With the European heatwave in full force, the 15 F1 Academy drivers took to the track to begin their penultimate Free Practice sessions of the year at the Circuit Paul Ricard for Round 6 of the 2023 season.
The gird will be looking to score valuable points this weekend with positions up to be had up and down the standings and Nerea Martí would be the one to lead the charge in Free Practice, securing the fastest time across two sessions.
Free Practice 1
The opening Free Practice session was one of the closest of the season so far with just 1.5s separating the field, a clear indication of the benefits of the ample testing the teams and drivers have taken part in at the French circuit.
Campos Racing’s Martí led the way with the Spaniard regaining some of her early season form as she looks to reclaim a top four spot in the standings from Abbi Pulling. Her time of a 1:27.013 was just one and a half tenths quicker than her British rival as they secured a 1-2 in the session.
Martí picked up three podiums in the first two races of the season and will be fighting for pole position in qualifying later this afternoon.
PREMA Racing’s Marta García is in with a chance to clinch the crown here in Le Castellet, but In the battle for the title, FP1 would go the way of the challenger. MP Motorsport’s Hamda Al Qubaisi finished the session P3, just ahead of the Spaniard, who claimed P5.
After the session pace-setter Martí said: “I am happy with the start for the weekend, but it’s just FP1, there is a lot of work to do. Next is FP2, we need to improve some things, driving and also with the car. I am really motivated; we have worked a lot – the goal is to improve in each race.”
Free Practice 2
Still in the hunt for the title is Swiss driver Léna Bühler, who currently sits in P3 in the standings. Her time of a 1:27.092 was enough to put her at the front of the field for FP2, ahead of Pulling, who again finished just five hundredths behind in P2.
The British driver has topped more sessions in Le Castellet than any other driver this year throughout testing and her two P2 finishes showed that she will be looking for her first win tomorrow.
It would also be another strong session for Campos Racing, who had all three of their drivers inside the top 10. The Spanish team performed well in the warm weather of Valencia and Barcelona and have the potential to push up the teams’ Standings with similar conditions anticipated at Paul Ricard.
Title Chaser Léna Bühler said after the session: “FP2 was good. We put on new tyres while some of the other drivers didn’t. Were performed well during the test so I hope it is the same for quali. I feel good and I will do my best for quali.”
The double-qualifying session begins this afternoon at 16:00 local time as the drivers will look to put themselves in the best possible position for Sunday’s three races.