Women in FORMULA 1: Initiatives Taken to Encourage Representation in Racing

By: Thy
02/09/2024
en
Women in F1 Formula 1
Thumbnail courtesy of Rebeca Gomes

As of 2022, nearly 40% of FORMULA 1’s fanbase are women, yet there hasn’t been a woman racer in the sport for nearly 50 years. TeamSport, a go-karting company in the United Kingdom, sees about 45,000 young girls at their racing circuits each year. But out of the 2,275 competitive racers aged 8 to 12, only 146 of which are girls. This gap only increases at senior level racing, where women make up 5% of racing license holders in Motorsport UK. To address and combat this disparity, several industry leaders have launched initiatives to promote more women racers. FORMULA 1 enthusiasts have also taken matters into their own hands by creating platforms and forming diverse communities. As the demand for more representation within motorsports grows, both industry professionals and fans find different ways to make their voices heard.

F1 Academy

One of the most notable initiatives on the list is F1 Academy, a women-only racing championship spearheaded by former professional racer, Susie Wolff. The championship aims to promote interest in Formula One and support racers early in their careers. F1 Academy has also launched several programs including Discover Your Drive Karting UK (girls ages 8 to 12), Discover Your Drive (girls ages 14 and up), and Champions of the Future Academy (mixed genders ages 8 to 15).

In 2023, F1 Academy completed their first racing year, with Marta García from PREMA Racing as champion. This year, F1 Academy will be a support series for Formula One at seven locations across North America, Europe, and Asia. The program has seen recent successes amongst their racers. Most notably, Bianca Bustamante became the first woman recruit of McLaren’s Development Driver Program, which is the same program that took in seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. F1 Academy will also have their own documentary series in the near future with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine as producer. 

Industry professionals and fans alike gave massive support to the inception of F1 Academy. However, fans also criticized how the W Series, an all-female racing championship, did not receive the same financial backing from FORMULA 1 after entering administration. As Females in Motorsport stated, “We’re delighted that F1 is backing a championship to promote female talent. Whilst we’re disappointed to see W Series not in this position, we will continue to support F1 Academy and the opportunities it is giving to young drivers.

Alpine’s Rac(H)er Program

In 2022, Alpine Cars and Racing launched their Rac(H)er Programme which aims to encourage and promote women’s careers in motorsports across the board, from engineers to future F1 champions. They aim to launch an education program to send women ambassadors to schools to raise awareness about careers in motor racing and the car industry. Alpine also intends to partner with researchers and training organizations to provide studies that will debase pseudoscientific claims regarding women’s participation in Formula One. 

Alpine is one of the first racing companies to form a program that encourages and supports young women’s careers in motorsports. By creating this program, Alpine’s CEO Laurent Rossi hoped “to be joined by all the players in the sector, because it is only by uniting that we will be able to make real progress.

More than Equal

More than Equal is a non-profit founded by former FORMULA 1 racer David Coulthard and entrepreneur Karel Komárek. The organization aims to providing research regarding the barriers women face in motorsports and identifying emerging talent. They have launched a mentorship program to recruit emerging female racers and prepare them for a career in Formula One. Recently, More than Equal recruited racers Sarah Moore and Jordan King as coaches for the program. Sara Moore is the first woman to win the Britcar Endurance Championship and Jordan King has raced in multiple series including IndyCar and Formula Two. By bringing the two racers as mentors onto their program, More than Equal hopes to further “nurtur[e] and elevat[e] the skills of young female racers in a competitive, traditionally male-dominated field.

By Fans, For Fans

Both new and old FORMULA 1 fans have called for more representation within motorsports. The industry has seen platforms like Females In Motorsports, F1 Femme, Racing Pride, Two Girls 1 Formula, and Racing Forces, which all aim to promote diversity within FORMULA 1 and its community. Females In Motorsports, for example, is a volunteer-run news platform that highlights women’s careers in motorsports. On the other hand, Racing Pride is a community that strives to promote and encourage more LGBTQ+ representation. Creators have also taken to social media to form their own FORMULA 1 communities. A notable example is FORMULA 1 presenter Lissie Mackintosh who started off posting informational videos and race recaps on social media. She has now amassed over 300,000 followers on Instagram and 18.5 million likes on TikTok. 

As industry leaders race to find new ways to encourage diversity within motorsports, fans can help promote more interest by doing what they do best: creating tight-knit communities.

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