Pourchaire and Bühler in podium form as Sauber Academy enjoys a successful spring
The drivers of the Sauber Academy enjoyed a successful start of spring, with silverware coming their way as all competitions kicked into gear. It was a month packed with activities, both on and off the track, for the drivers of the Sauber development programme, dedicated to nurturing and raising future champions.
On top of their respective campaigns, the four drivers flying the flag of the Academy were busy testing their skills and abilities in a training bootcamp in Switzerland. Théo Pourchaire, Léna Bühler, Marcus Amand, and Taym Saleh came together to Hinwil, at the heart of Sauber Motorport’s operations: led by Sporting Director, Beat Zehnder, and Team Physiotherapist, Josef Leberer, the four drivers visited the team’s facilities, getting an exclusive insight on the behind-the-scenes operations of a Formula One team. The group then relocated to Basel for two days of training and medical checks, during which the Academy drivers underwent several health tests in line with the highest sports medicine standards.
Once the bootcamp was concluded, it was soon time to get back on track: Théo Pourchaire resumed his Formula 2 campaign in Baku, Azerbaijian, for the fourth round of the 2023 season. Having reignited his championship challenge in Melbourne at the beginning of the month, the young Frenchman kept up with the performances shown Down Under by claiming the third spot on the grid for Sunday’s Feature Race. Starting P11 in Saturday’s Sprint Race, following a three-place grid penalty for impeding Kush Maini during Qualifying, Théo’s tough climb back to the top ten ended with an unfortunate DNF in the later stages: Théo ran wide at the Safety Car restart as he struggled for grip on the medium tyres, much like other competitors. He did manage a quick turnaround the following day, when he fought for the top step of the podium for most of the race with Oliver Bearman and Enzo Fittipaldi, ultimately finishing third. With Ayumu Iwasa scoring no points over the weekend, Théo’s podium finish allowed him to regain the Championship lead, sitting at the top with 65 points, three points ahead of Frederik Vesti. As part of his Reserve Driver duties for Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake, Théo supported Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu’s on-track action at the Miami Grand Prix by providing important feedback from the simulator back at base in Hinwil.
Following the first official F1 Academy tests in Barcelona, Léna Bühler took part in two additional testing sessions at Le Castellet and in Spielberg, before the brand-new, all-female racing series kicked off at the Red Bull Ring. The first Qualifying session, which took place in rainy conditions, saw Léna finishing in P8. The Swiss then claimed P7 in the second session – defining the starting grid for the third and final race of the day. As three drivers were subsequently disqualified due to unintentional technical infringements, Léna was promoted to P6 and P4, respectively. There wasn’t much that could be done in Race 1, when Léna was forced into an early retirement from the race after avoiding a contact between Emily de Heus and Lola Lovinfosse and ending up stuck in the gravel trap; but redemption followed immediately. Starting from P3 in Race 2 as per the reverse grid rule, the Swiss driver successfully managed to overtake Lovinfosse in the first corner, maintaining the position until the chequered flag, and thus claiming her first podium of the season. A complicated start to Race 3 saw Léna falling behind to P9; she then battled her way back up the order, ultimately finishing in sixth place and collecting precious points that placed her P7 in the standings at the end of the first round.
Coming back-to-back after Spielberg was Round Two, hosted at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia. Léna claimed P6 and P5, respectively, in the two Qualifying sessions, valid for the First and Third race of the event. A strong start in the opening lap saw Léna quickly gaining positions over her competitors, overtaking Amna Al Qubaisi for P3 in the final stages of the race, thus securing her second podium finish of the season. The Swiss racer kept up the momentum in Race 2, later in the day, for which she lined up third on the grid. Another flawless start allowed Léna to swiftly pass Chloe Chong for P2, maintaining the position until the chequered flag and challenging Bianca Bustamante’s P1 for most of the race – defending at the same time from Hamda Al Qubaisi, closely behind. The fight for the top spots reprised the following day, for Race 3, when Léna finished just 0.4s away from the third step. The two podiums, together with the P4 finish, meant a significant number of points earned by the Swiss Sauber Academy driver over Round 2, allowing her to move up to fourth place in the standings.
Marcus Amand kicked off his 2023 campaign in the Formula Regional European Championship with an intense round of racing. The young French-Finnish driver lined up on the eleventh row on the grid for Race 1, climbing up a few places as he finished 18th. A better understanding of the car allowed Marcus to move up to P8 in Race 2 and score his first points. Confident for a quick turnaround, Marcus will return on track in Barcelona for the second round of the championship at the end of May.
Taym Saleh headed to Cremona, in Northern Italy, to take part in the final event of the WSK Super Master Series. The Sauber Karting Team driver claimed seventh place in qualifying, and overall 20th place out of almost 90 drivers participating, ultimately finishing the race in P6.
The remainder of May will see all four Sauber Academy drivers continuing their 2023 campaigns all around Europe.