Team Motopark’s Sophia Floersch enjoyed an opening weekend to remember at Oschersleben as she impressed on her debut in the highly competitive ADAC F4 series. Sophia overcame great adversity during the course of the weekend, including changeable weather conditions and contact from other drivers, to achieve a top-5 finish in the final race of the weekend, leaving Oschersleben eighth in the standings as well as being the highest placed first year driver.
Expectations weighed highly on Floersch’s shoulders coming into the weekend after her brilliant performances in the Ginetta Junior Championship last season, but Sophia remained realistic over what she hoped to achieve in her first ADAC F4 meeting. The first on-track action of the weekend took place on Friday morning with a pair of practice sessions, enabling drivers to familiarise themselves with the circuit after pre-season testing concluded the previous week. Conditions were tricky with drivers using the wet weather tyres but Sophia topped the times early on before finishing the opening session in fourth. In the second practice session, the track was once again damp with a number of red flags halting proceedings. Nonetheless, Sophia was quickest until 10 minutes to go and was eventually pushed down to eighth as the track began to dry.
Qualifying took place later in the afternoon with the track substantially drier than in free practice, giving drivers a further challenge over how hard to push. Sophia’s times were extremely consistent throughout the session as she ended qualifying sixth in her group, meaning she would start from 12th place for the opening race of the season. With the grid for race two set by the second quickest lap times from qualifying, Floersch’s consistency was rewarded as she secured a sixth place starting spot.
Floersch’s opening race in single seaters took place on Saturday afternoon with high drama from the outset as rain on the warmup lap forced a delayed start with many drivers, including Sophia, switching to the wet tyres. When the race got underway, Floersch instantly made progress with her wet weather testing proving useful as she entered the top-10 on the opening lap. She continued to make her way forward as she rose to ninth, before being demoted back to tenth by Job Van Uitert as a safety car was deployed. As the racing resumed, Sophia made a good restart and held onto a points scoring position as the last lap board was displayed. At this point, Floersch’s fighting spirit showed as she gained a further position in the closing stages to finish ninth in her first ever ADAC F4 race, a great achievement by Sophia and Team Motopark. This result also meant Floersch would start second for the final race of the weekend with the top-10 finishers from race one reversed to form the grid for race three.
The second race of the weekend began on Sunday morning with mainly dry track conditions, although it was damp off the racing line in some places. The contest was started behind the safety car with Floersch holding sixth, but a red flag for an incident at the rear of the field brought the racing to a halt. After a lengthy clean-up of the incident, Sophia was eager to push forward but had to defend from Swiss driver Moritz Muller-Crepon who appeared quicker at this stage of the race. Unfortunately Muller-Crepon made an ambitious move into turn one and made contact with Floersch which forced both drivers to retire from inside the points, a disappointing end to the second race but Sophia knew she had a great chance to secure her best finish later in the day.
Determined to come back fighting in race three, Sophia lined up on the front row of the grid alongside Estonian rookie Juri Vips. With a number of standings starts under her belt from Ginetta Junior’s, Sophia utilised her experience and made a good getaway to hold second with leader Vips under investigation for a jump start. The stewards issued Vips with a drive-through penalty which meant Sophia took the lead for a brief period before Mick Schumacher found his way past. Floersch then defended admirably to keep double-race winner Joey Mawson at bay but the talented Aussie moved into second with just five minute remaining. Sophia looked to be on for her first podium on her debut weekend but on the final lap, Job Van Uitert made a courageous move for third and spun Sophia whilst removing her rear wing in what could’ve been a very scary accident. Heroically, Floersch managed to re-join the track and raced the last lap without her rear wing, holding off a number of drivers to finish in a highly commendable fifth. Although a podium place was within touching distance, Sophia showed great resolve and superb skill to wrestle the car to the finish, claiming vital championship points in the process.
Floersch and Team Motopark should be very proud of their achievements at Oschersleben and leave the meeting eighth overall in the standings. The young driver showed her pace in a range of conditions and situations, whilst being extremely unlucky not to pick up further championship points. During the course of the weekend, Sophia became the first female driver to lead an ADAC F4 race and she will look to build on this experience as the series returns in a fortnight to the challenging Sachsenring circuit.