F1 Academy: All-female junior championship on the road to F1

The drivers of F1 Academy in Austin, 2023

In February 2023, a new and ambitious project was announced. The F1 Academy, a new championship in close contact with Formula 1.

The feeder series was born to encourage access to female drivers in motorsport. The championship should give young drivers the level of experience needed to progress in Formula 3 and to start the road to F1

Head of the project as managing director is Susie Wolff, former racing driver and team principal. 

The grid has 5 teams: Campos Racing, MP Motorsport, ART Grand Prix, Rodin Carlin, and Prema Racing. Each team has three drivers for a total of 15 drivers in the field. A race weekend consists of a free practice session, two qualifying sessions, and three races of 30 minutes each + 1 lap. Except for race two which is 20 minutes + 1 lap. 

In its first season, the series’ calendar consisted of seven rounds. The season finale will be in Austin, as a support event of Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix.

The title fight 

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Marta Garcia currently leads the championship. The young Spanish girl of 23 years old is among the most experienced drivers on the grid. She already raced in three editions of the W series and in the Spanish Formula 4 Championship. The Spanish driver started the season in top form with a win in race one and race two. 

Garcia has Lena Buhler and Hamda at Qubaisi following her closely. Buhler and at Qubaisi also have experience in F4 and Formula Regional. 

Growing popularity

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The first race took place at the Red Bull Ring, and, gradually, the series began to gain popularity. However, the season was not broadcast live. The only way to follow what was happening on the track was through the live timing or the social accounts. 

After many fans complained about it, it was announced that the last race of the season would be broadcast in over 100 countries. This is great news for fans of the series, who will be able to follow live throughout the race weekend, along with Formula 1. 

A new agreement with F1

In July came exciting news: from the following year, all F1 teams will nominate a driver in the 2024 F1 academy line-up. The other five drivers in the series are supported by other partners. It means a direct involvement of F1 within the series, to further expand the number of viewers. Each team will also use their F1 livery in the chosen driver’s car. 

The first name announced is that of Bianca Bustamante as a Development Driver for McLaren. She will also participate in the second season of the F1 academy with the colors of the papaya team and racing ART Grand Prix.

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There are already drivers who are part of the junior programs of some F1 teams. Like Lena Buhler, a member of the Sauber Academy, or Abbi Pulling, from the Alpine Junior Team. 

2024 calendar 

In October, next season’s calendar was announced. It will include the same number of rounds but with some important changes. 

First, all the races will take place simultaneously with Formula 1 Grands Prix, as happens for F2 and F3. This will make it easier to follow the races and will increase media exposure. The biggest change concerns the circuits in which the driver will compete. 

The second season of F1 Academy will begin in Saudi Arabia. Jeddah is very complex circuit for even the most experienced drivers. The second round will be in Miami, followed by Spain, Holland, Singapore, Qatar, and the closing event in Abu Dhabi. 

A completely different calendar from last year, in which there was a majority of Grands Prix in Europe and only one in America. This represents a new challenge for drivers who will have to demonstrate their skills to quickly adapt to new circuits. 

More inclusive championships

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In 2023, it should be possible to compete freely without being impeded by gender or race. This is why the “Champions of the Future: Academy Program” championship was born. A new championship that fights to break down barriers of gender, race, or economic status.

Thseries will be supported by F1 Academy and will provide three female drivers in each category (Minis, Juniors, and Seniors).

Additionally, the three top female drivers in the Seniors category will be invited to an official F1 Academy test at the end of the 2024 season.

A new beginning?

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After the failure of the W series, the chances of seeing more women within the various categories of motorsport were very poor. Thanks to the F1 Academy, things seem to change.

Despite the various criticisms of the category, the many projects can lead to improvements in gender equality within motorsport. Favoring, above all, the discovery of new talents that, due to various discrimination (of gender or race) or economic difficulties, risk going unnoticed.