Sunday, July 14, 2024

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The biggest query facing the F1 Academy because the pecking order begins to take shape

For inaugural champion Marta Garcia, the prize was a totally funded regional European Formula Championship presented by Alpine Drive with Prema Racing, the team with which she ended her winning campaign (although she has now moved to sister operation Iron Dames). However, on condition that FRECA is officially recognized by the FIA ​​as a regional Formula 3 category, questions were inevitably asked as to why the Spaniard would compete on this series and never FIA F3. After all, it would definitely be in Formula 1's best interests to maintain her within the paddock where all eyes can be on her.

Asking why a spot has not been provided for an F1 Academy champion without such a commitment this term as well, F2 and F3 CEO Bruno Michel says: “It's a really big query because we wish to be sure that that when a female driver involves Formula 3, she is able to do the fitting job. If it doesn't, it’s going to send bad signals, and that's exactly what we wish to avoid.

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“The reason why the F1 Academy does such a fantastic job is that we now understand that ladies drivers haven’t historically had as hard and continuous preparation as their male counterparts. This is a fact. Now, within the F1 Academy, with the indisputable fact that Susie [Wolff] is doing a fantastic job of attempting to create an enormous buzz amongst young kart drivers and push them up of their category, I feel the extent of preparation and the variety of female drivers will change. Marta could have gone to F3 this yr, but I feel Marta's presence in Formula Regional might be higher preparation for her.

This answer becomes particularly interesting once we look back at Garcia's FRECA confirmation, which reads: “This announcement highlights the F1 Academy's commitment to preparing drivers for higher levels of competition and supporting them as they climb the ladder in single-seater cars. Each season, the F1 Academy will work closely with the F1 Academy teams to support their winner to progress up the motorsport ladder.

Motorsport.com understands that the choice on which series a champion shall be promoted to is a joint effort involving the F1 Academy, its team and the driving force. However, the indisputable fact that FRECA teams can expand to 4 cars in the event that they run a top three driver from the previous F1 Academy season, like Prema with Garcia and ART Grand Prix with runner-up Lena Buhler, is robust motivation to get drivers into this direction.

Unfortunately, such a change is just not an option in F3 – Michel made this clear when commenting on the necessities for Andretti to hitch the F3 grid. Team owner Michael Andretti has expressed a desire to be in F3 to bolster his F1 efforts, but Michel said expansion beyond the present variety of cars is “completely out of the question.”

Marta Garcia, the inaugural F1 Academy champion, has moved to FRECA

Marta Garcia, the inaugural F1 Academy champion, has moved to FRECA

Photo: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport images

However, there are explanation why F1-supporting championships can make sure you land a minimum of one F1 Academy graduate next yr. In the case of championship leader Abbi Pulling, although she is basically running a dual F4 campaign, including F1 Academy and British F4, her Rodin Motorsport team is just not currently represented on the FRECA network, meaning it could be a major undertaking to position her there.

Secondly, current competitor Doriane Pin, who’s currently in second place, can be campaigning with two single-seaters, however the latter series is FRECA, meaning that if she were to get campaign funding, her goal would likely be to advance to F3.

Finally, while F3 is just not openly courting F1 Academy talent, this mustn’t be confused with a scarcity of interest, as Michel made clear when expressing his admiration for managing director Wolff's work. “I would really like the day when in a yr, two years from the F1 Academy we could have a female driver, I don't know… if sooner or later we are going to give you the option to have a female driver who will qualify well, because at the tip of the season the day, that’s the important thing to today's Formula 3. And if you happen to manage to qualify in the highest 12, you possibly can get pole position on Saturday, which can be absolutely unbelievable. This would give a message that might be absolutely amazing.

“Preparation is absolutely key and must be done properly to ensure we do not send the wrong message.” Bruno Michel, CEO of F2 and F3

“That's what Susie and I are working on and we're monitoring very closely when the drivers are ready. We are also taking a look at this yr's F1 Academy season and it is rather interesting to see the ladies' progress, hopefully because I’m sure that sooner or later and with the fitting preparation we could have a female driver who will give you the option to compete with the male drivers. There is little question about it.

“However, preparation is absolutely key and must be done properly to ensure we do not send the wrong message.”

Doriane Pin is one of the shining stars of the F1 Academy

Doriane Pin is one in all the shining stars of the F1 Academy

Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport images

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