Taking steps forward

Taking steps forward


Amidst a pit of controversy within the F1 circus, there was one shining light beaming out of Saudi Arabia's Jeddah Corniche Circuit earlier this month.

It was one that brought a glimpse of excitement in F1’s next generation of star drivers - none other than the season opener of the F1 Academy.

A racing series introduced in 2023 specifically for female drivers, F1 Academy aims to give F1 its first non-male driver since Giovanna Amati entered three grands prix in 1992.

But you have to go even further back to see the last time a female driver started a grand prix – that was Lella Lombardi in 1976, the only woman to date to score points in an F1 race.

To put it lightly, that makes for hard reading, and with F1 Academy’s second season underway, it is hoped that one of these drivers can soon rewrite the history books with a place on the grid of F1.

The first round of the season brought much excitement for so many reasons, and what a stage to lift the curtain on the 2024 campaign.

Take the location of the first round for example: Saudi Arabia.

This was a country which until June 2018 forbade any woman to drive, among a host of other rights which have restricted the lives of women in the Asian country.

When F1 visited Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2021, Sebastian Vettel took it upon himself to hire a local kart track and invite some female drivers to have a race while also listening to their stories – both positive and negative.

To have an all-female racing series host its season opener in the country shows the positive steps that are being taken to shrink the gap in gender equality and provide women with the same chance as men to climb the ladder towards one of motorsports biggest championships.

There was plenty of celebration surrounding F1 Academy’s first round, with International Women’s Day falling on the Friday of the Saudi Arabian GP, further prompting the eyes of millions to be cast on what looks set to be a very exciting year for the championship.

All 10 F1 teams have thrown their weight behind the championship, and each round will align with F1’s 2024 schedule.

Steps are being taken to ensure the paddock continues to move towards a place where women can feel fully included and make their mark on the pinnacle of motorsport.

As Laura Winter so perfectly put it during the broadcast of its first race: “To the women and girls in motorsport, to the huge and growing numbers of female fans in this sport – here is a very good reminder for all of us, we are here to stay, and we are right where we belong.”

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