Formula One on Friday launched an all-female racing series that is set to hit the track next year and prepare young girls to race in the sport.
The new category, which will be called F1 Academy, will feature five teams run by outfits currently competing in F1-feeder series Formula Two and Formula Three. They will each run three cars, creating a 15-strong grid, Formula One said in a statement.
Drivers will be required to bring 150,000 euros ($155,520) in funding, with F1 matching that amount and teams raising the rest of the 2.25 million euro total budget.
Next year’s inaugural season will comprise seven events with three races each, with one round likely to feature on the Formula One support bill, and 15 days of official testing, the statement said.
The series, which will be run by F2 and F3 organizer Bruno Michel, will feature Tatuus T421 chassis fitted with a 165 horsepower engine and tyres from F1 supplier Pirelli.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and achieve their potential and Formula One wants to ensure we are doing everything we can to create greater diversity and routes into this incredible sport,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali in the statement.
“That is why I am delighted to announce the F1 Academy that will give young female drivers the best chance to fulfil their ambitions through a comprehensive program that supports their racing careers and gives them everything they need to move into F3 and hopefully to F2 and then the pinnacle of Formula One.”
F1’s launch of the new all-female series comes after a cash crunch forced the existing W Series, which was free to enter and paid the championship winner $500,000 out of a total $1.5 million prize money pot, to cancel the last three races of its season last month.
Organizers at the time said they were confident the series, which debuted in 2019, would return in 2023.
There was no mention of prize money in the F1 Academy statement but Formula One said it would prepare young female drivers to progress to higher levels of competition including the W Series.
The F1 Academy would complement the W Series providing an “extra route for the next generation of young female drivers,” the statement added.
No female driver has started a grand prix since the late Italian Lella Lombardi, also the only woman to score a top six finish, in 1976.