Formula One to launch female-only Academy racing series next season

Formula One has announced a female-only racing category will be launched next season.

F1 executives hope the new series – revealed ahead of this weekend’s concluding round in Abu Dhabi – will identify the first female grand prix driver since Italian Lella Lombardi competed in 1976.

The sport’s bosses also insist the category, called the F1 Academy and aimed at young drivers already competing in junior categories, will not replace the W Series.

The single-seater championship launched solely for women in 2019 had to abandon its most recent season amid financial troubles and its future is in major doubt.

F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali said: “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.

“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 programme that supports their racing careers and gives them everything they need to move into Formula Three and hopefully to Formula Two and then the pinnacle of Formula One.

“The more opportunity there is the better and this is designed to provide another route for the drivers to succeed.”

W Series driver Jamie Chadwick at Silverstone
The future of the W Series is in doubt after its most recent season collapsed (David Davies/PA)

The F1 Academy will consist of five teams entering three cars to make up a 15-strong grid.

F1 will subsidise each car 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. F1 bosses say the 2023 calendar will be unveiled in “due course”.