The all-new women-only series officially gets going on Friday (28th of April) with its first-ever race event. Destination: the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Here’s what to expect from the F1-backed series.
The Red Bull Ring is a fantastic race track and host to many motorsports, including Formula 1 and MotoGP. Set in Spielberg, Styria, and surrounded by stunning landscapes, the undulating but rapid track is a firm favourite amongst fans. In fact, this isn’t the first time that an all-female series has raced there - W Series hosted two rounds at the track in 2021 with Nerea Marti scoring two seventh places. Marta Garcia retired from Race 1 but finished 12th in the second outing of the weekend.
The 10-turn, 4.318-km track in the hills is a place of rich motorsport history which will allow the drivers the perfect setting for the first round of F1 Academy action. While the circuit typically offers a shorter lap compared to other tracks on the calendar, it packs a lot into a short distance and we’re excited to see how the F1 Academy cars handle the circuit.
Teams and competitors
Five teams will each have three drivers to form an exciting grid of 15 competitors.
Below are the teams, the drivers and their most recent series.
Nerea Martí - W Series, seventh
Lola Lovinfosse - Indian Racing League, 23rd
Maite Cáceres - Formula Winter Series, 15th
Hamda Al Qubaisi - Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA), 38th
Emely de Heus - W Series, 17th and UAE F4, 43rd
Amna Al Qubaisi - FRECA & Formula Winter Series - both NC as only part-time campaigns
ART Grand Prix
Léna Bühler - FRECA and Formula Regional Asian Championship - both part-time campaigns
Carrie Schreiner - Nurburgring Endurance Series and Nurburgring 24 Hours, third in class
Chloe Grant - GB4 Championship, ninth
Abbi Pulling - W Series, fourth
Jessica Edgar - GB4 Championship, seventh
Megan Gilkes - GB4 Championship, sixth
Chloe Chong - British Kart X30 Junior Class, 32nd
Marta García - W Series, sixth
Bianca Bustamante - UAE F4, 27th
Split across Friday and Saturday, F1 Academy will feature two practice sessions, two qualifying sessions and three races.
The timings are as follows and are indicated in local time.
Who to look out for
Whilst F1 Academy didn’t publish testing results on their pages, we obtained lap times from the series’ second pre-season test at the French circuit of Paul Ricard. This showed that Rodin Carlin’s Abbi Pulling was quickest followed by Marta Garcia and Nerea Martì.
At the bottom end of the timesheet were Megan Gilkes (15th), Emely de Heus (14th) and Maite Caceres in 13th.
Chloe Chong, who’s the youngest competitor in the field, was ninth - 0.931 seconds off the overall fastest time of the event. She will be one to watch out for, despite having no previous single-seater experience.
We’re delighted that F1 is backing a championship to promote female talent. Whilst we’re disappointed to see W Series not in this position, we will continue to support F1 Academy and the opportunities it is giving to young drivers.
In saying that, with only days left to go, greater clarity on how to follow the racing action would be appreciated. So far, it only looks like official live timing will be available via the F1 Academy website. This is unlike W Series which had TV packages in place.
In addition to the above, many of the F1 Academy sessions this weekend clash with key F1 sessions happening at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix (e.g. both Qualifying sessions taking place at the same time). While clashes of motorsport series’ typically happen across race weekends and are not a new occurrence for many fans, we do worry that this, coupled with the potential lack of live coverage, may result in a large decrease in reach for the series on its opening weekend.
Overall, we are eagerly awaiting the first race weekend of the series to kick-off, and to follow along as the rest of the season unfolds. The introduction of a brand-new women-only series can only be a positive addition to the motorsport calendar, and with the formidable Susie Wolff at the helm, we hope that the inaugural weekend in Spielberg will be just the beginning of an incredible year for the series.
Keep an eye on our social channels across the weekend for live updates and results from each session at the Red Bull Ring.
Images are all credited to F1 Academy.