British driver Jamie Chadwick will compete in the United States next year after signing a contract with Andretti Autosport.
The 24-year-old from Bath has been the dominant force of the all-female W Series, winning the championship on three occasions.
The W Series was established in 2019 to serve as a springboard to Formula One. But despite Chadwick’s success, she failed to land a seat in F1’s feeder categories.
The future of the W Series is also in major doubt after it was forced to abandon its most recent season amid financial troubles.
Following her switch to America, Chadwick will become the first female driver since fellow Briton Pippa Mann in 2010 to race full-time in the Indy NXT series.
“I’m hugely excited to be joining Andretti Autosport for the 2023 INDY NXT season,” said Chadwick, who will make her debut in the season-opening round in Florida on March 5.
“My aim is always to challenge myself and continue my progression as a driver, and this represents not only a big step up, but also a big step towards my goal of competing in the highest categories of single seater racing.
“Andretti Autosport’s standing in the sport is second to none and I hope to bring more success to such a prestigious team. I can’t wait to get started.”
Andretti Autosport is owned by former F1 driver Michael Andretti, and the son of world champion, Mario Andretti.
He said: “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but the INDY NXT series gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.
“We’ve turned out five INDY NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”
Chadwick’s move to America is a clear sign F1 is no closer to ending its near half-century female driver drought.
It has been 46 years since a female competitor – the Italian Lella Lombardi – took part in an F1 race, and eight years since Susie Wolff, who is married to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, competed in a Grand Prix practice session.
Last month, the sport’s bosses unveiled the F1 Academy – a women-only category – which will launch next year.
F1 will subsidise each of the 15 cars with a budget of £130,000, with the driver required to cover the same amount and the team making up the remainder of the costs.
The series will consist of 21 races – three races at seven rounds – and will feature on the undercard of at least one F1 event.