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Formula One launches all-woman feeder series, F1 Academy

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Formula One has confirmed details of a new all-woman racing series, called F1 Academy, which aims to provide a platform for women drivers to progress their careers towards racing's top championship.

F1 has made clear the new series is not being pitched as a rival to the existing all-woman W Series, which hit financial difficulties this year and had to cancel its final three races. It is not yet clear if W Series will continue in 2023 when F1 Academy will be launched.

The new series, first reported by ESPN in October, will see five teams run three cars over a seven-round calendar with three races at each round. Only one round is expected to run as part of the support race package for an F1 weekend.

The series is being pitched as a pathway for young karters to progress toward W Series, Formula 3 and Formula 2. It will use Formula 4-style cars with 165 brake horsepower engines, which are 95 bhp down on the F3-style cars used in W Series.

The teams involved will be existing F2 and F3 teams, with competitors needing to raise €150,000 to drive while F1 itself will subsidise each driver's budget by a further €150,000.

The series will be run by Bruno Michel, who also manages F3 and F2.

F1's news release said the series is designed to fill the gap in experience many women drivers have before making the jump to F3.

"During assessments of the barriers young female drivers face with entering the F1 pyramid, it became clear that they do not have the same amount of experience as their male counterparts at the same age," the press release said. "The goal is to fill this gap and offer them access to more track time, racing and testing."

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali added: "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," he said.

"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 F3 and hopefully to F2 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 CEO Catherine Bond Muir welcomed F1's newest creation.

"W Series created the first platform for women in motorsport which has inspired young girls all around the world since our inaugural season in 2019. It is fantastic to see this grow as a result of our pioneering work," she said in a statement.

"W Series welcomes any initiative which shares our ambition to provide more opportunities for women in motorsport. Our objective from the start has always been to increase the talent pool of women racing drivers, and the addition of the F1 Academy as a feeder to W Series and other series is a further step in inspiring the next generation to progress up the motorsport ladder.

"We are looking forward to finalising W Series' plans for 2023 and beyond, providing exciting racing and entertaining our fans around the world. Our mission is still clear: to offer women racing drivers a platform to race globally at the pinnacle of women's motorsport, and in doing so continue to spread our message further and wider."