BWT Alpine F1 Team empowers women with new Rac(H)er line-up
The BWT Alpine F1 Team has announced six karters alongside a single-seater driver for their newly-formed Rac(H)er programme, overseen by ambassadors Nicola Adams (double Olympic champion boxer) and Zara Rutherford (the youngest female pilot to fly solo around the world).
The initiative - first announced last June - aims to drastically increase the number of women in its Formula 1 team and has Alpine’s Head of HR Claire Mesnier at the helm.
We delved into the exciting names forming the line-up to bring you a round-up below.
Sophia returns to the FIA Formula 3 grid this year after time away to compete in endurance categories and events, including the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans where she has finished a best of ninth in the prestigious LMP2 class.
The German racing driver has been competing since the age of five, beginning her motorsport journey in karts. In 2016, she stepped up to single-seaters and the ADAC Formula 4 championship, finishing 19th in her inaugural campaign. She returned the following year and claimed two podiums to take 13th in the standings.
At the 2018 Macau Grand Prix, she suffered a spinal fracture and underwent a 10-hour operation the following day. The fact that Sophia returned to the same event a year later is nothing short of remarkable and marks just how courageous of a person she is.
After her accident, Sophia went on to race in the Formula Regional European Championship before shifting to FIA F3, finishing 29th in her last season of single-seaters to date.
Her entry to the F1 support category this year is a welcome one and she remains the only woman to have lined up on that grid since Tatiana Calderon (what was formally called GP3 Series from 2016 to 2018).
We look forward to following her campaign, beginning this weekend (3-5 March) in Bahrain.
Although not directly part of the Rac(H)er initiative, Abbi did become part of the Alpine F1 Academy after spending the 2022 season as an Affiliate. Her promotion further highlights Alpine’s commitment to funding and nurturing female talent.
Since we first watched Abbi in British Formula 4, the racing driver has continued to impress us. Her determination in spite of financial uncertainty has proven why Abbi isn’t just a great racing driver but a driven individual.
As recently as 2020, Abbi made her single-seater debut in British F4 and immediately made her mark in the competition with four podiums and a sixth-place finish overall. Returning to the championship the following season, Abbi had her eyes on the championship title. Sadly, she was forced to curtail her campaign due to funding struggles - a common theme among female competitors.
The lifeline of the female-only W Series came along and Abbi made her debut at Silverstone, immediately scoring a top-10 finish. Her success in the series continued, and she was able to take a podium at the season finale at COTA. With a seventh-place finish, Abbi automatically qualified for the 2022 season where she returned to the podium.
With W Series’ shortened campaign, Abbi was once again forced to look for funding to continue her racing dreams.
In 2023, thanks to the new F1 Academy, Abbi will gain further F4 experience as she aims to graduate into FIA F3 next year.
With the support of the Alpine F1 Academy, we hope that dream will come to fruition.
13-year-old Lisa from France joins Alpine’s young driver karting programme as the only female member of the Ecoles Françaises de Karting (FFSA) Junior Karting Academy.
The 2022 FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars junior category finalist made her international debut a few weeks back in the OK Junior karting series. Despite facing difficult weather conditions, Lisa took plenty of positives away from her first overseas competition.
With a victory and a podium already achieved last year, we know that the future is bright for Lisa and we look forward to following her flourishing career.
Maria Chiara Nardelli
At only 12 years old, Italian driver Maria has shown plenty of promise on the racing scene. She started karting when she was just six and has raced in the Mini class since 2020.
In 2022 she finished third overall in the Italian Championship giving her the title “Campionessa Italiana Lady 2022”.
Just last weekend, she raced in her first IAME event of the season, scoring victory in the women's category and 13th overall in the final.
Sukhmani Kaur Kera
The youngest driver in the Rac(H)er Academy is 11-year-old Sukhmani from the UK, who currently races in karts across the country. She competes in the IAME cadet category and won Shenington Kart Racing Club Lady Driver of the Year in 2022.
She has two race wins competing in Honda Cadet and was nominated for the British Women Racing Drivers Club Junior Gold Star award - an award previously won by Abbi Pulling and Alice Powell - two names that are currently involved with the BWT Alpine F1 Team.
Australian driver Aiva is following in her mother’s racing footsteps, having karted since the age of seven.
Eight years later and she’s been gaining fans on the track, representing her country in the FIA Motorsport Games in October last year in the Karting Senior Sprint category.
Aiva has also competed in the Rotax Pro Tour, achieving good results in the Light category.
Angelia graduated to the French Championship after spending time in the Mini and Cadet classes.
In 2021, she contested in the Rotax Max Challenge International Trophy at Le Mans and, last year, raced in the International IAME Games as well as the IAME Winter Cup in Spain. This marked her first season of X30 Junior competition.
Chiara was crowned OK-Junior Swiss Champion in 2022 and joining the Rac(H)er academy is not the first time she’s been spotted for her driving talent. She competed in the FIA Junior Rising Stars programme in 2021, making it through to the final four for the FDA Kart Scouting Camp when she was only 11 years old - the youngest candidate in her year of selection.
Chiara, now 12, has raced in some of the most prestigious karting championships in Europe, including WSK Super Master and WSK Euro Series. Last year, Chiara additionally raced in the FIA Academy - finishing each qualifying outing in the top-10 in her group.
Her 2022 highlight was standing on an international podium for the first time at the IAME World Final 2022 in Le Mans - a moment the younger racer will remember for her career to come.
We look forward to following these talents throughout the 2023 season and beyond and wish to express our gratitude towards Alpine for launching this incredible initiative.