Emely De Heus believes all the ingredients are there for success in F1 Academy this season as she targets a minimum top five finish in the Drivers’ Standings.

The Dutch driver endured some ups and downs during her campaign last year. One victory in Barcelona and a further podium finish in Zandvoort remained her peaks, with a mid-season upturn seeing her score eight consecutive points finishes.

However, a challenging end to the year saw her lose ground to those ahead, eventually finishing ninth overall. Back in 2024 to battle it out once more with compatriots MP Motorsport, De Heus is full of fighting spirit ahead of the opening round in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“I’m ready to fight this year,” she said. “I’m happy to be back and I hope I can get even better results than last year.”

Reflecting on how the 2023 season panned out, De Heus continued: “I think the beginning of the season I had some mistakes, because the speed was there, but then somehow it didn’t come out. In Barcelona and Zandvoort it went really well and then after, I dropped down a bit. I think that was more my focus, I just need to be more prepared and I’ve worked on that.”

Maximising her time during the off-season, De Heus explained that one area she prioritised addressing was her physical preparation in order to manage the demands of the car. As part of that preparation, De Heus says she’s been making full use of the support available to her through the Red Bull Academy Programme.

Commenting on how it felt to be announced as a Red Bull-backed driver, she said: “I’m really happy with it. It’s a dream come true that I’m part of the Red Bull family. I watched them on TV when I was younger and now I can say I’m part of it, so that makes me really happy.”

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De Heus added: “The biggest area I’ve worked on was my strength., I was struggling with my shoulder a lot. I got a new training programme and I worked hard on it. Also, I’ve done a lot of sim work with Red Bull,” she noted.

That work behind the scenes becomes even more crucial, as two of the venues – Miami and Singapore – are new challenges for the five F1 Academy teams. Fortunately, for De Heus, her prior experience around the two street circuits will give her an advantage over most of the field.

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When asked how tough it is as a driver to adapt to venues without a baseline, she explained: “It depends. At some tracks, it just easier for some drivers, but sometimes I come to a new track and I think ‘oh, I really like this’. It’s really hard to get used to it and if the team has not been there, then we all need to work on it to get the right set-up and get used to the track.

“Sometimes it’s hard when you only have two Practices. Then you think ‘oh okay, I need to learn it and I need to have the right setup’, so that’s something we need to do all together.”

With last season’s experiences in mind, De Heus recognises that getting points under her belt in the early stages will be crucial to building a strong campaign, as she outlined her targets for 2024.

“I will focus on getting a win, a podium for sure. My goal is to be at least in the top five and get the win, I always want to win of course,” she said.

“I think it’s really important because what I saw last year, I had the speed, but I crashed two or three times. In the end, the speed came out of it, but then I lost the points from the beginning of the season, so it should be a lot better. I think I need to work on that for this season.”