F1 Academy: Formula 1 launches all-female championship

W-Series
F1’s new competition is intended to complement the existing W Series, which hopes to return in 2023 after a curtailed 2022 season

Formula 1 has launched an all-female series aimed at helping women drivers progress through the motorsport ranks.

Named the F1 Academy, it will consist of five teams of three cars contesting seven events featuring three races.

F1 president Stefano Domenicali said the series gives female drivers “the best chance to fulfill their ambitions”.

F1 will subsidize each car with a budget of €150,000 (£131,000). Drivers will need to add the same amount again to compete.

The calendar has not been announced but one of the races is likely to take place at a grand prix, F1 said in a statement.

The series will use the same cars as currently compete in Formula 4, an entry-level series for drivers taking their first steps in car racing.

Domenicali added: “Everyone should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and achieve their potential and Formula 1 wants to ensure we are doing everything we can to create greater diversity and routes into this incredible sport.”

He said the championship represented “a comprehensive program that supports their racing careers and gives them everything they need to move into F3 and hopefully to F2 and then the pinnacle of Formula 1.

“The more opportunity there is the better and this is designed to provide another route for the drivers to succeed.”

The F1 statement said that the series was planned as “an extra route for the next generation of young female drivers”.

The statement added: “During assessments of the barriers young female drivers face with entering the F1 pyramid, it became clear that they do not have the same amount of experience as their male counterparts at the same age.

“The goal is to fill this gap and offer them access to more track time, racing and testing.

“They will also grow by working with professional teams, who are renowned in motorsport for nurturing young drivers, and who will help them develop the crucial technical, physical and mental preparations.”

When news of the championship first emerged over the weekend of the US Grand Prix, F1 briefed that it was planned to complement the W Series, a female-only championship that launched in 2019 but ended this season two races early because of financial problems.

W Series is seeking the finance to continue into 2023, and one of its competitors, Jessica Hawkins, driver ambassador for the Aston Martin F1 team, said she believed the two could co-exist.

Hawkins said she saw the new series as “a positive”, adding: “The more females we get within motorsport cures the issues of lacking of females, so any championship that helps females out should be welcomed.

“I would also like to think it would work alongside W Series. I would hate to think they would ever be competing against each other, because that’s not what we’re fighting for.

“It’s not who’s got the best championship, it’s how do we work together because we’re all trying to achieve the same thing.”

She said that there did need to be “more [opportunities] at grass-roots level”.

But she added that it was important not to ignore some of the women drivers who had already made it on to the motorsport ladder – and drew a parallel with Aston Martin’s 2023 signing, the two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso.

“At Aston Martin, we have just signed a 41-year-old, who’s still at his peak performance,” Hawkins said. “Why are we looking for someone so young? Why don’t we use what we’ve got already, to help drive that forward?

“And the aim at the moment for me is to get as many people as we can female racing and then we can address the issue of an F1 female driver, because that will just come naturally then.

“There is more in the pot to choose from, there will be less falling out of the pot, and they will continue on forward.

“I don’t think F1 or an F4 championship is going to solve all the issues. It is certainly going to be a massive help, and I welcome that help, but let’s not disregard the ones that have already done well. It is not too late for the perhaps slightly older ones.”

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