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F1 Academy: Jeddah proves unforgiving, Doriane displays her dominance and Abbi ups her game

Written by Sophie Harvey, Edited by Tarun Suresh


After a long winter break, F1 Academy has returned bigger and better than ever — a new location, fresh faces and plenty of returnees, all of whom hoped to start their campaign on a high. Kicking the season off in Saudi Arabia, the Jeddah Corniche Circuit has already proven to be a fast and difficult battlefield. With plenty to recap, let’s get straight to the on-track action and unpack the events of this weekend’s single-seater action.


As you will soon find out, Doriane Pin (pictured above) became quite the star on her dramatic debut in Jeddah; Image Credit - Clive Mason/Getty Images

For our opening round, our permanent grid of fifteen drivers was accompanied by this race weekend’s wildcard driver, Reema Juffali.  


No stranger to rewriting history, she’s the first Saudi Arabian woman to hold a racing license — with point-scoring finishes in an array of F4 series alongside some impressive GT campaigns, how would she fare against the rest of the field? 


As the first driver invited to formulate this new initiative, it is unsurprising that Juffali wanted to leave a significant mark on the series and perhaps dabble in the top ten.


Practice

As the lights went green for F1 Academy’s first broadcasted session of the year, the sixteen drivers ventured out to set their exploration laps. It was Doriane Pin’s lap of 2:09.66 that set the initial benchmark, a time soon beaten by far.


Ferrari’s Maya Weug and McLaren’s Bianca Bustamante each took their turns going fastest, painting the screens purple to find themselves at the top of the leaderboard. However, it’s worth noting that Pin showed no sign of stopping her rampage, cutting her initial time significantly to set a 2:06.050 with half of the session still to go.


The session came to a close after a flurry of personal bests — the top three were spearheaded by Pin, followed by Pulling and Williams’ candidate, Lia Block.


Having swapped rally for single-seaters, Lia Block’s pace in practice came as an impressive surprise; Image Credit - Clive Mason/Getty Images

Qualifying

With a 40-minute practice under their belt, the drivers were quick to regain their momentum in the first qualifying session of the year. Pin was first to the board, beaten quickly by Pulling’s time of 2:05.501.


The Parisian was soon to regain her top spot, setting a lap of 2:04.599 — a relentless Pulling continued to claw back the time, inching closer and closer to her PREMA Racing rival.


The Brit was briefly joined in the top three by Rodin Motorsport teammate Jessica Edgar, who proceeded up to P3. Meanwhile, Campos Racing played a more patient approach — sitting tight as they waited for track evolution to be at its highest.


Part of MP Motorsport, Amna Al Qubaisi was one driver who seemed to find qualifying a challenging affair; Image Credit - Clive Rose/Getty Images

At the session’s midpoint, Pulling almost found the barriers after an abrupt lock-up — thankfully, her quick reactions enabled her to avoid the wall and prevent her run from ending prematurely.


In the final ten minutes, the grid peeled out of the pits once again — it was time to set their flyers, but would anyone dethrone the fastest Frenchwoman?


Words of encouragement were uttered over Weug’s radio, her race engineer stating she needed ‘just one clean lap’ after a couple of difficult runs. As the track and tyres came into their optimum level of performance, Pin pulled a 1.243s lead ahead of the Italian, narrowed down to 1.212 by Pulling.


Whilst the grid’s improvements seemed few and far between, the Alpine Academy driver continued clawing the gap further. Having closed in by 0.744s, her determination wasn’t enough to knock Pin from the top spot.


Pin had done it; she had secured pole position in an incredible demonstration of her ability to become F1 Academy’s first pole sitter in Jeddah.


Our starting grid for Race 1, Jeddah; Image Credits - F1 Academy

Race 1

Determined by each driver’s fastest lap, Race 1’s starting grid follows the qualifying order — Pin taking pole alongside Pulling, the second row rounded out by Weug and Tommy Hilfiger’s Nerea Martí. The top ten saw the likes of Bustamante, Williams’ Lia Block and Haas’ Chloe Chambers, all of whom hoped to avoid the midfield scuffles to progress further up the grid.


After an additional formation lap, it was Pin who led into the first corner of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, the top three retained their positions while the rest of the pack slotted into formation nicely — Charlotte Tilbury’s Lola Lovinfosse had the edge, advancing on Bustamante over the line and demoting McLaren’s protege to P6.


On lap three, a prod from Amna Al Qubaisi sent Juffali into a spin, the former stopping behind her in quick succession. It was Al Qubaisi’s car that harboured the most damage, picking up the debris from a broken front wing and forcing both cars #88 and #18 into the pits for repairs.


Having induced an early safety car, Pin bunched the pack up further. With Pulling tucked under her gearbox, the Parisian controlled the restart perfectly. Having launched at the final moment, she caught the Brit by surprise and pulled out a mighty gap to begin regaining her momentum.


In a three-way jostle between Aston Martin’s Tina Hausmann, Block and Edgar, the latter seemed to have the edge. Block’s front wing put an end to Edgar’s succession, clipping a rear wheel and resulting in a hefty puncture for the Brit.


By lap eight, Pin had created a 1.241s lead from the nearest competitor, Pulling — car #9 had successfully fended off Weug’s advances for P2, but it had cost time.


As pictured above, the trio had previously kept close to each other; Image Credit - Clive Mason/Getty Images

Further, down the order, Hamda Al Qubaisi continued to fight Nobels’ defensive moves. Having benefited from a slight mistake, the Emirati capitalised on a slipstream from car #22 to slide down the inside of Turn 27. Despite coming out in front, she ran wide and the Red Bull Junior was forced into giving the position back.


As Pulling set a new fastest lap of 2:043.69, drama ensued. After an incredible stint, Block continued to chase down her ART Grand Prix teammate, Bustamante. The American’s comfortable P8 soon unravelled as Block fell victim to an aggressive kerb on lap eleven, bouncing into the wall and taking a nasty shunt. 


On the final lap, a jostle between Martí and Lola Lovinfosse ended in heartbreak. As the Frenchwoman ran deep into Turn 1 and clipped car #30, Martí found herself hitting the dashboard in frustration as her race concluded.


F1 Academy’s Managing Director, Susie Wolff, did the honours of waving the chequered flag; although, Pulling had been advancing ever closer, Pin proved unassailable and clinched an incredibly dominant display to clinch the first win of her F1 Academy campaign.


A jubilant Doriane Pin celebrates her win alongside Abbi Pulling and Maya Weug; Image Credit - Bryn Lennon/Formula 1

Pulling followed in a close P2, whilst Weug rounded off the podium finishers after a consistently strong drive. The Dutch driver proved vital in what was an impressive 1-3 result for PREMA Racing, a promising starting point for the reigning champions.


Taking an opportunistic P4, Chambers narrowly missed out on a top-three result. Having been found responsible for Martí’s last lap collision, Lovinfosse received a 10-second time penalty. The post-race sanction demoted her to P8, promoting Bustamante, Hausmann and Nobels to P5, P6 and P7 respectively.


Hamda Al Qubaisi and Schreiner round out the top ten, taking the final points of Race 1 to start their campaigns on a positive note.


Race 2

Each driver’s second fastest lap from qualifying sets the starting grid for Race 2 — whilst the top three remained in their prior positions, Lovinfosse found herself on the second row. Chambers, Nobels and Edgar are a few of the names who also started higher in the field, but would any of them progress far enough to make it onto the podium?


Our starting grid for Race 2, Jeddah; Image Credit - F1 Academy

Once again, it was Pin who led into the first turn — whilst Pulling opened her line to try and make a move, the Frenchwoman’s launch was unassailable.


Lovinfosse and Chambers found themselves side by side — although the Haas driver found herself out front, she earned a 5-second-penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Two laps later, Lovinfosse tried to return the favour by sweeping past, but car #14 locked up into Turn 1 and sent Lovinfosse into a spin in return.


Whilst the likes of Bustamante were able to take evasive action to the stranded Charlotte Tilbury car, Block made contact after Lovinfosse tried to rejoin the pack.


The induced safety car spurred both individuals to return to the pits. Whilst Block managed to continue after a nosecone change, Lovinfosse was forced into retirement with significant sidepod damage. Hausmann also pitted — with the engine cover off, PREMA Racing tried to diagnose an internal technical issue.


As the safety car ended, Pin was back to controlling the pace for a short-lived period of green flag racing. A jostle for the final points-paying position saw Emely De Heus tag Schreiner, sending car #15 into a spin. Juffali also found the barriers, spurring the safety car back into action as marshals retrieved the stricken car #18.


An unfortunate end to the weekend for our wildcard entry, Reema Juffali; Image Credit - Clive Mason/Getty Images

Prior to the restart, Pulling told her race engineer, “I’m quicker than her, I just need a way past”, referring to rival Pin. Although, things didn't pan out quite as she would have hoped.


In the closing stages, both Pin and Pulling set the fastest laps. However, it was the Mercedes Junior who reigned supreme once again, finding the top step of the podium to secure her first grand slam. As if we were seeing double, Pin was joined by Pulling and Weug once again to round out the top three.


Although Pin’s happiness only lasted a matter of hours — after a miscommunication, she took the chequered flag twice and earned a 20-second post-race penalty, demoting the Parisian to P9. A delighted Pulling inherited the race win, a picturesque reward for the determination she showed throughout the weekend.


Even though the Spaniard didn’t get to bask in the podium glory, Martí took home her first points of the season by finishing in P3 — formulating what was a good day for Campos Racing. Likewise, Edgar kept it clean for P4. Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi took P5 and P6 respectively, whilst Bustamante, Schreiner and Chambers occupied the next three points-paying positions.


Our star performers from Jeddah, pictured before Pin received her post-race penalty; Image Credit - Clive Rose/Getty Images

So, what’s next?

After an incredible round of all-female F4 action, the season is well underway. F1 Academy will return for another dramatic weekend alongside Formula 1 when the grid will cross into America for the Miami Grand Prix. Beginning on the 3rd of May, it is one you won’t want to miss.



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