Pourchaire and Saleh back on podium as Sauber Academy returns to action after the summer
Following a month-long break from racing, the Sauber Academy drivers returned to action both on and off the track, collecting podiums and bringing forward their respective campaigns as they each enter the final stages of the season.
Coming to Zandvoort at the top of the championship, a position he reclaimed in Spa at the end of July, Théo Pourchaire set the tenth fastest time at the end of a chaotic qualifying session halted by three red flags. The Frenchman lined up on reverse pole position for Saturday’s Sprint Race, only for a technical failure on his car to force him to start from the pitlane. The race, however was red flagged following a collision on the opening lap and was shortly resumed under Safety Car. The torrential rains which had been hampering the entire day so far once again stopped the proceedings, with the race being ultimately called off. As two full racing laps were not completed without a Safety Car intervention, no points were awarded for the Sprint, keeping the standings unchanged. Action resumed on Sunday for the Feature Race, which got underway with a rolling start in slippery conditions; after a near contact with Hadjar on pit entry, Théo overtook the French-Algerian driver thanks to a quicker pitstop, leaving the pitlane in the lead. It was a short-lived joy for Pourchaire, who crashed out shortly after, his race prematurely. Much like for most races so far in the season, that wasn’t the final plot twist of the day, as direct championship contender, Frederik Vesti, soon after lost both rear tyres on his out lap after pitting – the two main title contenders effectively leaving the Netherlands with no added points to their names. The championship then moved to the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza the following week, for the second-to-last round of the 2023 season and the final European race on the calendar. Théo kicked off activities with a stunning pole position, claiming two important bonus championship points for his campaign. Climbing up the order from P10 during Saturday’s Sprint was always going to be a tough job, but nothing the young Frenchman hadn’t done before: Théo ultimately crossed the finish line in fourth place, just a handful of tenths away from the podium, preventing race winner Vesti from closing the championship gap too much. Another chance for Théo to further move up in the standings presented itself during Sunday’s Feature Race, when Vesti saw his race come to an end after just a few laps after a near-collision with Roman Stanek. Théo eventually finished the race in third place, leaving Monza with a 25 points gap over the Dane, as the championship will now go on another break. Racing will resume at the end of November in Abu Dhabi, as the title fight will come to a close under the lights of the Yas Marina Circuit.
Supporting Théo Pourchaire trackside at the Temple of Speed in Monza was fellow Sauber Academy driver Léna Bühler, who joined Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake at the Italian Grand Prix, the team’s very own home race. Currently sitting P2 in the F1 Academy championship, which will resume for its season finale in Austin in October, Léna got to experience the race weekend with the team up close, meeting drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, as well as taking part in several activities with the team.
It will soon be time for Marcus Amand to hit the track again as well: after its own summer break, the Formula Regional European Championship will resume activities at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, on the second weekend of September. The young French-Finnish driver will be back on track again, looking to regain momentum and show his promising speed on track.
Finally, action resumed for karter Taym Saleh in Franciacorta, Italy, at Round 1 of the WSK Euro Series. Enjoying a strong weekend from the beginning, the young German claimed an impressive pole position, eventually returning to the podium on Sunday as he crossed the finish line in P2. Taym will return to Franciacorta again in the second half of September, for the OK-Junior Championship round.
As summer comes to an end, a couple of intense months await the four drivers flying the flag of the Sauber Academy, as they wrap up their 2023 campaigns: different championships, but one same goal, to carry the Sauber name and its impressive motorsport track record all around Europe – and more.