Jamie Chadwick celebrates after winning the W Series race ahead of the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July 2022. (Reuters)
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Formula One is launching a new racing series for female drivers that will start next year.
The series, to be known as the F1 Academy, will be subsidized by F1 and is likely to be a support series for one weekend of the F1 season.
F1 said it would contribute funding of 150,000 euros ($156,000) per car “and will require the drivers to cover the same amount, which represents a fraction of the usual costs in a comparable series.”
They will represent teams which are currently involved in Formula Two or Formula Three. Speaking at the launch, F1 Academy manager Bruno Michel defended the costs involved in the new series and said there could be funding from established F1 teams too.
“From the first feedback I have from the teams, I don’t think we’re going to have issues to find drivers with this kind of quite reasonable budget,” Michel said. “I am quite sure as well that some of the Formula One academies are going to start to work on that and help funding this kind of money for the drivers as well.”
There will be 15 cars on the grid for a 21-race season split across seven rounds. The series will aim to recruit “young talent currently in go-karting or other junior categories” in the hope they can later graduate to Formula Three as a next step, and eventually compete in F1.
The announcement comes less than two months after another all-female event, the W Series, cut its season short due to financial problems.
The W Series has been free to enter for drivers, unlike the F1 Academy and most other developmental series which require young drivers to bring their own financial backing from family money, investors or sponsors. It also uses Formula Three cars rather than the modified Formula Four-specification cars planned for the F1 Academy.
W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir said she believed the two events could coexist.
“W Series welcomes any initiative which shares our ambition to provide more opportunities for women in motorsport,” Bond Muir said in a statement.
“Our objective from the start has always been to increase the talent pool of women racing drivers, and the addition of the F1 Academy as a feeder to W Series and other series is a further step in inspiring the next generation to progress up the motorsport ladder.”
W Series ran into financial trouble this season and canceled its final three races in Mexico and the United States, to focus on raising funds for 2023. It has yet to publish a schedule for next season.
“We are looking forward to finalizing W Series’ plans for 2023 and beyond, providing exciting racing and entertaining our fans around the world,” Bond Muir said.
Five women have competed in F1, but none has done so for 30 years. Giovanna Amati was the most recent woman to officially enter an F1 event when she took part in qualifying for three races in 1992. Other female drivers have been involved in F1 testing since then. The last woman to start an F1 race was Lella Lombardi in 1976. Her story is told in this F1 video: