4 women invited to FIA F3 test at Magny Cours
For the second ever edition of the female-oriented FIA F3 test, W Series drivers Abbi Pulling, Chloe Chambers, Tereza Babickova - as well as FRECA racer Hamda Al Qubaisi - have been invited to test the Dallara F3 car at Magny Cours next week.
With the aim of creating a pathway for female racing drivers to the main F1 feeder series FIA F3 and FIA F2 – which have been lacking female participation since their inception, with few rare occasions – Bruno Michel announced a programme to facilitate female entries in his championships in 2021, when four young female talents were given the opportunity to test a FIA F3 car – run by benchmark team Prema – at Circuit Nevers Magny Cours.
The first women to get behind the wheel of the Dallara F3 car for the first time were two W Series drivers and two drivers from the Iron Dames roster: impressive W Series Academy rookies Nerea Marti and Irina Sidorkova, alongside Maya Weug and Doriane Pin.
For the second edition of the initiative, FIA Formula 3 announced that its female-oriented test will see three W Series drivers – Abbi Pulling, Chloe Chambers and Tereza Babickova - alongside Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine racer Hamda Al Qubaisi.
Each driver will have a full test day in the car, with Pulling and Al Qubaisi set to run on Friday 16th September, and Chambers and Babickova on Saturday 17th September.
"The purpose of this test is not to compare their performance, but it is an opportunity for them to understand what is required from an F3 driver from every aspect, so that they can prepare for the challenges when they progress to our championship, hopefully in the near future." – said Bruno Michel, CEO of FIA Formula 3.
“It’s very important to us to ensure that more and more female drivers join our championship.", he continued. "Diversity is one of our key discussions regarding the future of motorsport."
Over the last five years, only Tatiana Calderon (FIA F3, FIA F2) and Sophia Floersch (FIA F3) raced in the main F1 feeder series. Beitske Visser, Samin Gomez, Carmen Jorda, Alice Powell and Vicky Piria raced in the then-branded GP3 Series (2012 to 2015).
"We initiated these dedicated F3 tests last year, with Nerea Martí, Doriane Pin, Irina Sidorkova and Maya Weug, who all said how beneficial this one-day test had been to their understanding of the demands of our championship.", Michel commented. "We selected four new drivers for this year, as we follow closely not only W Series, but also female drivers in other categories."
Abbi Pulling is currently fourth in the W Series standings, at her first full season in the series.
The 19-year-old Briton is coached by Alice Powell and has previously competed in British F4, as well as a one-off appearance in FREC.
Widely considered as one of the brightest stars of the future, Pulling has been recently selected for the Alpine F1 Team's Affiliate Program and had the opportunity to drive the Alpine F1 car in demo runs.
"I'm very excited to test the F3 car around Magny-Cours and I am very grateful for this opportunity given to me"– Pulling said. "I hope to make the most out of the day and understand further what it will take to get to the next step and where I aim to hopefully compete one day."
"To get the chance to drive this kind of machinery means a lot to me and I'm expecting it to be very different to what I am used to driving. However, I'm looking forward to the challenge and trust that I will get the support I need from the team to adapt and learn as much as possible."
Rookie Chloe Chambers is contesting her first season in Regional F3 machinery with W Series, after racing in the US F4 championship in 2021. She scored points at this year's inaugural weekend in Miami, with tenth place in Race 2. The American, 18, was close to other point scoring results in the following races and is currently 16th in the drivers' championship.
"I'm excited about this opportunity", she said. "It's something that I've looked forward to for a long time and I'm so grateful to have it. I see this test as a great learning opportunity to gain experience in the F3 car at a new track with new people that I can learn from. I expect to gain invaluable experience and a greater understanding of where I need to further develop my skills."
"I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone at W Series, Monoflo International, and Bruno Michel and his team for helping me get this great opportunity to gain experience and show my potential."
17-year-old Tereza Babickova has been a big name in the world of karting, with participations in the most elite karting competitions in the world, including the CIK-FIA World Championships and the WSK series.
The Czech driver – who is also one out of three fast sisters racing in international karting – made her car racing debut straight in the F3 regional car of W Series, where she currently flies the flag for Puma alongside experienced Emma Kimilainen.
Babickova has a best result of P12 at Silverstone, but showed impressive progression in the latest round before the summer break at Hungaroring.
"I am very grateful for this opportunity" – Tereza said. "I'm still a rookie formula driver, so for me, this invitation to the FIA F3 test is a recognition of my training and racing commitment so far, and it's a great motivation for the future."
With the aim of gaining more experience, Babickova will enter the upcoming round of Formula Regional European Championship at Red Bull Ring, joining G4 Racing.
"Of course, my goal is to step up to F3 in the future, so I expect this test to show me what my real abilities are today and what I need to work on in order to be ready."
The only invited driver outside the W Series field is Hamda Al Qubaisi, 20 year-old from the Emirates. Hamda has been the most successful female F4 driver in the history of the category, having collected 6 race wins and 20 podiums across the UAE and Italian championships. She was the first woman to step on the overall podium in the Italian-based series, arguably the most competitive in the world.
Hamda is currently contesting her rookie season in FRECA, racing for Italian team Prema, and has raced in the Asian F3 Regional series last winter.
“I’m thrilled to be invited by the FIA F3 promoters to take part in this high profile test, it’s a very strong message in acknowledging Female drivers and I would personally like to thank Bruno Michel for the opportunity" – Hamda stated. “I’m definitely grateful for this opportunity and it means a lot to be acknowledged for my efforts and achievements in Motorsports and offered the chance to test this amazing machine."
"It’s the natural progression in my career and I aspire to drive in this championship next season if all goes well."
"I look forward to getting the feeling of driving this car, which has more power and downforce than the car I’m currently competing in", the Emirati racing star continued. "I have been working very hard on my physical and fitness side to cope with the extra G forces and feel confident I will be able to handle it well and try and learn as much as possible and improve my driving and feeling with the car throughout the test.”
A dedicated test day for female talents is definitely a step in the right direction for the F1 ladder – but hopefully this initiative will create concrete opportunities for women on the path to the top single seater championship. W Series' two-time champion Jamie Chadwick has so far struggled to graduate to FIA F3, citing budget constraints and lack of openings in a top team as her main hurdles.
“Providing more opportunities for women drivers across single seater racing is a key priority for all of us at Formula 1 and across the whole sport." - said Dtefano Domenicali, CEO of Formula 1. “This test, the second of its kind, will provide real opportunity for these four talented drivers to demonstrate their potential to teams and make the case for a competitive seat in years to come.”
The follow up to the test will be just as important and, hopefully, real opportunities will arise for the women selected.
A Road To Indy-like program, with scholarships aimed at helping the drivers to graduate to the bigger series, might be a good second step.