Thursday, 20 October 2016

Sophia Flörsch

Sophia Flörsch is a German driver who began racing in the UK in 2015. She is one of the most talked-about and highly-rated female drivers of the past few years.

Her senior debut followed a six-year karting career, which included two championship wins: the ADAC Kart Bundeslauf Bambini B title in 2009, and the 2010 60cc Easykart European Grand Finals. She was picked up by the Red Bull talent scouts, and although she is not an official Red Bull junior team member, she is still associated with them.

She took part in the Ginetta Junior championship in 2015, and was one of the younger drivers in the series, aged fourteen. Despite her age and inexperience, she was one of the fastest drivers in the series, winning twice at Thruxton. She was the youngest driver to win a Ginetta Junior race. After Thruxton, she was second at Croft. Her season had built slowly, from a fifth at Brands Hatch. Observers from the media and teams sat up and took note.

 In a somewhat controversial decision, she left the championship after five rounds, in order to conserve money and to train for a season in Formula 4 in 2016. Single-seaters had always been her ultimate goal, but she was unable to start racing them until she was fifteen.

She returned to Germany, and duly entered the ADAC Formula 4 series, with the Motopark team. She was only just fifteen.

It was a tough year. The season started well enough, with a ninth place at Oschersleben, rising to fifth in the third race. After the first break of the season, Sophia’s lack of testing time started to show, and her results slipped. Other, older drivers working with better-funded teams were able to devote time to testing; Sophia had to take her final school exams instead. The team also had problems with strategy, often involving tyres, which were linked to the lack of testing time, and therefore experience of new tyres. She battled into the top ten on three more occasions, at Oschersleben, Red Bull Ring and the Nürburgring, but too many other races were marred by emergency pit stops, small accidents, poor starts and race plans that did not pay off.

Towards the end of the year, she adjusted her expectations to finishing the season, and learning as much as she could. F4 had been intended as a one-year springboard to Formula 3, but another season was needed for Sophia to prove what she was really capable of. She was 19th in the championship.

She got her second season in 2017, driving for Mucke Motorsport. It was a double attack on both the German and Italian F4 championships. In the Italian series, she only did a part-season, but became a solid top-ten finisher quite early. In May, she earned her best result: a fifth at Adria.

The ADAC championship was a different story. Sophia continued to find it hard going in the early part of the season. By the Lausitz rounds in May, she was sneaking into the top ten, but she could not find consistency. It took until the end of the season for her to click with the car, when she managed third spots at Sachsenring and Hockenheim. She had two fastest laps at Hockenheim and would have had another podium had she not been disqualified. This was not her first brush with the Clerk of the Course either; she was fined 20,000 Euros for sharing unauthorised footage earlier in the year of her almost collided with an errant course car that suddenly appeared on track.

She was 13th in the championship.

In 2018, she moved up to the FIA European Formula 3 Championship with Van Amersfoot Racing. It was a late deal so she had no time for testing. Towards the end of the year, she was clearly learning the ropes; she picked up her first top-ten finish at the Red Bull Ring in September.

In November, she went to Macau with VAR and impressed onlookers with her qualifying pace. However, her race proper was ended by a serious accident. Her car collided with a slower car and took off over its wheels, coming to rest in a photography bunker. Sophia suffered a broken vertebra and needed surgery. A small number of photographers and marshals was also injured.

She intends to progress up the single-seater career ladder, with the ultimate aim of a Formula One race seat. VAR is running her for another season in F3 in 2019.

(Image copyright Alexander Trienitz)

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