F1 Academy starts its season with back-to-back race weekends. Teams and drivers had to digest the opening weekend at the Red Bull Ring quickly and get ready for Valencia this weekend, and any edge will be important, as the opening weekend of the series has shown.
By Jan Husmann
After announcing F1 Academy with much fanfare last year, Formula 1 did not give its new all-female racing series’ opening weekend the stage it deserved. It took place during a packed F1 Sprint weekend, nearly 3,000 kilometres away from Baku, without a live broadcast.
But taking away the off-track factors, F1 Academy delivered on its opening weekend with thrilling races and plenty of opportunity to grow for its fifteen competitors.
Are Prema and García truly dominant?
Only considering the standings after Spielberg, Marta García has a comfortable lead. She scored 28 points in race one and 27 in race three by taking two poles, two wins and one fastest lap. In between, she added another two points with seventh place in race two.
For a Prema driver at the F4 level, this result may seem ordinary. But looking deeper into the race weekend, it becomes clear that this was not your typical round dominated by Prema.
On Friday, it was Rodin Carlin pilot Abbi Pulling who took both pole positions during qualifying before she and her teammates were disqualified for the team’s installation of non-homologated parts to their cars. In race one, Nerea Martí overtook García at the safety car restart on lap five before the Prema driver retook the race lead on lap eight.
Over the three races of the first race weekend, F1 Academy had seven different podium finishers – more than W Series had in the whole of its inaugural season in 2019.
Drivers and teams evenly matched
The parity among drivers is not surprising, as Prema’s Bianca Bustamante explained on the Feeder Series Podcast earlier this week. “The whole F1 Academy grid has lots of [consistency] and lots of potential, so you can never really say who is going to be the top contender,”she said.
However, the parity on the team side is surprising as the five teams came into the series with vastly different levels of experience in F4 series, ranging from 10-time F4 champions Prema to newcomers ART Grand Prix. In a sport where the car can be more important than the driver’s performance, there was barely any difference between the teams, with all five of them achieving at least one podium finish over the course of the weekend.
MP Motorsport confirmed its strong pre-season form with Amna Al Qubaisi’s win in race two and a double podium in race three; Rodin Carlin’s drivers recovered to third, fourth and fifth from the back of the grid in race one; and ART’s Léna Bühler and Campos Racing’s Lola Lovinfosse also found the podium in the reverse-grid race two.
We will learn more about the balance of power in F1 Academy this weekend as the grid takes to the track in Valencia. Prema were impressive at the Red Bull Ring, but it would not be surprising to see another team take the reins and open the fight for the F1 Academy title.
Header photo credit: Prema Racing
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