Round one of the F1 Academy championship was held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia this weekend, and was primarily dominated by Prema driver Doriane Pin. Pin claimed victory in the first race of the weekend after fighting to stay ahead of Pulling during the race. Although the Mercedes junior finished first on track in race two, it was Pulling who inherited the victory after Pin was issued with a post-race penalty for taking the chequered flag twice.

By Oviya Elangco

Free practice and qualifying

The race weekend began on Thursday with Free practice in the afternoon, where the French driver, Doriane Pin was fastest overall. She was followed by Abbi Pulling from Rodin Motorsport and Williams Racing junior Lia Block.

Qualifying took place in the late evening, where Pin took pole position for both the races, with a lap time that was eight-tenths faster than Pulling, whose fastest lap time put her second. P3 was taken by Pin’s teammate, Maya Weug, who was just under three-tenths off of Pulling’s time. The qualifying results for the top three in race two was the same again, with no huge differences overall other than Bustamante who qualified fifth for race one, but 10th for race two, and Block who qualified seventh for race one yet 13th for race two.

Race one summary 

Race one was held on Friday and began with a strong start from Pin, with Pulling tailing closely behind throughout. The pair were often within a close distance of each other, however Pin was just able to stay ahead. Bianca Bustamante had some trouble in the first few laps, being prone to cutting corners and having to give back a place.

During lap three, the wild card Reema Juffali took a spin, causing a hiccup in Amna Al Qubaisi’s race after the MP Motorsport driver lost her front wing in the incident. This led to a yellow flag and safety car being brought out due to the debris left out on the track.

RB-supported Emirati F1 Academy driver Amna Al Qubaisi poses on the grid ahead of the weekend’s action with RB F1 drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda, and Red Bull Racing Reserve Driver Liam Lawson. The elder Al Qubaisi sister finished 13th in race one and eighth in race two | Credit: Mark Thompson / Red Bull Content Pool

Pin had a fantastic restart, pulling away immediately, leaving Pulling and Weug racing side by side in a fight for the P2 spot. During lap five, we witnessed an exciting battle between Schreiner and De Heus further down the field, with a lock up from the Dutch driver, due to the pressure of Schreiner and Hamda Al Qubaisi who were following closely behind.

Edgar succumbed to a puncture on Lap 7 after contact with the front wing of Tina Hausmann’s car. During Lap 9, Hamda Al Qubaisi attempted to perform an overtake on Nobels, where she ran off the track. She then rejoined ahead of car number 22 and was forced to give the place back.

An eventful last few laps occurred when a yellow flag came out during Lap 11, after Lia Block bounced over the curb and lost control of the car. In Lap 12 we also saw Martí drop from P4 to last, after a misjudgment from Lovinfosse who clipped the rear wheel of the Spanish driver.

The race ended with Doriane Pin in first place with Abbi Pulling close behind, just stealing the fastest lap. Lovinfosse also suffered a 10 second time penalty after causing a collision with Martí, bringing her from P5 to P8.

Race two summary

During race two on Saturday, Pin had a strong start and was able to inch away from Pulling who was just behind. Lovinfosse and Chambers immediately began battling it out in the first lap, with Lovinfosse running wide and Chamber eventually overtaking. Martí was able to move up a place from fifth to fourth during the commotion. There was also a lovely overtake from Bustamante who passed Tina Hausmann by going through the inside of the Aston Martin.

Lap 2 continued to be quite eventful as Lovinfosse and Chambers continued to battle it out, with the pressure of the situation causing the Campos driver to run off the track, but eventually overtake Lovinfosse.

The battle between the pair continued during Lap 3, and there was some contact between the Charlotte Tilbury and Haas drivers, after a lock up from Chloe Chambers. This meant a few cars had to run wide and cut corners to avoid the incident. An unsafe rejoin into the race led to Lola Lovinfosse taking out American driver Lia Block, who lost her front wing in the process. This ended Lovinfosse’s race and the incident caused a yellow flag.

Lap 6 was when the stewards issued Lia Block with a five-second time penalty for false starting. Bustamante was also cutting corners again, which was a frequent occurrence for her in race one. Schreiner also spun after being tagged by De Heus in the Red Bull Ford. Unfortunately, the wild card Reema Juffali had yet another relatively disappointing race after hitting into the wall and ending her race. This led to the safety car being deployed.

The restart began in Lap 9, and Martí was seen cutting corners. In Lap 10, the stewards issued Chambers with a ten-second time penalty for causing a collision. Amna Al Qubaisi’s #88 RB-liveried car also ran over the curb, hitting the back of Nobels’ car and causing her to lose her rear wing and retire from the race. There was also some light contact from Bustamante during the incident, and a lock up from Lia Block on a separate occasion.

The final lap saw Doriane Pin cross the finish line in first and also take the fastest lap. Pulling came in second and Ferrari Academy driver Maya Weug took the P3 spot.

However, Pin was penalised after the race and received a drive through penalty for crossing the chequered flag but continuing to drive at full speed for two more laps. As this was issued after the race, it was served alternatively as a 20-second penalty, moving her from first to ninth. This promoted Pulling to P1. Amna Al Qubaisi was also given a five-second time penalty after exceeding track limits when overtaking Nobels. Furthermore, Lovinfosse was also handed a five-place grid penalty for the next race, after she was given full responsibility for the collision with Block.

Main takeaways

The main takeaways from this weekend have been how Pin evidently stood out as a driver, given that she topped every session without taking into consideration the penalty she was handed after race two. It is also clear that Pulling is a very strong contender for the championship, as she often followed closely behind Pin in all sessions. 

Towards the midfield, we can see that Hamda Al Qubaisi, Nerea Martí and Bianca Bustamante are in contention for some good points throughout the season, aside from Bustamante’s tendency to cut corners which could cost her in the future. 

Slightly nearer the back of the pack, we are able to see that drivers like Amna Al Qubaisi, Emely De Heus, Lia Block and Lola Lovinfosse have quite a bit of work to do to push themselves back up higher in the standings.

Header photo credit: Mercedes F1

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