Formula One is launching a new racing series aimed at women to help them reach the upper echelons of motorsport amid protracted efforts to address the sport’s lack of gender diversity on the grid.
The F1 Academy is meant to nurture young women in go-karting or other junior categories of racing to the top as they spend significantly less time racing than their male counterparts.
“I am absolutely convinced that if young women are given the same amount of experience as any other driver, they can successfully make their way through the pyramid,” said F1 Academy general manager Bruno Michel.
Maria Grazia “Lella” Lombardi was one of the few women to race and score points in F1 in the 1970s.
F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali said: “Everyone should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and achieve their potential and we want to ensure we are doing everything we can to create greater diversity and routes into this incredible sport.”
The league has achieved renewed popularity through Netflix’s Drive to Survive documentary series, which is credited with bringing new audiences to the sport.
The F1 Academy will begin racing in 2023 and is seeking to help young women progress to W Series, an existing women-only competition, as well as F3, F2 and eventually F1.
Cost is a major barrier for any budding F1 driver, so F1 has allocated €2.25mn to subsidise teams for the cost of the cars. Each of the five teams will enter three cars per race.
The inaugural season will consist of 21 races across seven events. Only one event will take place during an F1 weekend to ensure it can attract supporters.
“Today’s announcement marks the next step in inspiring talent behind the visor to help ensure young female drivers get the very best opportunity to begin their professional motorsport career and climb the ladder to the top,” said Ellen Jones, head of sustainability at F1.
More Than Equal, a project backed by former F1 driver David Coulthard and Czech billionaire Karel Komárek, is also seeking to find the first female F1 world champion.
The challenges for female drivers were compounded this October when W Series scrapped three races and ended its season prematurely as funding dried up. The league is seeking new investment, according to people with knowledge of the matter.