Sophia Floersch secured hers and PHM Racing by Charouz’s first points of the 2023 season in a stellar drive to finish seventh in the Spa-Francorchamps Feature Race. Starting 24th on the grid, Floersch called the tyre strategy perfectly, one of the few to opt for wet tyres at the very start.
It transformed her race, able to rise through the order quickly on a very busy first lap. Taking advantage of those ahead who’d chosen to go with the slick medium tyres, the German driver says that keeping out of trouble but maximising the difference between the compounds was the key to her points finish.
“It was messy. I think first of all, it was a super tricky weekend for all of us because of the difficult conditions. I was just super difficult conditions every single session we went out. Yesterday we started P24 and finished P12, I think it was a really good race as well and then today, we made the right call to start on wets.
"Some cars around me did as well, but yeah, it was a really messy first lap because many people were still on slicks. Then at some point the Safety Car came out and some actually boxed to change on slicks, but I was pretty confident to stay on wets because it was still too wet for me. Finishing P7, I'm super proud also because it was such a tricky race, and we just brought it home.”
While selecting the wets for the race start paid dividends in terms of positional gain, it did come with the drawback later on in the Feature Race. With the track continuing to dry, albeit slowly, those who fitted the medium tyres were set to come good by the end, if they could build temperature up in the tyres.
Having fought her way into the points-paying positions, the race changed shape in the latter half, becoming one of tyre management. The drivers on wets were searching for wet parts of the track to keep the tyres cool, and Floersch says it made holding onto points far from a certainty.
“Coming from 24th, there were many to overtake, but at some point, we all I think had to manage the wet tyres because it was clear that it was going to dry up and we had to kind of manage to not get overtaken by the guys on the slicks. I think the race ended at the right moment because at some point the slicks were going to go quicker, but we had such a big gap to them that it worked out, but it was not easy.”
Reflecting on her race-making decision to fit the wet tyres on the grid over slicks, Floersch says that it was a clear choice after experiencing the conditions in a damp Sprint Race on Saturday.
After losing her scoring result earlier in the season following a post-race disqualification in Spielberg, the PHM Racing by Charouz driver says that it was a big milestone for the team to finally earn their first F3 points.
“I was 100% sure it was going to be the right call. In the end it was a good decision, but it's always a gamble. It could have been wrong. For me, it was wetter than yesterday, and because the race was early, I thought it's going to take longer to dry up. So, I wanted to go on wets and because we were starting on 24th, I had nothing to lose.
“Looking back now, it was the right decision. Everyone kind of realised that it was really wet in some parts of the track but towards the end, it dried up, so the slicks were becoming better, and they were quicker than us. Happy overall today and obviously happy for PHM. It was a tricky race, and we were also lucky because we did the right strategy, but in the end, it's points and they cannot be taken away.
“Officially our first points now. I’m obviously super happy. Being the first points for PHM, because we didn't have points at all this year and then last year, Charouz didn't have points, so for the mechanics, they're all super super happy too.”
With the summer break extending all the way to the end of August for Formula 3, there is plenty of time to soak in the achievement after Spa. Looking ahead to Monza, Floersch is hopeful of replicating her points-scoring performance in the final round of the 2023 season.
“We have a break now. It's just one race to go, but so I love Monza and we'll just try and see where we are and what we can do there. It's gonna be super close together and a slipstream gamble. So we’ll see.”