Steep but successful learning curve for Sophia Floersch

Coming into the season with huge expectations following her success in the Ginetta Junior Championship, Sophia Floersch was tipped by many as a multiple race-winner in her debut season of F4, but unfortunately it’s been a mixed first season of single seater racing. Despite placing 19th in the overall standings, this doesn’t tell half the story for what has been a very successful year for the young German racer. A stunning display in the opening weekend at Oschersleben almost yielded a podium result, however, just two points scoring finishes in the second half of the season were disappointing for Sophia in a highly competitive championship.

Entering 2016 as the youngest driver on the grid, Sophia was confident of making an impression after winning over the hearts of many fans back in the UK after her Ginetta Junior exploits. Benefiting from a small amount of pre-season testing, Floersch’s season got off to a perfect start with a ninth place finish on debut. More points looked on the cards in race two before contact with another driver ended her day. Not phased however, Sophia showed her fighting spirit in race three to become the first female driver to lead laps in ADAC F4 before looking certain for a stunning podium, only to be denied by an ambitious move by a competitor on the final lap, nevertheless, Sophia brought her damaged car back home in fifth position.

Sophia’s season has been one of many high and lows with her qualifying results being an aspect of her performance she’ll look to improve. Despite these apparent struggles, Floersch has been unlucky with the qualifying draw at times, often being randomly drawn into a group with many of the front-running drivers. With the times so close and regularly 35 drivers entered for the race meetings, every tenth matters and incredibly enough if Sophia had improved by one tenth in each qualifying session she would’ve moved up a total of 30 grid spots, a phenomenal number. Because of this, Floersch’s overtaking skills have been tested to the limit with the fifteen-year-old pulling off a number of superb moves throughout the season.

With 30 minute races in the ADAC F4 Championship, you would imagine that this would give Sophia a great chance to complete some of these overtakes and move her way forward. Unfortunately, luck hasn’t been on Floersch’s side with early red flags at Lausitzring and Oschersleben meaning the plethora of positions gained in the opening laps of races have been wiped out with a full re-grid taking place. Many races, such as the season finale at Hockenheim, have seen few laps been completed due to the 30-minute clock still counting down under red flag conditions. Sophia made fabulous progress at Hockenheim but only had a small number of laps to make up ground in wet conditions, where Floersch has impressed on multiple occasions this season. Due to multiple accidents at Zandvoort, one race didn’t even see a full lap of green flag racing before being stopped, with Sophia claiming fastest lap under safety car conditions.

Sophia’s raw talent is undisputable and she has proven this even in the most challenging or circumstances. After placing outside the top-30 in both practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring, Floersch showed incredible progress during the weekend and ended the final race inside the points. With no prior testing leading up to the weekend, Sophia had to learn the circuit while many other drivers were fine-tuning their setups. This lack of testing has been a detriment to Sophia’s performances this year and it is clear that she could be challenging for regular podiums if she had the level of seat time of her rivals. Racing on a limited budget with rare testing opportunities has been a huge challenge, but Floersch has proven she has what it takes to compete with some of the most talented upcoming drivers in the world, with her battle at the Nurburgring with Mick Schumacher being a particular highlight.  

Throughout the season Sophia has shown the brilliance which has earned her many plaudits and extensive press coverage in her first season of open wheel racing. From the tough conditions in the season opener at Oschersleben through to her spirited trio of races at the Nurburgring where she showed off her attacking and defensive skills. However, my personal favourite was the third race at the Red Bull Ring. From 16th on the grid, Sophia slowly moved her way through the field and took the absolute maximum she could from the race with a point for finishing in 10th being just reward for a superb drive despite only setting the 26th fastest lap time in the race.

With many tipping Floersch to be the breakthrough female driver in F1, it’ll be crucial for her to make a decisive next move in her career. Just last week Sophia revealed that Hockenheim was to be the last time driving her beloved “Hugo”, so where does this leave the young racer? Floersch could return to F4 next year, possibly with another team in Germany or move back to the UK where she would be extremely well received and would have knowledge of some tracks. Despite her relative inexperience, others are tipping her to move up to F3 with Motopark, however this does seem a little soon and would require a huge budget in order to sustain. There is also an option to return to tin top racing, either in Germany or in the UK, with the lower costs possibly being an attraction for Floersch. There is no doubting Sophia’s talents and her ability to compete at the highest level with next year proving crucial in deciding her future in motorsport.

You can keep up to date with Sophia’s progress using the social media links below:

Website – www.sophia-floersch.de

Facebook – www.facebook.com/sophia.floersch

Twitter – www.twitter.com/sophiafloersch

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