Sophia Floersch: A weekend of what-ifs at Sachsenring
In her latest column for Motorsport.com, rising star Sophia Floersch talks about her second weekend in Formula 4 at Sachsenring, where she scored two top-10 finishes.
My dear friends from Motorsport.com,
When my team Motopark and I arrived at Sachsenring for my second crack at Formula 4 racing, the weather there was typical April, going from sunny, to rainy, to even snow.
Sachsenring is a demanding rollercoaster of a track, with lots of quick turns - and the fact I was only able to test for two days there did not allow me to put up much of a fight against some of the more experienced drivers.
On Friday, the first free practice started at 8am, rather unhelpfully so as I had barely slept the night before because I had a terrible cold. Nevertheless, I was P6 after 30 minutes. Boom!
Sport1 even wrote: "Sophia Floersch faster than Mick Schumacher in FP1”. That's fun, always makes for great PR. Three hours later, Mick would go 0.003s quicker but I was P6 again, very happy and hoping for an even better qualifying.
As at Oschersleben, we were divided into two groups for qualifying by drawing lots. I ended up in group A, as did almost all the quickest drivers.
As practice went well, my team was very confident and I was in good spirits, too. But as the day went on, my energy started to run out and the lack of sleep started to catch up with me. Nevertheless, qualifying kicked off well enough.
I was P4 until the very last lap, which would have been okay. But at the last minute, three drivers went faster. P7 in my group – that was disappointing, especially since it was only a few hundredths that separated me from the guys up ahead.
While looking at the data, my engineer Dennis Layher showed me that I had lost two tenths on my fastest lap. In a close grid like this, that, unfortunately, is quite a lot.
Saturday was a lot calmer - there was only the one race in the late afternoon. Until then, I signed autographs, watched the other races taking place that weekend and gave a tour of my car to a woman from my sponsor Hueges.
I am very proud of my Formula 4 car, which I named Hugo. My mechanic Florian Ebert checks and cleans him after every run. I love him a lot – Hugo, that is.
Getting held up
Before the race, there were a number of meetings with Dennis and team principal Timo Rumpfkeil, going through all the data and analyses. Since I had to start the race 13th, the goal was a top-10 finish – at least!
Therefore, I played the race through in my mind. I put together a strategy to survive the difficult start in the midfield without an accident - because an accident would mean retirement and starting from the very back in the third race.
At the start, I managed to stick to the inside, and that was a massive mistake - everybody queued up at Turn 1 and four (!!!) cars passed me on the outside.
Oh no! P10 was now far, far away. I quickly made up three positions but the I got stuck behind a very experienced driver [Michael Waldherr, himself formerly a Motopark driver]. Although I could have gone a lot faster, there was no way past him.
He used all of his experience and completely covered the two or three ways there were of passing at Sachsenring. He made his car as wide as an 18-wheeler.
In touring cars, you can tap the car ahead a little, move it out of the way. No such option in formula cars, which, if you ask me, is a shame.
In the end, I crossed the line in P14. That was not the result I had been hoping for, so, as you can imagine, I was quite miffed.
Nothing to lose
The second race started at 11:20am on Sunday – in front of roughly 12,000 fans and in nice, sunny weather. I was lining up P13 and, this time, I wanted to demonstrate my aggressiveness. To fight. To use every chance I had.
After all, I had nothing to lose - and overtaking is much more fun that being blocked.
The start went very well and I immediately gained one position. The car felt great and I was having a lot of fun.
I could make up some positions and ended up seventh, in spite of several safety car periods. I believe would have needed one more lap for P6, but it was a good race either way.
My team, the sponsors, and my family were happy with my performance, which, if I were eligible to score rookie points, would have been good enough for P2 in the standings, behind Nicklas Nielsen [Danish karting star].
The last race was on Sunday, 3:40pm. As per the first race's result, I started P14 - by that point, it was 'been there, done that'.
A good start was followed by a bad first lap - I positioned my car poorly while fighting for position and dropped two places. My tyres weren't feeling great early on, so I just could not attack right away.
On lap two, I made up some positions, but as I reached P10 and looked to pass more cars, the pace car was deployed. Then it came out again, then again, and then once more for good measure, so I could only hold position.
We had a very good pace. I scored one of the fastest times in that race – on very old tyres. Had I started further up the grid, la lot more would have been possible.
The bottom line from that weekend was - the mediocre qualifying sure made the races a lot harder. I had to start in the midfield at every race and that is not a good starting position.
Still, I got a few compliments for my efforts in the races and I was able to demonstrate that I enjoy wheel-to-wheel combat. Had I started farther at the front, a podium finish would have surely been possible, but that's just a "what if".
On to Lausitzring, which should be a great motorsport festival as we support the DTM. You can be sure that I will be prepared as well as can be - prepared and powered by passion!
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