Formula 1 will launch a junior category called the F1 Academy in 2023, giving female drivers better opportunities to progress up the single-seater ladder.
The series will run a Tatuus T421 chassis – making it an F4 level championship – with five teams of three cars making for a 15-car grid in its inaugural season. The championship will be managed by F2 and F3 boss Bruno Michel and the teams run by experienced current F2 and F3 teams, and is set to feature seven events of three races each, one of which is expected to be on an F1 weekend.
F1’s investment is a total of €2.25million ($2.33m) that equates to €150,000 ($155,000) per car, with the drivers needing to provide the same amount themselves for each seat. The subsidy is designed to reduce the financial barrier that exists as well as providing a level playing field for drivers wanting to step up from karts to cars, with F1 stating it will provide female drivers “with access to the fundamental level of experience needed before racing in F3 and joining the pyramid to Formula 1”.
The sport says research has shown female drivers do not have the same amount of experience as their male counterparts at the same age, with the new series designed to offer more track time to increase opportunities in the likes of W Series, F3 and F2.
“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,” Domenicali said.
“That is why I am delighted to announce the F1 Academy that will give young female drivers the best chance to fulfill their ambitions through 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 new championship announcement comes at a time where W Series is seeking investment to continue after having to cut its season short due to financial issues. While W Series is positioned further up the ladder by using a Tatuus T318 F3 chassis and having a 270hp engine compared to the 165hp of the F1 Academy, the new championship will use Pirelli tires to fit with the wider F1 ladder.
“I am very excited to launch this new category,” F1 Academy general manager Michel said. “Diversity is extremely important in motorsport, and with the F1 Academy we will prove that female drivers have what it takes to compete at high levels.
“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. Our goal is to see female drivers on the F3 grid in the next two to three years, and for them to quickly challenge for points and podiums.
“The aim is to increase the field in the near future, because we hope that this category will inspire more young girls to compete in motorsport at the highest of levels.”