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The Kilt

The Student News Site of Hazen High School

The Kilt

The Student News Site of Hazen High School

The Kilt

F1 Academy

The Future of Women in Motorsports

When we were younger, we were used to toy cars belonging to boys and dolls for girls. We were taught gender roles and responsibilities of what we can and cannot do. But the world has changed, and it’s altering the narrative of society’s view on these stereotypes. Similar to the rest of the world and industries, women are still fighting to make their way in male-dominated scenes. They are battling bias and stereotypes that women are weaker or incapable. This is simply untrue. 

Formula 1 has long been considered a man’s sport, as well as the rest of the companion motorsports, all hailed for its vigor and determination. In recent years, women have been part of the larger image and production behind racing. Yet, women are rarely seen at the forefront of driving these high-speed cars on the track. Hundreds of people are employed to make cars for each team, regarding different specialties and talents — but why is the ratio of men to women still so low today?

The answer to that is simply a lack of support and representation of women. Gender stereotypes still exist as barriers to prevent women from breaking out into a prized international racing seat. With a swarm of men on the grid, within the pits, in principal positions, and more, how can we expect women’s representation and progress to occur?

Currently, the viewership demographic of Formula 1 and other championships is 40% female. Formula 1, along with F2 and F3, especially, are targeted at men and the wealthy, who dominate the scene, taking away from women’s opportunities. Other attempts to resurrect women’s representation in racing failed. Series such as Formula Women and the W series came to an early end due to financial failures and inadequate viewership and acclaim. 

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That is all changing with F1 Academy.

F1 Academy is a breakthrough organization, initiated by Formula 1, that is actively transforming young girls’ dreams into actuality. More than any other initiative for inclusivity and exposure for women to racing, already F1 Academy has been incredibly successful. Many more people are aware of the young women competing, gaining endearing support for these girls setting out to change the norm of racing for the future.

Since its 2023 debut season across six countries and seven rounds, F1 Academy is a female-only racing series that is focused on broadening the opportunities for women in motorsports. It’s made up of 15 young women, sponsored by the ten Formula 1 team programs: Red Bull Racing, Haas, Kick Sauber, Williams, Alpine, Aston Martin, RB, Mercedes, McLaren, and Scuderia Ferrari HP. Along with personal team sponsors: Red Bull Ford, Charlotte Tilbury, American Express, Puma, and Tommy Hilfiger. There are three women on each of the five teams: Prema Racing, Rodin Motorsport, MP Motorsport, Campos Racing, and ART Grand Prix. All drivers have identical Formula 4 level cars that are embellished individually with their personal and team sponsors. 

F1 Academy races are held the same weekend and place as Formula 1. This way, they get the coverage and viewership with the crowd already being there, who can get accustomed to the drivers and teams enough for F1 Academy to gain an essential following and loyalty. Currently, the conditions of F1 Academy is a two-season max for drivers, ages 16-25. Though it’s quite short in terms of long-term secure contracts, it allows new drivers to come in and maximize opportunities provided by the Academy for their careers. 

There are seven races for this year, taking place in Jeddah, Miami, Barcelona, Zandvoort, Singapore, Lusail, and Yas Island. Uniquely, starting in 2024, is the addition of a Wild Card Entry, adding one driver from the region of the race to the reigning team champion – Prema Racing – lineup in addition to their other drivers. This feature allows more outreach and awareness for upcoming drivers who don’t have a current spot to get recognition for their futures.

The winner of the F1 Academy Championship is given a fully-funded seat to FRECA (Formula Regional European Championship) and second and third place are given similar prizes. In such an expensive sport, having an assured fully-funded seat gives opportunities to women, not only moving women through the stages to get to the top but also reducing the barriers of cost and expenses.

Susie Wolff, now the director of F1 Academy is a retired motorsports legend. With a rich history from karting to Williams as a development driver: the first participant since 1992 to be a part of an F1 weekend to team principal in Formula E, she’s had expertise in the field since childhood. She’s been overcoming and battling obstacles and is an active spokesperson for women in motorsports,  founding initiatives such as Dare to Dream and Girls on Track. 

“I kind of feel in this role, we’re not talking anymore. We’re reacting.”

Charlotte Tilbury, the iconic makeup revolutionary, made history as being the first female-founded makeup brand to sponsor the F1 Academy or Formula Series. The car itself is embellished with the signature Hot Lips and the slogan “Makeup Your Destiny.” The driver, Lola Lovinfosse, an 18-year-old from France, rocks a matching race kit that emboldens the statement of the accomplishments of women. The necessity of women empowering women in an industry that has always lessened their value is teaching young girls at an early age to dream big.

As a part of F1 Academy, all ten Formula 1 teams have a female driver within their programs supporting them beyond just F1 Academy’s races. As part of the preparatory, the teams are expanding the outreach of F1 Academy. Bianca Bustamante, a 19-year-old driving under the Filipino flag, is the first female to be a part of McLaren’s Driver Development Programme, intending to one day, make it to Formula 1. Already making history along with drivers such as Maya Weug, and Abbi Pulling, all being the first women enlisted into F1 junior programs, all aiming to support and prepare the young drivers for more competitive futures and championships beyond just F1 Academy.

Representation matters in motorsports. When you are competing, you’re not only representing yourself and your team but also your country and culture. Being an international sport, people come across the world to support drivers. Many don’t know the sacrifice many make to be a part of such sports. Outside of Europe, the opportunities for training and resources are quite low, and many people need to permanently move at a young age to dedicate themselves to the sport. Though we are seeing incredible progress in diversity by drivers such as Emirati sisters Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi, Saudi Arabian Reema Juffali, and American Chloe Chambers are among a few of those making history representing their country in areas that don’t have as much access to competitive motorsport racing.

American Courtney Crone, the most recent Wild Card Entry at the Round 2 Miami Race enthuses the Academy’s goal, stating, “It’s a huge opportunity that F1 ACADEMY is giving drivers through Wild Card entries, especially in America. It can be difficult for young girls from outside Europe to know how to get into international series like this.” 

Marta García, champion of the F1 Academy Debut 2023 season, has already proven the success of its mission. After her first year, Garcia is now moving up to the Formula Regional European Championship (FRECA), an F3-level series. She now works with the Iron Dames, an all-female team. Now immersed in a primarily male field, Garcia is an inspiration to young women everywhere in hopes of making it to top teams and is actively proving that the goals of F1 Academy truly work as she moves up the field, being a role model and opening up opportunities for other aspiring girls.

While there is still so much more to do to further the inclusivity of all the diverse types of people in motorsports, in the coming years, we expect to see powerful young women further settle within the ranks of racing. Since 1992, there hasn’t been a female driver in Formula 1. F1 Academy is making dreams into reality for young women, who are only waiting to get that rare big break in Formula 1 and other series. 

“It’s not a man’s world anymore” – Susie Wolff

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