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F1 Academy: The three winners and losers from a dramatic Jeddah weekend

Written by Sophie Harvey, Edited by Sean McKean


F1 Academy’s season opener definitely lived up to its expectations — close competition, dramatic duels and inevitable scuffles all provided a great watch. With F1 Academy set to feature during the Miami Grand Prix weekend, let’s deduce who left Jeddah on the highest of highs and who has returned home disappointed.


Winners:

Driving in Haas colours, Chloe Chambers hopes to impress during her debut season; Image Credit - Chloe Chambers via X


Chloe Chambers (Race 1, P4; Race 2, P10)

To begin our trio of winners, Chloe Chambers is one young American who had a very positive weekend. As part of the few who had two point-scoring finishes, the 19-year-old will be more than delighted with her strong start to the season. 


After a mediocre qualifying, race one saw Chambers capitalise on others’ misfortune to sail to an impressive fourth place. Whilst she couldn’t reach the frontrunners, she remained consistent to score an impressive points haul. Upon reflection, she stated she “‘was just trying to stay smart and clean” throughout the unfolding turbulence ahead.


Race two could have been equally successful, but a racked-up tally of penalties turned her projected fifth into P10. Regardless, Chambers still scored a valuable point to add to her championship campaign, and as a double points-scorer, the rookie is already standing her ground.


She briefly commented on her approach, saying, “It’s tough getting into the top three spots, but I think with a good start that’s where the majority of my work is. Getting a couple of positions at the start and then from there, trying to work on my driving and try to catch up to the drivers in front of me.”


After such an optimistic weekend, the American will hope to continue her points streak in Miami. — With the support of her home crowd, there is no doubt she will be more motivated than ever.


Doriane Pin led home Abbi Pulling and Maya Weug; Image Credit - PREMA Racing

Doriane Pin (Race 1, P1; Race 2, P9)

It’s about time we moved on to the inevitable Frenchwoman — Doriane Pin. The 20-year-old had a mighty debut in Jeddah, topping every timing sheet until the final race.


Pin’s weekend started better than she could have ever imagined. After leading in free practice, her qualifying laps were quick enough to snatch pole for both races by a margin of just under seven-tenths.


Her race pace proved to be equally as impressive — Fending off a determined Abbi Pulling, Pin sailed to victory in both races after handling a flurry of safety car restarts with success.


To her disappointment, however, Pin couldn’t celebrate her inaugural grand slam for long. After taking the checkered flag twice, the Parisian was demoted to ninth P9 due to a 20-second post-race penalty. 


Having stated she was ‘very happy about the whole weekend,’ Pin can still walk away from Jeddah with the reassurance that she is a strong title contender despite her little single-seater experience. With six more race weekends still to go, there is still plenty of time for her to claw back her championship lead, and there’s every possibility that she will be back to her winning ways in Miami.


Abbi Pulling proved to be competitive during her outing in Jeddah; Image Credit - James G Photo

Abbi Pulling (Race 1, P2; Race 2, P1)

An Alpine Academy member, Abbi Pulling, seems to be the only one capable of dethroning our dominant Frenchwoman. Sitting close all weekend, Pulling has really proven she has upped her game since last year’s season reached a conclusion in Austin.


Pulling’s strong qualifying performance put her in second for both races. She managed to keep herself out of any scuffles and defend well from Maya Weug’s advancing moves. 


Although she couldn’t quite get ahead of Pin on track, Pulling did not go down without a fight. Prior to a race restart, she told her race engineer, “I’m quicker than her, I just need a way past,”, referring to her rival Pin. Exerting such confidence is only further evidence that Pulling means business. With winning at the forefront of her mind, it’s undeniable that the Brit is setting her sights on securing the title.


After the aforementioned post-race penalties were applied, Pulling inherited Pin’s second race win. Whilst she would have probably preferred to snatch Pin’s glory on-track rather than off-track, the adjustment puts her at the top of the driver’s standings with an incredible tally of 44 points — a result she can be more than happy with.



Losers:

Hamda Al Qubaisi acts as Red Bull Racing’s nomination; Image Credit - F1 Academy

Hamda Al Qubaisi (Race 1, P9; Race 2, P5)

After finishing last year’s championship in third overall, Hamda Al Qubaisi’s expectations for her sophomore season are undoubtedly high. Although she has been touted as a title contender, the young Emirati has not got off to the best of starts.


With all three MP Motorsport cars seeming to lack pace in qualifying, a tricky session put her P13 and P12 on the starting grid. 


Race one saw her fight relentlessly, including battling a persistently defensive Aurelia Nobels in search of the final points-paying positions. She ended the race in ninth, followed by an improved fifth the following day.


Looking back on her result, she stated, “From here, I had nothing to lose, so I had a clear mind. It’s really difficult at this track. It’s a hard place to overtake, but we managed to make it work and make up a few positions.”


Having already demonstrated her ability to win races, Al Qubaisi’s excellent recovery drives come at no surprise, but she will still be disappointed with her results in Jeddah. Putting her ninth in the overall standings, her tally of 12 points does not scream title contention.


Although qualifying seemed to be the main hindering factor, will the 21-year-old be able to pick up the pace in Miami? With Pulling, Weug and Pin already establishing a mighty points lead, are they already too far out of reach for the young Emirati?


Lia Block enters F1 Academy after making the switch to single-seaters over winter; Image Credit - F1 Academy

Lia Block (Race 1, P16; Race 2, P11)

Making her F1 Academy debut, Lia Block would have hoped to come away with more to show for her efforts. Whilst a brilliant drive was seemingly thrown away, the 17-year-old will return with even higher ambitions next time out.


In race one, the American was on course for a respectable eighth-place finish, — which would have been an incredible result after just a few months of single-seater experience.


Whilst chasing down ART Grand Prix teammate, Bianca Bustemante, Block fell victim to a kerb and spun into the barriers with a nasty shunt. Thankfully, the Williams’ Academy driver was perfectly fine, but it put her weekend on a massive back foot.


Race two was just as eventful. Block got caught up in contact between Lola Lovinfosse and Chloe Chambers, finding herself accompanied by two five-second penalties and demoting her out of points-paying positions. 


Whilst she will be reassured by the fact she is capable of running in the top-ten, there is no doubt that Block would have left Saudi Arabia frustrated. She currently sits in P15 — one of two drivers to score no points over the season opener. 


Although it’s an unpleasant statistic, there is still every chance that this season could still be a promising one for the young American, — and she is well aware of it, stating:


“Even though it didn't end as well as I wanted it to, it just shows how much I need to work for the next race and just looking forward now […] I'm just super excited to take everything that I learned from this weekend, hopefully apply it [in Miami] and have some better luck.”


Reema Juffali donned a special livery for her F1 Academy appearance; Image Credit - PREMA Racing

Reema Juffali (Race 1, P11; Race 2, DNF)

Taking to the track as our first wildcard entry, Reema Juffali would have hoped to have made a positive impact on her debut. Whilst her eyes were no doubt settled on the points-paying positions, her home country provided her with little luck towards her ambitions.


Race one saw her intensely battle with the rest of the pack, putting her prior single-seater and GT experience to the test. Juffali did not have the edge against her fellow competitors, though, narrowly missing out on a point-scoring debut by finishing P11.


After Carrie Schreiner’s tag from De Heus sent her into a spin, Juffali was forced into taking evading action and found herself meeting the barriers. Extending the yellow flags in return, Juffali’s wreckage was craned off the circuit in an unfortunate end to her weekend.


Whilst not directly her fault, Juffali is definitely one of the opening rounds ‘losers.’ With what will most likely be her only chance to shine on the F1 Academy broadcast ending prematurely, the Jeddah-local will have returned home more than disappointed that this once in a lifetime opportunity did not go to plan.


However, she was able to put a positive spin on her eventful weekend, saying, “The purpose of my participation was to encourage Saudis to dream big, and hopefully one day we will see them on the street track in Jeddah."


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