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F1 Academy 2023 so far: Shocks, penalties and an incredible comeback

As the debut F1 Academy season reaches its halfway point, several talking points have emerged from the first half of the campaign.

F1 Academy pre-season test 2023
Article
To news overview © F1 Academy

The F1 Academy 2023 season has now reached its halfway point, with 12 races out of the 21 scheduled having taken place.

With the new all-female category being in its debut campaign, there were many unknowns heading into the first event on the calendar in Austria back in April.

However, several fascinating storylines have emerged during the series' first year, which has featured multiple winners, fierce battles and an impressive recovery story from one of the championship's leading protagonists...

Seven drivers claim victory

F1 Academy has held four of its seven rounds, with each event featuring three races across the weekend.

With Marta Garcia claiming two out of three victories at the season-opening visit to Spielberg, the Spaniard looked to have staked an early claim on the championship.

Yet this did not necessarily prove to be the case; an impressive seven drivers from the 15-strong field have won a race so far in 2023.

Garcia and sisters Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi have all taken at least two victories apiece, while Bianca Bustamante, Emely de Heus, Lena Buhler and Carrie Schreiner have each claimed a win.

Bustamante's P1 at Round 2 in Valencia proved to be particularly memorable, with the 18-year-old's result being marked in her home country of the Philippines via a huge billboard image of her in Rockwell Makati.

Surprises at the top and penalties hit

It may come as a surprise to some that Abbi Pulling's name is missing from the list of winners, with the Briton arriving into the series as one of the better-known names following her impressive performances in W Series.

The season looked to have begun in strong fashion for Pulling. She secured a double pole position in wet conditions back in Austria, but lost out when she and her Rodin Carlin teammates were disqualified from qualifying for an unintentional technical infringement.

Despite this, Pulling – who is a member of the Alpine Academy – has gone on to score points at most rounds of the season, putting her fifth in the championship standings.

If it is any consolation to the team, this is not the only penalty to have caused a shock during the season.

Nerea Marti was disqualified from Race 1 due to her Campos Racing car not being in compliance with the Technical Regulations, while multiple lap times were deleted after qualifying at Round 2 in Valencia following track limits infringements.

After the most recent outing in Zandvoort, Lola Lovinfosse was handed a three-place grid penalty for her next race after being deemed to have caused a collision with Pulling which led to both cars retiring from Race 3.

			© F1 Academy
	© F1 Academy

The impressive comeback of Hamda Al Qubaisi

Having scored points at all but one race so far, Garcia has maintained her early-season momentum to lead the championship standings.

However, Hamda Al Qubaisi is now just five points away in second, having claimed three victories in what has been an incredible comeback following a pre-season accident.

The Emirati suffered a broken arm as she competed in the finale of the 2023 UAE Formula 4 season, with the significant injury requiring surgery.

Al Qubaisi was told by her doctor that her recovery would prevent her from racing for four months. With pre-season testing for F1 Academy being only six weeks away, this was not welcome news.

Despite this, the undeterred 20-year-old worked with healing and rehabilitation specialists to prepare for the first test and was able to get behind the wheel of the MP Motorsport car.

While Al Qubaisi was far from being back to full fitness when the season commenced, she still achieved a podium finish in Race 3 alongside her sister Amna, having only narrowly missed out on challenging Garcia for the win.

At the next round in Valencia, Hamda Al Qubaisi clinched her debut win in F1 Academy and has since gone on to win a further two races in Zandvoort, a championship charge that is all the more remarkable after her pre-season injury.

Making a mark off-track

The F1 Academy 2023 season so far has delivered plenty of on-track action, ranging from Bustamante resisting pressure from Buhler to claim her Valencia victory, to a three-way battle for the win between Schreiner, Garcia and Buhler in Zandvoort.

Off-track, though, the series has also been working to achieve its aim of increasing the female talent pool in motorsport across a range of functions.

The F1 Academy Discover Your Drive initiative – launched in June – will provide girls and young women with opportunities to participate in entry-level programmes and professional schemes, further promoting and enhancing female participation in sport.

Elsewhere, there wll be further light shone on the category thanks to a docuseries being developed by production company Hello Sunshine, with Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon acting as Executive Producer alongside F1's Head of Original Content Isabelle Stewart.

What's next for F1 Academy?

A further nine races will take place across three rounds in the second half of the F1 Academy 2023 season, with the category set to race at Monza, Le Castellet and Austin.

For the first time, the series will be held on the support bill of a Formula 1 event during the United States Grand Prix weekend in October.

Can Garcia continue to fend off the challenge from Hamda Al Qubaisi, or will another contender emerge?

Check out the championship standings as of Round 4 below.

F1 Academy championship standings (as of Round 4)

Position Driver Team Points
1. Garcia Prema Racing 155
2. H. Al Qubaisi MP Motorsport 150
3. Buhler ART Grand Prix 122
4. Marti Campos Racing 96
5. Pulling Rodin Carlin 84
6. A. Al Qubaisi MP Motorsport 78
7. De Heus MP Motorsport 73
8. Bustamante Prema Racing 69
9. Edgar Rodin Carlin 41
10. Schreiner ART Grand Prix 34
11. Grant ART Grand Prix 31
12. Lovinfosse Campos Racing 26
13. Gilkes Rodin Carlin 21
14. Chong Prema Racing 11
15. Caceres Campos Racing 1

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