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“We need to get the pace back!” — Delving into PREMA’s poor F1 Academy results in Barcelona

Written by Sophie Harvey, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri


Having already spent time in FRECA, Maya Weug was touted as a championship contender; Image Credit - F1 Academy via X

When PREMA Racing is mentioned in conversation, what comes to mind? Perhaps their three back-to-back driver’s championships in FIA Formula 3, or the statistic that over half of the Formula 1 grid has passed through the doors of their North Italian factory at one point or another. 


Founded in 1983 by Angelo Rosin and Giorgio Piccolo, it’s undeniable that PREMA has developed a profile for nurturing champions, its pedigree hard to rival.


Arriving in F1 Academy for its inaugural season, last year was no exception. A lineup consisting of Marta Garcia, Bianca Bustamante and Chloe Chong was a perfect blend of experience and youth — Garcia and Bustamante had the know-how from W Series, whilst Chong would be the youngest driver on the grid, fresh out of karts but a ‘Girls on Track — Rising Stars’ finalist.


Garcia obliterated the field, taking seven wins. Finishing the season with 278 points, the Spaniard cemented her place in history as the inaugural F1 Academy Champion. As a team, PREMA were equally as dominant — throughout 2023, it wasn’t uncommon for the team to score 30, 40 or even 50 points in a single race, all of which soon added up. 


Unsurprisingly, they took home both titles on offer — in what most people would call, true PREMA fashion.


Come 2024, PREMA chose to opt for an all-new driver lineup: Doriane Pin, Maya Weug and Tina Hausmann. As an unarguably strong lineup, the trio were touted as champions before the season had even began — with Pin’s prior F4 and WEC experience, and Weug’s time in FRECA, many thought the title fight would come down to these two.


And whilst the beginning of the season did seem to follow a similar storyline, things seem to have… dropped off.



What’s happened so far?

Jeddah, overall, was a good weekend for the outfit — the first race in particular. Starting from pole, Pin put in an utterly dominant display to earn her maiden F1 Academy win. Accompanied on the podium by teammate Maya Weug, PREMA had a 1-3 finish with Hausmann scoring a decent points haul from P6.


These three were the ones to beat in Jeddah; Image Credit - F1 Academy via X

You could argue that things began to unravel in Jeddah’s second race, where a mixture of team miscommunication and driver-error led to Pin taking the chequered flag twice. Whilst PREMA engineers partied in jubilation on the pit wall, Pin had continued pushing — the FIA ruled that this was simply unsafe, giving her a penalty and losing the win as a result.


The win was inherited by Pin’s closest title rival, Abbi Pulling. Sponsored by Alpine F1 Team and driving for Rodin Motorsport, the Brit has since gone on to win another three races in F1 Academy — capitalising on a slightly weaker performance by Pin in Miami, and fighting entirely different drivers in Barcelona. That being said, let’s move onto unpacking what actually happened in Spain.



Barcelona from the drivers’ perspective

Arriving in Barcelona, Pin was already starting on a backfoot. Having taken time out of her FRECA and WEC campaigns, the Parisian has spent the recent weeks recovering from a rib injury she sustained in a bike accident.


Donning Mercedes colours, Pin was hopeful that Spain would be a positive weekend; Image Credit - F1 Academy via X

Qualifying was far from where Pin would have hoped. In a press release, she reacted to her starting positions of P4 and P3 by saying: “Difficult in qualifying, we didn’t have enough pace to make it to the first row.”


Her high expectations weren’t met in either of the races that followed, with a stall at the race start and damage to her front wing, a solid recovery drive placed her P7. In the second race, she settled for P5 — just enough to retain her P2 in the driver’s championship, neck and neck with Chloe Chambers.


“In Race 1 the pace was good, but I made a mistake at the start so I lost all positions, before recovering to P7. I think that was a really strong comeback race, so very positive overall. Today [Race 2] we weren’t fast enough, I was struggling a bit with the pace overall and finished P5. Let’s get back to work now to be stronger for the next round.”


Maya Weug had an equally as hard, if not harder, weekend. The Ferrari Junior that usually finds the podium couldn’t muster a top-ten finish, finding herself leaving Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya without any points. 


As a Ferrari Academy member, she can access plenty of knowledge from her superiors; Image Credit - Scuderia Ferrari

“Very difficult weekend in Barcelona,” the Dutch-Belgian driver began by saying, “starting off with a poor free practice and a poor qualifying where we were just lacking a lot of pace. I made a mistake in Race 1. We make mistakes and we have to learn from them, but that was on me. Today in Race 2, starting last, we expected some rain which would have been fun but eventually didn’t happen.”


Although, it’s reassuring that Weug remains positive — PREMA will get to work with finding a root cause over the summer break.


“We will take a dive into the data, and the cars will come back to the workshop so we can check everything. We just need to get the pace back and try to focus on Zandvoort to improve and work from there.”


While Pin and Weug struggled, there was still one driver who managed to salvage a more positive weekend for herself — Tina Hausmann. Last time out in Miami, the Aston Martin Academy member was involved in two race-ending collisions.


Hausmann was understandably frustrated, saying “luck was not on our side this time”. Though, it looks as if Barcelona has reset her focus, scoring two small but respectable point hauls.


“It was very exciting to race here at Barcelona, which is one of my favourite tracks. In free practice, we struggled as a team, but we made some changes for qualifying and got the performance back.”


After a tricky start to the season, it looks like things are on the up for the Swiss; Image Credit - F1 Academy

“In Race 1, we had a technical issue that made us lose a lot of speed, but I finished the race which was still positive, scoring some points. Race 2 was tricky, because we didn’t know if it would rain or if it would be dry, but we stayed calm. We focused on our tyres and saved them, but we had a lot of degradation.”


Having maximised her performance, she concluded by reiterating: “We have to come back stronger.” 


With PREMA’s misfortune seeming to be down to a mixture of both controllable and uncontrollable factors, has this prestigious team lost sight of their winning ways? Echoing Oliver Bearman and Kimi Antonelli’s lacklustre seasons in FIA Formula 2, both PREMA drivers themselves, it will be interesting to see how the Italian outfit fares throughout the season. 


Likewise, with the recent announcement that the team would be joining the Indycar grid in 2025, have their thoughts been elsewhere? Whilst it’s hard to know what the root cause of this blip in performance is, there’s every chance PREMA will be back to their winning ways soon.


If you’re interested in how the season pans out, you can follow F1 Academy LIVE on its very own YouTube Channel — with close and exciting racing, it’s definitely worth a watch.



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