The road to women in Formula 1: the rising stars of motorsport
Gaining a seat in Formula 1 is a complicated journey full of difficulties and sacrifices. Talent is not always enough when racers also need money and sponsors. Before arriving in F1, young drivers must overcome dozens of obstacles that can demotivate them or knock them off track.
We want to highlight some of the women paving the way in single-seaters and karts, so below is a selection of young talent who are taking their first steps in the world of motorsport, accepting and overcoming the challenges they will face on the road to the highest echelons of our sport.
Julia Ayoub, 17-years-old, Brazil
Julia started karting in 2016 when she was 10-years-old. Two years later she became one of the two female drivers to be selected by the Richard Mille Young Talent Academy, allowing her to be accredited in a full international karting season with Birel ART Racing. The next season Julia took part in the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile Karting European Championship, the FIA Karting World Championship and the 24° South Garda Winter Cup. In 2020, she was crowned female champion of the Ayrton Senna Kart trophy.
Last year she raced in Formula Delta Brasil, a championship in her motherland, accomplishing a great season scoring 20 points and finishing 11th in the championship. In 2021, she was chosen to take part in the FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars programme. Set up by the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, this programme allows the selection drivers to be trained and evaluated before selecting one winner to join the prestigious Ferrari Driver Academy. Julia ended up among the four finalists. During W Series’ 2022 pre-season selection Julia also received the opportunity to test the car.
Antonella Bassani, 16-years-old, Brazil
Competing in TCR South America most recently, Antonella started karting when she was four-years-old, taking part in competitions in every category: Cadet, Rotax Micro Max, and Rotax Mini Max. At the age of seven, she had a serious accident that required a lung operation which forced her to move away from the track.
Instead of giving up, she returned to competition and won the Brazilian Open in 2015. Antonella is also noted for her results in the South American Rotax and Brazilian Rotax Championship, finishing second in both competitions. A year later, she flew to Portugal to participate in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, finishing eighth out of 36 participants.
In 2016 she attained third in the Brazilian Karting Championship and has been coached by Bia Figueiredo (who raced in IndyCar) since 2018. Antonella also participated with her compatriot Julia in the first two editions of the FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars programme, reaching the final in the inaugural edition.
Maya Weug,18-years-old, Spain/the Netherlands
Maya is already in the history books. Indeed, in 2021 she became the first female driver to join the Ferrari Driver Academy thanks to her win in the Girls on Track - Rising Stars programme. Maya, who grew up in Spain with a Dutch father and Belgian mother, started karting at the age of seven, sharing her first kart with her brother. Entering competitions in Spain, she made a sensational debut in 2013 and won the WSK Final Cup in the 60 mini category.
This season, Maya drove in Italian Formula 4 for the second consecutive season. Competing against 45 other drivers, she scored 34 points during the 21 races of the season, finishing 14th in the championship and scoring nine top-10 positions.
Amna Al Qubaisi, 22-years-old, United Arab Emirates
Amna, born in the US, made history in her country by becoming the first woman to compete in international motorsport with Daman Speed Academy and the first Arab woman to win in Formula 4. In 2017, she won the UAE RMC Championship and participated with her sister Hamda in the X30 Euro Series. She was the only woman to reach the final, finishing 16th out of 54 drivers.
In 2018, she joined Prema to race in Italian Formula 4, achieving 12th place as her best result. In December 2018, she took part in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship test in Saudi Arabia, just six months after the ban on women driving was lifted.
While studying at La Sorbonne University, she continued to race in Italian Formula 4 in the 2019 season. This year Amna took the place of Hamda for the final two rounds of the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine alongside her participation in Asian Regional Formula, a championship in which she finished 24th after 14 races. She also scored her first points in this machinery.
Ella Stevens, 16-years-old, United Kingdom
Ella is an aspiring young British racer who competes in karts, having already become champion in the Birel ART cadet class and as a 2018 LGM Privateer. Her big dream is to become a professional driver and is on her way to achieving this as a member of the Richard Mille Talent Academy final 14 shoot-out. Despite not winning the F4 seat, the programme offered Ella vital testing in single-seaters.
Ella is currently supported and coached by Alice Powell, a fellow British driver who has had much success in W Series. Ella again became a champion in 2020, winning the TVKC Winter Series in her first year in the Mini X30 class.
Lisa Billard, 12-years-old, France
Lisa is a young Frenchwoman from Normandy who, at the age of 12, has already competed in karts for five years. She started in 2017, doing it for her father at first who is a great fan of car racing. However, from the first laps, she realised how much she likes the speed, challenge and competition involved in racing.
This year, Lisa became a finalist - making the final four - in the Rising Stars programme in the junior category. Despite missing out on the top spot, Lisa gained valuable experience along the way.
Her dream remains to become a professional driver and follow in the footsteps of her compatriots Pierre Gasly and Estaban Ocon and race in Formula 1. However, it is Cathy Muller who is the biggest inspiration to her as the first Frenchwoman to compete in Formula 3.
Mathilda Paatz, 14- years-old, Germany
Mathilda is from Cologne, Germany and already carries with her a reputation as a "girl of speed". She inherited her passion for motorsport from her father Michael Paatz, who has been linked to the VLN endurance championship at the Nürburgring.
Mathilda went karting for the first time at the age of four and hasn't looked back. Since then, she has been fighting for victories and championships. In 2020, she competed with the TB Racing Team in the mini class of the ADAC Kart Masters and in the ADAC Kart Cup of West Germany. At the Mülsen event, Mathilda took an impressive double victory but, in the end, she narrowly missed out on the championship title in third place.
Mathilda not only won the Ladies Cup but also the championship in the West German ADAC Kart Cup and in 2021 she started the OK Junior superior kart class.
She was also part of the 2022 selections for the FIA Girls On Track - Rising Stars programme at the Paul Ricard Circuit, becoming one of the four finalists who competed for a place in the Ferrari Driver Academy in Maranello.
This year, she's also raced in the FIA World Karting Championship and represented Germany in the FIA Motorsport Games in the Karting Sprint Junior category.
Shriya Lohia, 13-years-old, India
Shriya is an Indian driver who competes in national karting championships and also internationally across the world. She began to love motorsport at the age of nine with the aim of making her mark in Indian motorsport. She has several awards so far.
She was the runner-up in the 2019 X30 National Karting Championship and also raced in Malaysia and Italy in 2019. Her first championship was the MMSC FMSCI National Rotax Max title in 2018. In her immediate future, she wants to aim for the Formula LGB series and the sedan series in the MRF INRC championship. After that, she is aiming for a place in F4 and aspires to climb the ladder. Maybe we could see her in W Series in a few years to come!
Zoe Florescu Potolea, 14-years-old, Romania
Zoe started racing at the age of seven, discovering a karting field in La Conca, Italy. She made her debut in September 2018 in the Mini class in the last stage of the Karting Masters. In 2019 and 2020 she competed in the Romanian Karting Masters and in over 20 races in Europe (WSK Euro Series, Rok Cup Superfinal, Winter Cup, Ayrton Senna Trophy, Margutti Trophy).
Since 2021, she has been competing in the Romanian Karting Masters as the only female driver in the field. In Europe, she is one of three girls in the junior category that competes in WSK, the Italian championship, and the European championship.
She was selected to go to the final stage of the renowned FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars shoot-out in Maranello and was crowned the junior winner. This has earned her a place with Tony Kart for the 2023 season.
Tyra Sundberg, 12-years-old, Sweden
Tyra is just 12-years-old and already making waves on the international scene with Sundberg Racing. She started karting at the age of seven, competing locally on the Swedish Karting circuit, and now races in the Swedish Championship OKJ category and the WSK Mini60 category with Drago Racing.
Inspired to race by both her own brother and F1 driver Charles Leclerc, Tyra competes with her family by her side - her mother is both her coach and her mechanic.
Just this year she was chosen to compete in the junior category shoot-out of the 2022 FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme but, unfortunately, didn't make the final four. Looking to the future, she hopes to gain more experience in OKJ.
Agustina Sanchez, 15-years-old, Uruguay
Augustina is a karter from Uruguay who has recently made headlines. Karting from a young age with much acclaim, Augustina made a name for herself when she swept the F5 category in the “Aluminios del Uruguay” Grand Prix in 2021. Afterwards, she was recommended by the Automóvil Club del Uruguay to take part in the FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars programme, where she shifted from behind the wheel of a kart to behind the wheel of an F4 car.
Unfortunately, Augustina was not selected as a finalist, but that did little to slow her down. Recently, Augustina hosted a track day for other young female drivers, sponsored by the PMS Karting team. Agustina won a scholarship to receive training from the FIA, and with that, she helps train other prominent karters - her very own rising stars programme.
Alice Buckley, 15-years-old, Australia
Alice is a proud Aussie at heart and a dynamite behind the wheel. Introduced to karting at aged six by her father, Alice has been both driven and driving ever since. Competing in both cars and karts, Alice feels especially inspired in her career by her father, who is both her coach and mechanic and Jessica Dane, team owner of Triple Eight Race Engineering.
She currently races in the Australian Circuit Excel Nationals but has been busy this year since being selected for the FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme. Having survived the shoot-out and the training camp, Alice was one of the four finalists selected to go into the final at Maranello, where she was given the opportunity to drive an F4 car around Pista Di Fiorano at the Ferrari complex.
Aurélia Nobels, 15-years-old, Brazil
Aurélia is already making history.
Raised in Brazil, Aurélia started racing in 2018 beside her brother before quickly making her way up the karting ladder. In 2020, she competed in FIA Karting World Championship in Portimao.
Having been supported by the the Shell Racing Academy, she is the only female driver on the newly formed Brazilian F4 grid. On top of that, Aurélia also competed in Danish and Spanish F4, as well as testing in Italian F4.
All of this experience will no doubt help Aurélia in her ultimate journey - the road to becoming a Formula 1 driver. Aurélia is already on her way, having just been announced as the senior winner of the 2022 FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars competition, earning herself a place in the prestigious Ferrari Driver Academy and a place on the groundbreaking all-female Iron Dames team.
Chloe Chong, 15-years-old, United Kingdom/Canada
Chloe is a 15-year-old British karter who has kept herself very busy. Competing in Rotax in 2021 and moving on to the British Kart Championship and the IAME Ladies cup in France for Junior X30 and Senior X30, Chloe has been trying to get on track even before she was old enough to compete! Aged six, she and her father were able to find a track that would put her in the seat of a kart: Buckmore Park, where Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton got started. Having originally raced for fun, Chloe felt her passion ignited in 2019 by the formation of W Series, which proved to her that a career in motorsports was viable. That belief was proven when she entered the FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars programme, where she ultimately placed as a finalist.
We cannot wait to see what these amazing women do next with their careers and we’re excited to watch the next generation of women write their way into the history books.