Saudi struggles for our Academy in Jeddah

Published on
12 Mar 2024
Est. reading time
3 Min

It was a Red Sea trip to forget for our Academy drivers

The Williams Racing Driver Academy endured a troublesome weekend in Jeddah as mechanical gremlins and DNFs blighted all of our starlets in Saudi Arabia.
F1 Academy held its opening round of the 2024 season, where Lia Block debuted, with Formula 2 supporting F1 for a second successive race, as Zak O'Sullivan and Franco Colapinto faced the corniche for the first time.
Here's how our trio, plus one of our karting hopefuls, fared over the past few days.

Formula 2

Zak O'Sullivan

The tightness of F2's 2024 grid was on full display again in Saudi Arabia, with Zak's best qualifying lap only six-tenths off pole but landing him in P14.
A stall on the starting grid in the Sprint Race ended any hopes of a point-scoring Friday, and the British racer headed to the pits to retire one lap before the chequered flag.
Saturday's Feature Race initially looked more hopeful, with Zak advancing to P11 in the frantic opening lap, but an unsuccessful move on the inside of Turn 1 had his ART car spin and exit the race.

Franco Colapinto

There was an eerily similar story to Zak's for Franco, as the Argentinian qualified just 0.025s ahead of his Academy peer to start both races from P13.
Both Williams Racing liveries were left stationary on the Sprint Race grid as Franco also stalled, and although he reached the finish line, it was in P11, and no points.
The Feature Race saw an improvement to P12 after the first tour of the track, but the slightest tap of the wall at Turn 27's exit broke Franco's suspension, and prematurely ended his Jeddah weekend.

F1 Academy

Lia Block

Although street circuit racing in single-seater machinery was an entirely new experience for Lia, the Williams Racing representative in F1 Academy showed she was not intimidated.
P3 in Free Practice preceded a P7 qualification for the first race, with the American rookie showing her pace.
Sadly, a late-race spin after bouncing over the kerbs halted a possible point-scoring debut, and a clumsy rejoin by a competitor damaged Lia's car in Race 2, where she was classified P11 — just 0.085s away from a top-10 position.


Oleksandr Bondarev

One of our youngest academy members was back in his race suit, too, with the Champions of the Future karting event heading to Valencia for its opening round.
Oleksandr Bondarev rocketed through the order to finish the final in P3, which became P2 after a rival's relegation due to a penalty.
The five-round Euro Series will see Bondi travel to France, Slovakia, Sweden, and finish in Britain by September, where he'll look to be champion.
After a double-header start, the Academy members can enjoy some rest before the long-haul flight to Melbourne for the F2 and F3 hopefuls.
Zak and Franco will take on Albert Park in F2 machinery for the first time, with Luke Browning hoping his 2023 Australian Fastest Lap speed will return for his second F3 season racing there.
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