Feeder Series has learnt details of six of the seven rounds that will make up F1 Academy’s inaugural season. As the details of the brand-new championship begin to fall into place, here are the wider implications of recent news and driver announcements.
By Charlie Widdicombe
The calendar suggests that F1 Academy will get underway in April at the Red Bull Ring, before two races in Spain: Valencia alongside the NASCAR Whelen Series, and Barcelona alongside FRECA and 2023 Copa Racer. These will be followed by rounds at Zandvoort and Monza respectively.
The calendar will also visit Austin in October for an F1 support slot as expected. At this stage there are no details for the seventh round of the season, so it’s difficult to predict when and where this might be. Whilst F1 has not yet responded to this information, the schedule does appear a suitable fit for F1 Academy amongst the wider motorsport calendar.
2023 F1 Academy calendar (provisional)
Round 1 – Red Bull Ring (Austria), 30th April
Round 2 – Circuit de Valencia (Spain), 7th May
Round 3 – Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya (Spain), 21st May
Round 4 – Zandvoort (Netherlands), 25th June
Round 5 – Monza (Italy), 9th July
Round 6 – Circuit of the Americas, Austin (USA), 22nd October
Round 7 – To be confirmed
A flurry of recent driver announcements have taken the total number of F1 Academy drivers confirmed to six.
In addition to Prema Racing’s Bianca Bustamante, ART have announced Carrie Schreiner’s participation alongside the previously confirmed Léna Bühler, whilst Rodin Carlin have recruited Jessica Edgar and the highly rated Abbi Pulling. Campos have announced the signing of Nerea Martí, leaving MP Motorsport as the only team yet to confirm any of their three drivers.
The signings of Martí and Pulling are particularly interesting. Both have proven themselves at W Series level, with Martí finishing 4th overall in 2021 and Pulling achieving the same feat in 2022, only finishing behind the vastly more experienced trio of Jamie Chadwick, Alice Powell, and Beitske Visser.
In many ways, then, it’s a surprise to see both Martí and Pulling move to a series with lower spec machinery than they’ve used in previous years, rather than moving into Formula 3 level machinery, or at least maintaining the Formula Regional cars that were used in W Series.
Pulling’s mentor Alice Powell has made it very clear via Twitter that funding is the primary issue despite Pulling’s status as a full member of the Alpine Academy. Whilst the ambition is for Pulling to step into F3, the backing is just not there at present, and the subsidised F1 Academy is her best option for this year. Sadly, this is a damning indictment of the current environment of opportunity for female drivers, and it raises questions regarding the depth of impact that W Series has made over its three seasons.
The news of Pulling and Martí’s signings are arguably the strongest indication yet that W Series is dead in the water. If they were unable to find a position further up the single-seater ladder, as suggested by Powell, then surely Pulling and Martí would have signed up for W Series in an instant rather than make a step down to F1 Academy.
We can only assume that other younger drivers who have experienced success in W Series, such as race-winner Marta García, will follow suit and claim one of the remaining nine spots that F1 Academy is yet to fill.
Header image credit: W Series
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