Sunday, July 21, 2024

Chloe Grant Column: Progress and Challenges in the F1 Academy – A Thrilling Journey So Far

It’s June and I’ve already three F1 Academy events under my belt – it’s certainly been a hectic but hugely enjoyable few months!

I’m really enjoying the series and importantly, my driving has progressed a lot while being a part of the amazing ART Grand Prix team is developing me much more as a driver with elements I’d never considered or done before.     

It’s still work in progress but physically and mentally, I’ve improved. I’m very lucky to be contesting the series with ART and I’m really pushing myself to progress in all aspects.

One of the biggest elements the opening rounds has taught me more than anything else is that qualifying is so, so important. Lap times for the field are so close, it’s vital to get a good grid position, because the cars are identical making overtaking in races very difficult.

I learned such a lot in the opening event at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. I started all three races from ninth place on the fifteen-car grid after wet qualifying sessions and was the highest-placed British driver on the Race 1 grid.

I’d been very happy with my pace in the practice sessions but it rained for qualifying necessitating ‘wet’ weather tyres. I’d not driven a racing car in the wet for over six months and so lacked a little confidence.

I had a good start in the opening race but there was a collision on the opening lap which forced me off the track and came home tenth place. I made an even better start in Race 2 but a gear shifting issue caused an early retirement which was a shame.

I was up to fifth place in Race 3 prior to a car forcing me wide before a handling issue hampered by progress for the remainder of the race, coming home ninth.

Credit: F1 Academy Ltd.

Next stop was Valencia in Spain and overall it was a good weekend, benefitting from getting more mileage in the car with pre-race testing. I felt I was able to show I had the pace. I started Race 1 from third on the grid and was denied a podium finish by less than four-seconds in only my fourth F1 Academy race.

Beginning Race 2 from sixth, I came home seventh. But the final race turned out to be mixed combination of emotions. I took the chequered flag in fifth, which was another good, solid result, but unfortunately, collected penalties dropping me to eleventh.

It was Spain again for the next three races staged in Barcelona. It wasn’t a bad weekend but it could have been better for sure. I struggled a little in qualifying. I had good pace in Race 1 enabling me to go from tenth to finish seventh and was actually setting the quickest lap times in the final laps of the race.

I made a really good start from tenth again in Race 2 and was up to seventh by the second corner on the opening lap with good, consistent pace throughout the race. Race 3 was hard work on ‘old’ tyres, starting twelfth and coming home eleventh, losing time due to lack of grip especially in the faster corners.

As everyone knows, motor racing is a very expensive sport to compete in so I’m absolutely delighted that British multinational optical retail chain, Specsavers, and Island Leisure Lodges, have joined Laser Tools, John Clark Motor Group, Kevin Cuthbert PT and Fierce Racing in supporting me in the F1 Academy this season.

Unfortunately there’s no ‘live’ TV coverage currently of the series but you can stay up to date with everything happening in the series with a highlights programme shown on SKY after each event. It includes race footage and exclusive behind-the-scenes content from drivers and teams.

Before the season began in April, I passed my driving test. I wasn’t nervous about it until the date closed in. The only thing I had been anxious about before beginning lessons were the oncoming cars, it was something I realised I hadn’t had to consider on track.

The two things I noticed the most were that my hands were constantly crossing over. When you’re on the road you have to keep your hands on either side and feed the wheel through – unlike when I’m racing. And taking the corners a bit slower, I was taking them too fast! But it all turned out well on the day.

Credit: Extreme E

More recently, I was invited to drive an Extreme E series Spark Odyssey 21 at Glenmuckloch in Dumfries & Galloway. I drove the electric SUV car with Sir Chris Hoy in the “passenger” seat.

It was an incredible experience, and I now have the bug for off-roading, it was so much fun! It was a pleasure and an honour to work with Chris. He can be my ‘wingman’ anytime!

I must say a huge thank you to Extreme E for that awesome opportunity. I wish I could do it a thousand times over!

I’ve also been appointed as a Motorsport UK “Girls on Track” Ambassador. The programme is a joint initiative between the FIA and Motorsport UK. It unites Susie Wolff’s ‘Dare to be Different’ initiative, which I was also involved with.

Events are staged to inspire girls and women into seeing and believing that there is a rightful and valuable place for them in the motorsports industry. The varied range of opportunities within our sport means that there is something for everyone, regardless of interests, gender and race.

I’ve a couple of days of testing at MotorLand Aragón before the short hop over to Zandvoort in the Netherlands at the end of June for the next three races, and another new track for me!

Will be back with more news in the coming months. Thanks Chloe