With a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion forming part of his manifesto, FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has voiced his hopes that female-only racing series will act as a bridge to women entering higher levels of motorsport.
W Series entered its third season in 2022, though the category was forced to curtail the campaign early to focus on securing investment for 2023 following financial issues. Formula 1 announced the formation of the F1 Academy series in November. In 2023, the goal of the category is to develop young female drivers to prepare them for competing in higher levels of motorsport.
"The main objective to me is to make it sustainable," stated Ben Sulayem at the joint FIA and FIM Women in Motorsports Conference. "Once you make this series sustainable, I believe then more women will come, and then they will be in the middle of the F3 and F2, and then we know that this is the bridge.”
"But as long as we have women's series, I don't think women's series should be lasting very much – it can only be a production to bridge to the other level. If we just keep it, that's it, I don't think we will really be. We want to be fair with women in sport."
Why Results are Important
Alongside the F1 Academy and W Series, the More Than Equal initiative was launched earlier in the year with the mission of finding and developing the first female F1 World Champion. The FIA also runs programs such as the Girls on Track – Rising Stars talent detection program, which offers its competitors a pathway towards competing in F4.
With these various initiatives and series, what’s most important is to see results.
"What is really important is to make the use out of it and make sure we see the numbers, and to bridge this [F1 Academy] championship is very important," stated Ben. "You can name them any name, but are they actually doing what we want it to do?"
McLaren Racing Making Moves
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, who oversees the company's teams in Formula One, IndyCar, Extreme E and Formula E, points to the obvious benefits of seeking employees with different experiences and backgrounds.
"It is something that is very passionate and important to us," stated the American whose IndyCar team might be the most diverse in the series. "It is very deliberate. We want to put together the best racing teams, and there are lots of unbelievable people in this world that I think are gravitating towards our sport and are welcome: male, female, race, sexual orientation. Our Formula One team has 26 nationalities, and I think people coming to you and working with you that have different perspectives, whatever those different perspectives are, adds value to the conversation and the decision making and the contributions. It's a competitive advantage for us to have a diversity of thinking."
The best news leaving 2022 would be for IndyCar's new history makers and cultural beacons to inspire more women.