Marta Garcia wins inaugural F1 Academy title after thrilling Race 1 victory in Austin
Marta Garcia has won the inaugural F1 Academy title after taking a thrilling victory in Race 1 at the Circuit of The Americas.
Garcia made a great start off the line, having taken pole in yesterday's Qualifying 1, but the Spaniard was immediately put under pressure. The fast-charging Abbi Pulling was quick off the line and the Rodin Carlin driver – still searching for her first win of the season – looked determined to edge into the lead.
However, Garcia managed to hold position and find some air as the first lap progressed.
Further back, Jessica Edgar gained a place into fourth and showed strong pace, fresh off the back of her pole position in Friday’s Qualifying 2.
A battle unfolded at the rear of the field between Emely De Heus, Chloe Grant and Maite Caceres as they all looked to get into Turn 1 first but the trio tangled, resulting in all three finding themselves out of the race. This prompted a Safety Car to be deployed as the cars were removed.
With the Safety Car peeling back into the pits at the end of Lap 6, Garcia was faced with the challenge of managing the pace and holding off Pulling and Nerea Martí. It was another solid start from the Prema driver, yet Pulling remained in her mirrors.
Championship contender Lena Buhler managed to retake P4 from Edgar, before soon afterwards pulling off an impressive move up the insider of Martí into Turn 1. Martí wasn’t giving up though, and tried to fight back, which then brought Edgar, Bianca Bustamante and Hamda Al Qubaisi behind into the duel.
This all allowed for Garcia and Pulling to break away at the front as Pulling continued to pressure the championship leader. Meanwhile Bustamante overtook Edgar for P5 after the latter made an error into Turn 12.
While Pulling’s race engineer shared words of encouragement with her, she wasn’t able to find a way past Garcia, despite getting very close on the final lap of the race. Garcia crossed the line to take her seventh victory of the 2023 season, as she also clinched the inaugural F1 Academy championship, having needed just 16 points to win the title.
The #15 driver was congratulated by the likes of Lewis Hamilton in parc ferme before celebrating on the podium with Pulling and Bühler, with the trio receiving their trophies from Hamilton’s Mercedes F1 teammate George Russell.
"[I’m feeling] really good, amazing, of course," said Garcia after her triumph. "When I won, when I crossed past the chequered flag, I didn’t really feel it, I don’t know why!
"But after that, during all the lap, I started even being a bit emotional, and then [thinking of] everything, like all of the hard work we’ve been doing this year with the team, all of the hard work during all of the years.
"It’s great to obviously win the championship, being the first champion of F1 Academy as well, it feels amazing.”
Race 2 kicks off at 1530 local time today where H. Al Qubaisi will start on pole position, with the MP Motorsport driver remaining in the battle for P2 in the championship alongside Buhler.