Bustamante competed in F4 UAE earlier this year | Credit: F4 UAE

García was also the fastest driver overall, topping Wednesday’s AM session when all 15 drivers set their fastest laps. Bustamante set the fourth-fastest time overall while Chong, the only driver without car racing experience in the field, finished 10th overall. 

MP Motorsport show potential

Over both days of testing, the two drivers that accumulated the highest lap-count were MP’s Amna Al Qubaisi (140 laps) and Emely de Heus (152). Al Qubaisi also finished with the third-fastest time overall, while Hamda Al Qubaisi only completed 81 total laps, the fewest of any driver. It is likely that this was part of a plan to ease her back into the car after she sustained a fractured wrist in an F4 UAE race in February.

Hamda, the younger of the two Al Qubaisi sisters, is a multiple race winner in F4 UAE and podium finisher in Italian F4. She is regarded as the most accomplished of the three MP Motorsport drivers and should she return to full-strength quickly, they could very well challenge for the teams’ title. 

Rodin Carlin’s slow start

The British team of Rodin Carlin had a solid test overall, but started slowly on Tuesday and had the fewest laps of any team over the four sessions. However, Alpine Academy member – and a driver who many consider a championship contender – Abbi Pulling put in the second fastest lap overall on Wednesday morning before finishing the final session on top. 

Her teammates Jessica Edgar and Megan Gilkes, who made the step over from GB4,  finished eighth and thirteenth in the final standings respectively.

A young woman with brown hair and a white racing vest with purple 'W' insignias chats to another woman with pink dyed hair, a black headset, a purple and neon green W Series top and flourescent pink nail polish with the outline of palm trees in black
Abbi Pulling completed her first full W Series season in 2022 | Credit: W Series

As a regular powerhouse in British F4, you can expect Carlin to be closer to their day two pace than their day one pace, but given the expectations on Pulling and the team they should not make it a habit to start off on the backfoot. 

Campos gather valuable mileage

Spanish outfit Campos started their on track preparation early this year. Each of their F1 Academy drivers, Nerea Martí, Lola Lovinfosse, and Maite Cáceres, also took part in at least one round of the Formula Winter Series with the team. 

This head start was converted into completing the most laps of any team over the two days of running in Barcelona, 390 in total. Martí finished fifth fastest with Lovinfosse setting the second-fastest lap in the final Wednesday session and the seventh-fastest lap overall. Cáceres stood out with 137 laps, the most amongst Campos’ drivers.

ART GP get to grips with F4 machinery

While ART is a household name in Formula 2 and Formula 3, it is the only team without any Formula 4 level experience on the F1 Academy grid. To combat this disadvantage, ART employs the two oldest drivers on the grid in Carrie Schreiner and Lena Bühler. Both bring with them a wealth of experience in Formula racing and beyond.

Chloe Grant & Logan Hannah GB4 2022
Chloe Grant raced in GB4 in 2022 | Credit: Graham Brunton Racing / Laser Tools Racing

Bühler posted the sixth-fastest time of the test on Wednesday morning, while Schreiner and third ART driver Chloe Grant finished fourteenth and twelfth respectively. Scottish teenager Grant completed the most laps of the trio, 126 in total. 

The F1 Academy paddock will move northwards on the European continent, stopping in Le Castellet next week for the second test before starting the season on the Red Bull Ring in Austria later this month.

Test Results (combined)

1. Marta García, Prema, 1:40.748 (134 laps)
2. Abbi Pulling, Rodin Carlin, 1:41.019 (103 laps)
3. Amna Al Qubaisi, MP Motorsport, 1:41.101 (140 laps)
4. Bianca Bustamante, Prema, 1:41.519 (125 laps)
5. Nerea Martí, Campos, 1:41.519 (131 laps)
6. Lena Bühler, ART GP, 1:41.560 (125 laps)
7. Lola Lovinfosse, Campos, 1:41.590 (128 laps)
8. Jessica Edgar, Rodin Carlin, 1:41.686 (130 laps)
9. Emely de Heus, MP Motorsport, 1:41.744 (152 laps)
10. Chloe Chong, Prema, 1:41.901 (125 laps)
11. Maite Cáceres, Campos, 1:42.339 (137 laps)
12. Chloe Grant, ART GP, 1:42.383 (126 laps)
13. Megan Gilkes, Rodin Carlin, 1:42.440 (123 laps)
14. Carrie Schreiner, ART GP, 1:42.606 (121 laps)
15. Hamda Al Qubaisi, MP Motorsport, 1:43.404 (81 laps)

Correction, 19 April 2023: A previous version of this article stated that Nerea Martí had completed 125 laps in testing. She completed 131 laps.

Header photo credit: Prema Racing


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