F1 Feeder Series sat down with the first ever female member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Maya Weug, to talk about her experience within the academy and women in motorsport.
By Alexander Studenkov
Maya Weug has become one of the best-known names within Formula 4. The 18-year-old is currently showing signs of improvement after a disappointing debut season, and is flying the flag for girls within competitive single-seater racing.
“I started when I was seven years old because my dad used to do karting as a hobby, and I always used to go to the kart track with him close to home, and then I got a kart for Christmas together with my brother and I really never stopped. I used to watch the [F1] races on TV, but it was more just being at the track that I was interested in.”
I used to watch the [F1] races on TV, but it was more just being at the track that I was interested inMaya Weug
After competing in her birth country of Spain for a number of years, Weug branched out into European karting in 2016, where she won the WSK Final Cup in the Mini category. She credits that success as having acted as a launchpad for her career:
“It helped a lot. That was my first international year in karting and to win that race at the end of the year was quite big. Thanks to that I got the opportunity to drive in OK Junior with a team connected to a factory team. They helped me for three years and that helped me to get to Birel ART and Richard Mille later.”
The chance with Ferrari
A string of solid performances throughout these years in karts attracted the attention of the FIA – Women in Motorsport commission, who invited Weug, along with 19 other girls, to compete in the Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme, with the reward for winning this shootout being a place in the Ferrari Driver Academy.
“The first selection was karting. Then a couple of drivers went on to do two days of testing in Formula 4 at Paul Ricard, and of course there were physical activities and some simulator as well. And then we did one week at Maranello, the Ferrari Driver Academy, that was the final where there were four girls selected. That was cool!”
Despite feeling like she had done a good job during the contest, Weug was still surprised that she had won, given the fierce competition she faced from her peers.
“It was close between all of us, especially Doriane [Pin], who is now with Iron Dames in GTs; she was very fast as well.”
Her successful performance in the competition granted her not only a place in Ferrari’s junior programme, but also a seat in the Formula 4 Championship with Iron Lynx. She would make her debut in the category in 2021 under the banner of Iron Dames, the team’s female-branded offshoot.
When asked if winning the shoot-out was the deciding factor in her progression on the motorsport ladder, Weug answered in a convinced manner:
“Yeah, being selected for the Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme and at the end winning it gave [me] the opportunity to join the Ferrari Driver Academy and also be with Iron Dames and Iron Lynx for the Formula 4 season last year. It all came together in a good way, and I think they all played a big role into that, FIA WIM, Iron Dames and the Ferrari Driver Academy.
“[Without that support] it would have been difficult, of course. I don’t know what I would have done, maybe F4 if there was an opportunity, but it’s difficult to say.”
Learning the ropes
The step from karts into cars is perhaps the biggest a racer will take in their career, as not only the driving style, but also the physical aspects are much different in both categories. Weug describes her learning experience within her first year of single-seaters:
“[We could learn] especially from Fornaroli, because we had good data, he was always in front. And it always helps to have someone as a reference. That helped to make a bigger step and to move forward even quicker, so it was a good learning experience. It’s a big step from karting to F4, but I was quite happy with it.
“We do sim work mainly with the team, but we do physical activities and are in meetings with the FDA just to see where we can improve, what we can do. We look at data and videos, of course.”
With a first year come many challenges, and it was no different in Weug’s case, as, despite a pair of rookie podiums, she was unable to score any points during the season. She rues having missed out on a number of occasions by very small margins, but is convinced that that was just a building block in her becoming a more accomplished driver in 2022.
“For sure, the lack of experience didn’t help, but we were so close so many times, it was just always lacking that little bit, which I think this year we have already found in the first couple of rounds. We’ve been in the points in every race basically, or around the top ten at least. I think we learned from what we did last year and we’re moving forward quite quickly. Generally, the pace is better this year and then the racecraft is getting better as well.”
Women in motorsport
Being one of only two women in Italian F4, the other being PHM Racing’s Victoria Blokhina, a car racing rookie, Weug has had a dominant time of things in the championship’s Womens’ standings, where she has been awarded the trophy for being the highest-placed female driver in every race thus far.
The sentiment held by a large part of the female following of the series suggests that this classification can be seen as being demeaning to women, as there is no equivalent men’s championship, basically meaning that the drivers only receive these trophies due to their gender and not primarily through their results. Asked about this opinion, Weug gave a coy answer.
“I mean, I guess it’s a bit of a political question, but I think that when we’re on track we’re all the same drivers. When we put our helmet on whether you are a girl or a boy it shouldn’t make a difference, honestly. But I don’t know what to say about this.”
When we put our helmet on whether you are a girl or a boy it shouldn’t make a differenceMaya Weug
Nevertheless, the support for women in the motorsport scene has never been greater. With multiple programmes, whether that is the FDA shootout, teams like Iron Dames and Richard Mille or the Shift Up Now scheme in the United States attempting to make the sport more accessible to potential female drivers, the growing contribution to the diversification of the industry makes Weug happy:
“Every year there are more girls in racing thanks to FIA – Women in Motorsport and what everyone is doing in the FDA, as well as Iron Dames, as Richard Mille [in WEC], they’re all helping it a lot; That is why there are more girls every time and why they’re more accepted, of course.
“There are still not enough girls, for sure, but the more girls there are at the top, the more girls will be influenced to start karting and to start racing. It’s difficult to get the same amount, of course, but still seeing that every year it’s getting more and more is already a good step forward.”
Header photo credit: Iron Dames
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