After three seasons, all indications suggest that W Series will not return in 2023. Instead, Formula 1 has launched its very own all-female racing series, F1 Academy. Before the inaugural season kicks off this weekend in Spielberg, here is everything you need to know about F1 Academy.
By Jan Husmann
When F1 Academy was announced, it was presented not as a replacement for the W Series but rather as an opportunity for the youngest generation of female drivers to get a chance to race in Formula 4 machinery. However,the number of drivers interested in either series is still limited, which made it unrealistic for the two all-female racing series to coexist.
Instead, F1 Academy became the spiritual successor of W Series. F1’s product aims to do a better job in the areas W Series struggled, namely promoting its drivers into higher levels of motorsport.
From the 2022 W Series competitors, only one driver has made significant strides up the feeder series ladder, with Jamie Chadwick moving to Indy NXT with Andretti this season. This move came after Chadwick dominated W Series for the entirety of its existence, winning all three championship titles. Other drivers moved to sports cars and prototypes, but many drivers are still struggling to find interested teams and funding for their next career steps, which led multiple drivers to make the step from W Series to F1 Academy.
F1 Academy has created a different environment than W Series by bringing five well-established teams from the feeder series world into the fold. The hope is that F1 Academy drivers can build relationships with these teams that then lead to opportunities with said teams in other Formula 4 and Formula Regional categories.
Only time can tell if this equation will pay off for the drivers, but the backing by Formula 1 creates a professional environment.
Out of the seven rounds of F1 Academy, six will take place on European tracks between 28 April and 30 July. Within these three months, the drivers will race on four tracks that are currently on the F1 calendar, as well as Le Castellet and Valencia. The highlight of the series will be the season finale in Austin in October, when F1 Academy will be part of the support bill of the United States Grand Prix.
- Round 1: Red Bull Ring (28–29 April)
- Round 2: Circuit Ricardo Tormo (05–07 May)
- Round 3: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (19–21 May)
- Round 4: Circuit Zandvoort (23–25 June)
- Round 5: Autodromo Nazionale Monza (07–09 July)
- Round 6: Circuit Paul Ricard (28–30 July)
- Round 7: Circuit of The Americas (20–22 October)
During its three-year existence, W Series was criticised for not providing enough track time for its drivers, with just one 30-minute practice session, one qualifying session, and one race at each round. F1 Academy is taking a different approach, offering its drivers plenty of opportunities to hone their craft on track.
After a free practice session to start the weekend, two qualifying sessions of 15 minutes will take place before three races will round out the weekend. The first qualifying session will set the grid for race one and the second qualifying session determines the grid for race three. For the race two grid, the top eight of qualifying one will be reversed.
Teams and drivers
With Nerea Martí (#1), Campos brings a three-time W Series podium finisher to the F1 Academy paddock. Alongside her W Series accomplishments, Martí had a successful 2022 in the Spanish Endurance Championship’s GT class with BMW Spain.
Martí’s teammates will be Lola Lovinfosse (#2), who competed in Spanish F4 the last two years, and Maite Cáceres (#3), who comes over from F4 US.
Twenty-year-old Dutchwoman Emely de Heus (#5) will drive for Dutch team MP Motorsport. She already has experience with the team, as she spent her 2021 Spanish F4 and 2023 F4 UAE campaigns with MP. Last year, she competed in W Series with Sirin Racing.
Joining De Heus at MP Motorsport are sisters Amna (#6) and Hamda Al Qubaisi (#4) from the United Arab Emirates. Hamda most recently competed with Xcel Motorsport in F4 UAE and scored 10 points. Last year, she raced in FRECA with Prema but failed to score points.
Her older sister Amna took over Hamda’s Prema car for the last two rounds of FRECA last year and most recently competed in a round of the Formula Winter Series with GRS.
ART Grand Prix
The French outfit is counting on a mix of experience and youth with their first F1 Academy line-up. Carrie Schreiner (#8) is an experienced driver in the world of GT racing, achieving a class win at the Nürburgring 24 Hours in 2021. The German’s last outing in open-wheelers came in ADAC F4 in 2016, when she finished 43rd in the overall standings.
Alongside her, Léna Bühler (#7) offers more open-wheel experience. The Swiss racer moved from Spanish F4 in 2020 to FRECA in 2021 but only did two rounds of FRECA in 2022. Moving back to F4 for 2023, she participated in F4 UAE over the winter with a season-high finish of 15th.
Chloe Grant (#9) completes ART’s lineup. The 17-year-old Briton finished ninth in her debut GB4 season in 2022, with a fourth place at Brands Hatch as her best finishing position.
The British entry of Rodin Carlin is fielding the highest W Series finisher making the move to F1 Academy in Abbi Pulling (#10). The Alpine Academy member was fastest in the second test in Le Castellet and is one of the main title contenders.
Additionally, Rodin Carlin has promoted two drivers from GB4 to the F1 Academy paddock in Jessica Edgar (#11) and Megan Gilkes (#12). While Edgar achieved one podium in her sole GB4 campaign in 2022, Canada’s Gilkes, who raced in the inaugural W Series season, won twice.
Their proficiency in Formula 4 racing series makes Prema the pre-season favourites. To turn their promise into correspondingly strong results, Prema has hired a mix of experience and exciting talent.
Marta García (#15) has the experience of 20 W Series races and was fastest in the first pre-season test in Barcelona earlier this month. Bianca Bustamante (#16) had her debut season in cars in 2022 and had one points finish in W Series last year. She also competed in F4 UAE earlier this year, scoring three points. Sixteen-year-old British-Canadian Chloe Chong (#14) makes the step up to formula cars after competing in the X30 Junior class of the British Kart Championships last year.
Where to watch?
F1 Academy has not announced broadcasting plans for 2023. Per the series website, live timing will be available, and Feeder Series will provide updates at the end of each session on Twitter.
Header photo credit: F1 Academy
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