A racer first and foremost, Sophia Floersch has always captured headlines throughout her motorsport journey. At just 14 years old she became the youngest race winner in the Ginetta Junior Championship, whilst at 18, she fought back to return to racing after suffering potentially life-changing injuries following a crash at the 2018 Macau Grand Prix.

Now 23 years old, Floersch is a driver reborn and reinvigorated. Returning to Formula 3 with PHM Racing after a two-year absence and joining the Alpine Academy, she had a point to prove. Whilst their joint goals might have been met, she’s not letting up to fight for more.

By her own admission, Floersch wasn’t a fan of the noisy kart the first time she sat in one aged four, but soon enough began tearing up the track back at home in Germany. Quickly falling in love with the thrill of racing, she knew that it would take determination, a strong work ethic and a single-minded mindset to turn her hobby into a career.

“Obviously when you’re so young, you watch F1 and you dream of getting in the paddock and reaching that goal, but it’s just a dream. It’s so far away when you’re a kid, but we never stopped, always kept on going and tried to work towards it.

“I always just followed my dream and passion. I was still going to school, but on the other side, the sport was always everything to me and my parents tried to make everything possible. If you have success, it’s nice to give something back because in the end, it’s not just you working hard for something, but also your family, sponsors, and management.”

default image

One of the key events in her story came at the 2018 Macau Grand Prix. Contact with Jehan Daruvala sent her and her car catapulting into the air at high-speed. Left with a spinal fracture, Floersch underwent almost 10-hour life-changing surgery that saved her from paralysis.

Once given the all-clear, her recovery period began in earnest. Overcoming the mental and physical impacts, she says her desire to return to racing remained undiminished as she refused to be defined solely by those fateful 24 hours.

“If you have an experience like that at such a young age, I think it always kind of changes you or you have different kinds of thoughts afterwards. For me, the only thing which was always clear was that I want to keep on going, that I want to come back and keep on racing. To be honest, I never really understood people asking me about that because this was always my life.

READ MORE: Mansell: “Everyone is working as hard as you in F3, so you need to work harder”

“The love and passion for the sport was always a lot bigger than the crash or the risks. It obviously put a lot of attention on me and still does nowadays, which is a little bit annoying sometimes because I don’t want to be seen and remembered as the girl with the crash.

“On the other side, sporting-wise it threw me back one year because I couldn’t plan for 2019 because on the injuries. It was a year to forget, but it’s still part of my life and part of my story.”

default image

She added: “I had to wait until the doctors gave me the sign to go training again completely, but I was already in the gym again two-and-a-half to three weeks after the crash and the surgery to do light training and get my body working again because I lost seven kilos of muscle. Until the end of January, I wasn’t really allowed to train any of my upper body because of my neck injury.

“As soon as the doctors told me I could do it again, it was clear for me that I was going to train as hard as possible to be back in the car as quickly as possible. It was probably the longest period of my life where I’ve not been in a car and it was a tough time, but in the end, it was amazing when I first got back in a car.”

Back behind the wheel just over five months later, Floersch went on to return to the Guia Circuit the following year and received the prestigious Laureus World Sports Award for Comeback of the Year in 2020.

READ MORE: PREMA Racing season review: Champions once again but title double the aim for 2024

Graduating to F3 that same year, the German driver opted to combine her maiden season with endurance racing, before making the full-time switch for 2021 and 2022. Broadening her horizons proved to be a valuable and eye-opening experience for Floersch, but she was pragmatic about what was possible on her return to single seaters after a two-year absence.

“I think it was the best decision I could do in my position in the end. The LMP2 car is an amazingly good car, it really drives similar to formula cars. You mature a lot in terms of teamwork and developing the car setup. It’s kind of a different approach compared to formulas, and you drive a lot because you have a minimum of four-hour races and a maximum of 24 hours.

“Endurance taught me a lot and it helped me a lot as well for F3. Obviously, I’m super happy to be back in formulas now because that was always what I wanted to go back to.

default image

“I was clear-headed and really open and honest with myself and also with PHM, who were a completely new team. I think everyone knew and it was clear from the beginning that we’re not going to fight for wins, podiums, or even top 10 finishes. Our goal was if we finished in the points at least once then we’d achieved our goals for the season, and we did it once for sure.

“I think we had really good moments where we really showed the pace of the car and myself, but then we also had some not-so nice races where we struggled a lot with the car itself, which is normal when you have a new team.”

READ MORE: Browning: ‘Difficult playing catch-up in a learning season always trying to find the limit’

Rapidly becoming a team leader amongst PHM’s trio, she put on several fightbacks through the field before securing her and the team’s first points in the Spa-Francorchamps Feature Race. For Floersch, achievements like that are proof of the progression she’s made, aided by the development programme she’s benefitted from as part of the Alpine Academy.

“As a junior driver, it’s always the biggest step in your career to be signed by a manufacturer or F1 team. For me, it was a huge step and a super important one. I’m super proud to be a part of the Alpine Academy and family. The support you get you cannot compare with anything else because it’s not just about the financial support, but to get better as a racing driver through the engineers.

“They have people who’ve worked for I don’t know how many years in motorsport to give their opinions. Obviously, they’re really open about your performances, which can be nice sometimes, but sometimes it can also hurt. In the end, I think this just brings you forward, and I know that Alpine and I have the same goals and we’re working together towards them. I’m going to work hard to make them proud.”

default image

With no women currently on the Formula 1 grid, Floersch’s presence in F3 has become a beacon of hope to the next generation of young talent. She made history in Round 9, becoming the first female driver to score points in the Championship.

Although proud of the milestone she’s achieved along the way, her target is to be the best of the best and show that gender is no barrier to success in motorsport.

“I like all the woman records, it was always the cherry on the top, but I never really wanted and still don’t want it to be the focus,” she noted. “I just want to be a racing driver and treated the same as everyone else. I think that’s what I’ve tried to be really open about in the past few years.

READ MORE: Martí: 2023 a transformative make-or-break season, but Campos’ pace ‘deserved more’

“When I started karting, there were not really many women in this sport. With social media and everything being a little bit different compared to 15 years ago, it’s easier to reach younger kids and that’s why I do social media, just to show that you can still be you - with long blonde hair and makeup on your face you can still race cars and be quick and you don’t have to change.

“That’s what I want to show the outside world – not just kids but also parents, that the sport is open for women. It makes me happy and proud to have young kids, particularly young girls, coming up to me and telling me that they follow me because that’s what I want to achieve, to make the sport more attractive for them.”

Reflecting on the unbelievable journey she’s experienced to this point; there’s no doubt Floersch has come a long way from where she began, but her story is far from finished yet.

“With every single kilometre you do in a race car, you just become a better racing driver and you learn something. For sure, I’m a different person now, I think that’s normal on the other side, but still there are many things to learn and to work on, and we’ll see for next year,” she concluded.