It turned out to be a very expensive weekend for Sophia Flörsch, when the fourth round of ADAC Formula 4 was held at Oschersleben.
The 16 year-old racing driver has had some quite turbulent 15 months, after she entered the ADAC Formula 4 one and a half years ago.
In 2015 as only 14 years old, she raced in the British Ginetta Junior Cup, where she was leading the Rookie Championship and had taken two overall victories. It was a big surprise for many, when she announced that she would quit the series, and instead start preparing for the upcoming ADAC Formula 4 season for 2016.
Everybody was talking in a positive tone about her, ahead of the season, where many expected her to continue in the same way, as she had left the British series in.
Therefore it was a huge shock, when the Formula 4 season started. The opening round went OK with a ninth and fifth positions, but from that weekend onwards, it was just a downwards slope, regarding her results. Only five times in the remaining 21 races, she finished in the points.
Flörsch chose to change team for this season. Instead of the Motopark team, she went for Mücke Motorsport.
As a female, she naturally attracts more attention, and of course the team try to use that as much as possible. That they went for a pink car for this season only gave them more attention than they already got.
The 2017 season has been far from her own and her supporters ambitions. Four times out of 12 races she has finished in the points, three times she has retired, and the last five times she has been far away from any points.
Several of the drivers in the field are mildly irritated about all the attention that she attracts, when her sporting results don’t defend that amount of attention.
This Friday, she attracted even more attention – an attention that she probably would like to be without, if she could start it all over.
During the practice session for this weekends event at Oschersleben, there was a red flag. During that red flag there was an SUV crossing the track, to get out to a stranded car in the gravel. In that very moment, Sophia Flörsch came around that corner, and only missed the SUV by a few centimetres.
Then she decided to upload the video from her car, where you see the incident, and hinted at the unacceptable manoeuvre, that she believed is fully the SUV driver’s fault.
And that is where the problems starts.
The video went viral on the social media, where the opinions were very mixed. Some were supporting her, by saying that it was totally unacceptable for the car to cross the track. Other says that it was unacceptable for her to go so fast under a red flag condition during the practice.
The rules state that you have to slow down and return to the pits at reduced speed and potentially be prepared to stop. By Flörsch coming around a corner, and having to take avoiding action at the very final moment, is in our opinion NOT going slow enough. She came around a blind corner where neither she nor the recovery truck driver could see each other. And she couldn’t stop at all, and had to avoid at the very last season, going onto the grass, to avoid a very serious collision.
Race control hasn’t done anything wrong here in our opinion, since rescue vehicles are allowed on the track, when there is a red flag. It could for example be a very serious accident, where they need to get to the car quickly – and then they don’t have to wait for all drivers to get back to the pits, before entering the track – then it’s just GO! as soon as the red flag is shown, to extinguish a burning car or similar serious incident.
But it wasn’t only fans all over the world seeing that video, but also the race stewards at the meeting.
Saturday morning she was called into them, and at 11.43 she reported on the social media – “I got an fine of 20.000 Euros from DMSB, because i posted that video without permission if ADAC.”
And that made the social media go crazy once again. Opinions all the way from “She deserve that, after driving like an idiot” to “DMSB are idiots, first trying to kill a driver and then giving the driver a big fine”.
At 12.05 the official paper from the stewards was released, and that stated a fine of 5.000 Euro, that she had to pay within 48 hours, plus a suspended exclusion from the rest of the ADAC Formula 4 season. Furthermore the case would be reported to the DMSB Sporting court, with the potential of higher penalty.”
That part she didn’t release any news about – so the 20.000 Euro was the only thing that the social media knew about, until somebody actually started to inform that it wasn’t 20.000 but “only” 5.000 Euros. However, she did post that she had seen the red flags and was already going slower than on a normal lap.
What she gets the fine for, has nothing to do with the red flag, but only referring to 27.10 in the Sporting Regulations for ADAC Formula 4 2017. That explains that every car has to have an onboard camera that the stewards can use, in case they are unsure about an incident. But you are not allowed to release any of that video material, without permission from ADAC. If you do so, you will get a fine of 20.000 Euro plus potential further penalty.
So she don’t get any fine for the red flag incident, but purely for sharing the video.
No doubt that DMSB isn’t happy about bringing the sport into a bad light, by posting a video, and trying to make a negative impression of the race control and officials plus of course driving too fast under red flag.
The fine itself however, is only about the video.
Now she will have to show up in court at DMSB to explain her case, and perhaps get a further penalty, if they decide to do so.
The Sporting Regulations actually give them the possibility to exclude her from the Championship for the rest of the season, but that is all up to the judges to decide.
All the case is a reminder to all sports people – and in fact also privates – that you have to think twice before posting anything on the social media, and to be sure that you don’t break copyright rules by posting pictures, video or other things, that you don’t have the rights for. It’s not only for high profile sports stars but actually also just in hobby sports. Before accusing any officials, you have to remember that they are human too, and can make errors too – but that don’t give you the right to slam them in public.
Because there are always two sides of the same story, and Flörsch probably didn’t think about all the negative talk that she has become the center of.
The case will be decided in the DMSB Sporting Court within a short time. If there is more to report in this case, we will bring it here.