This will be a feeder series into W Series, F3, F2, and F1.
Formula 1 announced on Friday a new all-female series called F1 Academy. The goal of the new series will be to help better prepare female drivers to progress to higher levels of racing. To be clear, this isn't going to replace any of the current female racing series; instead, it will act as a Formula 4 series feeding into the higher ones.
The series will start in 2023 and will feature a grid of 15 cars. Five teams will comprise the series, all run by current F2 and F3 teams, each entering three cars. Seven events, with three races each, will take place in the first season along with 15 days of testing. None of the dates have been released yet.
The series will be managed by the CEO of Formula Motorsport Limited (the company running F2 and F3,) Bruno Michel. Drivers will be piloting Tatuus T421 Chassis, with Autotechnica-sourced engines producing 165 horsepower. The tires will, of course, be Pirellis, as we've become used to seeing in the sport.
The highlight is that Formula 1 will subsidize each car to the tune of €150,000 ($153,753) though the drivers will be expected to match that contribution. F1 says that this is a fraction of the costs usually attributed to a series like this, and the teams will cover the rest of the expenses.
Formula 1 wants to change the way things have been done. Women haven't been receiving the same opportunities to advance as their male counterparts have in the sport. It wants to see that the potential of these young female drivers currently in go-karting and other junior categories is cultivated so that they can gain the experience needed to race in F3 as they climb the ladder to F1.
"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," said Formula 1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali. "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."
This is a great step in the right direction, but as it stands, we still have to see how well it will pan out. We most likely won't see the fruits of this for years to come, so it's quite hard to know if it will be the edge that young female drivers need or not. If the goal is really to see another female F1 driver in the sport, we applaud it, it's been 47 years since Lella Lombardi became the last female driver in F1, which is much too long if you ask us.
It's also an exciting time for the sport. Audi and Sauber have joined together to enter the sport, and Porsche is still currently looking for a partner to enter as well. Brawn GP recently tweeted out a teaser image that seems suspiciously like an upcoming F1 announcement. Not to mention that interest in F1 has just been skyrocketing, especially in the US, where viewership on ESPN is up 30% over where it was last year (which was an all-time high).
More teams mean more spots. More spots mean more opportunities to showcase talent (and brand awareness to sell more Porsche 911s and Audi e-trons.) If this feeder series can help women develop at the same pace as their male counterparts, we look forward to seeing them at the pinnacle of motorsport soon. We just hope it fares better than W Series, which had its 2022 season cut short due to a lack of funds, leaving Jaime Chadwick the three-time winner with no clear path into a higher echelon of the sport from here.