The motorsport world may be historically dominated by men, but that is slowly starting to change. The presence of W Series has pushed the message that men and women can compete equally in motorsport, and there are multiple drivers throughout all of motorsport who have proved this idea to be true.
By Tom Evans
Michèle Mouton finished second in the World Rally Championship in 1982, Danica Patrick became the first-ever IndyCar race winner in 2008, and Sophia Flörsch has finished on the podium in the 2021 and 2022 editions of the European Le Mans Series. And most recently, the Iron Dames made history as the first-ever all-female lineup to win their class at the 24 Hours of Spa.
So with these achievements in other high-level motorsports series, it’s only a matter of time before a talented female driver makes it to Formula 1. Here are F1 Feeder Series’ top three picks for a future F1 seat, plus some honourable mentions.
Jamie Chadwick (24, W Series)
Jenner Racing’s Chadwick is an obvious choice for inclusion on this list, and rightfully so as a two-time W Series champion, with another championship victory looking ever more certain this season.
After competing in Ginetta Juniors and British GT, Chadwick began her single-seater career in 2017 in the BRDC British F3 Championship. She ended her time in the UK with a highest championship finish of eighth over two years in the series.
After her stint in the UK, Chadwick spent the winter of 2018–19 competing in the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship, which she won by 37 points with six wins across 15 races. The following winter, Chadwick finished fourth overall in the Asian F3 Championship, ahead of current Haas F1 reserve driver and F1 grand prix finisher Pietro Fittipaldi.
In May 2019, Williams Racing announced that Chadwick would join the Williams Driver Academy. This was a huge boost to not only Chadwick’s hopes of reaching F1 but also the hopes of seeing a female F1 driver on the grid for the first time since 1976.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, W Series was not held in 2020. Chadwick elected to compete in the Formula Regional European Championship instead, but she had a tough season and finished in ninth place, behind all three of her Prema Powerteam stablemates.
W Series returned in 2021, and Chadwick took the crown with four wins from eight races. And so far in 2022, she has won five of the six races, with a championship victory looking almost certain.
When Chadwick announced she would be racing in W Series in 2022, she disappointed many and received criticism for not moving up to FIA F3, the next step in the FIA single-seater ladder. Despite having prize money from her 2021 W Series title as well as backing from Williams, Chadwick told F1 Feeder Series that she “didn’t secure the budget” for an F3 seat.
If Chadwick can secure the budget for FIA F3 next season and then perform well throughout the year, she’ll be the female driver with the highest chance of reaching the top flight.
Maya Weug (18, Italian F4)
Being the first female driver in an academy as prestigious as Ferrari’s is no mean feat. But that is exactly what Maya Weug has achieved, so F1 hopes are higher than most for the 18-year-old.
Weug was a hot prospect in karting, with a second place in the Alevín (beginner) class of the Spanish Championship in 2015. The following year, she won the Mini class of the WSK Final Cup, beating future FDA driver and Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) championship leader Dino Beganovic.
The FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme was a huge boost for Weug’s F1 chances. In early 2021, Weug competed against 40 other female drivers for the chance to win a one-year Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) contract, with the option to be extended for an additional year. Weug finished the programme on top, meaning she would receive not only a place in the FDA but also driver development and support for the next three years.
Weug’s first port of call was the 2021 Italian F4 Championship with Iron Lynx. Despite only having one non-finish throughout the entire season, she struggled to get to grips with the new machinery. She finished 35th in the standings with a best finish of 11th at Vallelunga and not a single point to her name.
However, the young driver has shown vast improvement in 2022, taking sixth in the first race of the season. She currently sits 12th overall, seven points clear of P13, but if she can get some consistent results throughout the rest of the year, a top-10 championship finish would be well within reach.
Given that Weug is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, her chances of getting to Formula One are much better than the majority of drivers. The FDA has a good track record of moving drivers up through the formula racing ladder; for example, Ollie Bearman moved up from Italian and ADAC F4 to FIA F3 this year.
If Weug can really take advantage of the three years of driver development and support the Girls on Track scheme has offered her, then her adaptability when moving to the next series could give her a key advantage.
Abbi Pulling (19, W Series)
Throughout her young career, Pulling has shown she has the speed to battle drivers with more experience.
Pulling was a British karting hotshot, winning the 2017 and 2018 Super 1 National Junior TKM Championships in the UK. She also had a three-round stint in the 2018 Ginetta Junior Championship, in which she scored 62 points over seven races, and then a full season in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge in 2019.
In 2020, Pulling embarked on a full single-seater season in the British Formula 4 Championship with JHR Developments. In an impressive campaign, Pulling finished sixth overall with four podiums, beating out some notable names such as FRECA podium finisher Roman Bilinski, Euroformula Open race winner Christian Mansell and GB3 front-runner Roberto Faria. That October, she also made a guest appearance at Imola in Formula Renault Eurocup.
Though she achieved three podiums and four further top-five finishes in the 2021 British F4 season, Pulling had to pull out of the championship with four rounds left because of funding issues. Unfortunately, a case like Pulling’s – a promising driver with not enough funding is too common a sight in motorsport.
Thankfully for Pulling, she was selected as a reserve driver for W Series that year and was drafted in for the Silverstone and Zandvoort rounds earlier in 2021. Having scored points in both races, she was then called back for the double-header at the Circuit of The Americas in October and impressed with pole position for the first race and a second-place finish in the second. These results earned her a full-time race seat for 2022. Her racing career, which just a few months prior appeared on the ropes, was saved.
By dint of finishing in the top eight in 2021, Pulling earned a full-time drive in W Series for 2022. She currently holds fourth in the standings, just three points off second. Two podiums in six races as well as her consistent point-scoring races have been vital in her keeping up with the rest of the front-runners.
Earlier this year, Pulling was also announced as part of the Alpine Affiliate programme, providing her a platform to join the full Alpine Academy. If Pulling can put together the budget for an FIA F3 seat or a FRECA seat and perform to Alpine’s expectations, then we could see her move up the ladder even further.
Luna Fluxá (12, karting)
Fluxá is the latest addition to the Mercedes Junior Team, and for good reason. The 12-year-old recently won the IAME Euro Series in the X30 Mini class, and she is competing in OK Junior in 2022. She’ll be one to watch assuming she makes the step up to single seaters in three or four years’ time.
Nerea Martí (20, W Series)
In her very first weekend of single-seaters, Martí took second in the opening weekend of the 2019 Spanish F4 Championship. After a year out of racing in 2020, Martí was signed to W Series in 2021, impressing with a fourth-place championship finish in her rookie season. She is currently sixth in the 2022 W Series standings and will be looking to improve upon that for the remainder of the season.
Marta García (22, W Series)
Nearly every Formula One driver starts their motorsport journey in karting, and most impressed with good results. That’s exactly what Marta García did in 2015, winning the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy to put her name alongside such drivers as Charles Leclerc and Richard Verschoor. Despite scoring five top-five finishes in her début season of Spanish F4 in 2016, she only competed in 11 races, meaning she wasn’t classified for points that year. The following year in 2017, García attempted a full-season Spanish F4 assault, ending the year in ninth place with 70 points total.
García’s first year of W Series was 2019, and she ended the season in fourth place with one win, one third place, and one pole position to her name. García claimed only one podium in a less fruitful 2021 to end the year in 12th place. After six races this season, she sits in eighth place, but look for García to return to the podium in future rounds.
Header photo credit: W Series
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