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F1 Academy 2023: Key talking points emerge from first race weekend

The inaugural F1 Academy season kicked off in Austria over the weekend of 28-29 April. RacingNews365.com has rounded up the key takeaways from the event, ranging from the much-discussed television coverage situation to an early championship favourite.

As the Formula 1 action unfolded in Azerbaijan, the first-ever F1 Academy season got underway over in Austria, with a jam-packed schedule across 28-29 April kicking off the first event of 2023. The debut campaign of the series – which aims to help in preparing young female drivers to progress through the ranks of motorsport – saw 15 drivers from three teams take to the Red Bull Ring to compete in three races. While F1 Academy is not yet being televised, there were several key talking points to emerge from the history-making weekend in Spielberg, including the matter of the coverage itself.

How to watch F1 Academy 2023

In the days leading up to the opening F1 Academy 2023 weekend, questions remained over whether the series would receive live television coverage. It was confirmed just ahead of the event that the category is not yet being televised live. Instead, a highlights programme will be released in the days after the races. During the weekend itself, fans can follow the action via social media and live timing, but many have expressed their hopes that the series will eventually be broadcast live.

One team disqualified

During a rain-affected opening day of action in Austria, Abbi Pulling topped both of F1 Academy's first-ever qualifying sessions, putting her on pole position for Races 1 and 3 in Spielberg. However, it was later confirmed that Pulling and her Rodin Carlin teammates Jessica Edgar and Megan Gilkes had all been disqualified from qualifying after an unintentional technical infringement was found on their cars in breach of the technical regulations. This handed both of Pulling's pole positions to another former W Series driver, Prema Racing's Marta Garcia.

Garcia makes history

The weekend only got better from there for Garcia, with the Spaniard making history to win the inaugural F1 Academy race. After losing the lead at one stage in the event during a scrap with Nerea Marti, Garcia fought back to retake P1 and seal victory with a decent gap to the rest of the field. This was not the 22-year-old's only success of the weekend; the Prema racer went on to clinch another win in Race 3.

Siblings take to the podium

Garcia's run of victories was interrupted in Race 2 by Amna Al Qubaisi, who led from start to finish to claim the win after starting from pole in the reverse grid event. Al Qubaisi again took to the podium with a third place in Race 3, where she was joined by her MP Motorsport teammate – and sister – Hamda Al Qubaisi. Hamda had pressured Garcia for P1 after making her way through the field from seventh, rapidly cutting into the latter's lead as the race progressed. The gap was just 0.5 seconds on the final lap, but Garcia held on to take the win, while the Al Qubaisi sisters claimed second and third.

An early championship favourite

Following the eventful weekend in Austria, Garcia has amassed 58 points at the top of the Drivers' standings, giving her a 22-point lead from second-placed Amna Al Qubaisi. Hamda Al Qubaisi is behind her sister in third, while Pulling is just one point away in fourth. The 2023 F1 Academy season next heads to Valencia for round two across 5-7 May, forming the next weekend of a seven-round calendar .

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