October 17, 2023
Richard Foegele

Women in F1 and Beyond

It will happen, it’s just a matter of time

Participating alongside the Formula One grid at the upcoming US Grand Prix near Austin, TX, will be the final round of F1 Academy, a new all-female racing series sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

Established in 2023, the Managing Director of the F1 Academy is former professional race driver (and F1 test driver) Susie Wolff.

Susie Wolff, wife of Toto Wolff, is not just a tag-along spouse. She is an accomplished race driver whose vision is to make motorsport more accessible to young female drivers, with the ultimate goal of ascending the ladder to Formula One

This year’s F1 Academy line-up

Paired with Europe’s top junior teams, the 15 car Series aims to extract the full potential of young female drivers.

So, who is in the running to win the inaugural F1 Academy Championship?

Without a doubt, points-leader Marta García from Spain must be considered the favorite, with more wins than her competitors. Like her male counterparts, García has a strong background in both karting and open-wheel racing. Switzerland’s Léna Bühler is second in the standings; consistency, coupled with some dominant drives, makes her a strong contender for the Title. Emirati (UAE) driver Hamda Al Qubaisi poses, perhaps, the greatest challenge to García; a series of non-finishes has hampered Hamda, but, as displayed all season, she is a fighter.

In 2024, F1 Academy races will be part of the extended F1 program at all races. Additionally, 10 of the 15 F1 Academy drivers will be nominated by each of the 10 current F1 teams, and each F1 Academy team will have their matching F1 team’s livery on one car.

Now what about other disciplines? Is there a Formula Stock Car Academy or Formula Rally Academy Championship for women? Not exactly … but women in motorsports does exist, despite the hurdles faced.

Iron Dames is a program created by Deborah Mayer, who is also President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission.

Deborah Mayer is the brainchild behind Iron Dames

This all-female driver line-up (Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting) participated in the World Endurance Championship in the GT class. Despite the disadvantage of not having Factory support, the independent Iron Dames trio took the fight to the powerful factory-backed GM Team, often coming out ahead. Also a product of the Iron Dames program is 19-year-old French sensation Doriane Pin who, like Michelle Gatting, won the prestigious Ferrari Challenge Championship in 2022 (Gatting 2021). Pin is currently competing for Prema Racing in the Lemans (World Endurance Championship) LMP2 class with ex-F1 driver Daniil Kvyat and GT Endurance Champion Mirko Bortolotti.

19-year-old Doriane Pin is raising eyebrows

Extreme E is an electric off-road series where male and female drivers form a 2-car team and race head-to-head. The ethos of Extreme E is the environment and sustainability, but also diversity. The Series has brought to the forefront many Rally and Off-Road female drivers who, for various reasons (including lack of funding), have not received the notoriety they deserve.

So, is that all? No. There’s more.

Although a bit thin, we have seen numerous successes among female drivers over the years. Names like Lombardi, Mouton, Guthrie, Patrick, and Legge have all helped forge a path for future generations.

From the outside looking in, we only see the drivers, but diversity is in full swing inside today’s teams … finally. More and more females are taking up roles, from team management to engineering to race mechanics.  

Will we see a female Formula One Driver in the near future? It is difficult to say, as the pool of young hopefuls (male and female) is ever growing and, with only 20 seats on the 10 team F1 grid, it makes breaking through that much harder. But, as they say, where there is a will, there is a way … and let’s hope the probability is greater than a meteorite coming to earth in order for that to happen.

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About the Author

Richard is a life-long motor-racer with experience in photography, filmmaking and engineering. His friends sometimes affectionately call him "Foegepedia" for his knowledge of the sport.

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