F1 Academy to race on F1 weekends in 2024
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali stated that F1 Academy will join the F1 weekend in 2024, in its second year of competitions.
In an interview with Sky Sports in Melbourne, where F1 will contest its third round of the 2023 season this weekend, Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali stated that the brand-new all-female championship F1 Academy – that will be launched in 2023 as a F1-supported effort to increase female participation at F4 level – will join the F1 support bill in its second season of competitions. “We haven’t yet started the [2023 F1 Academy] season on the track but I can confirm with you that next year, F1 Academy will be on the racing weekend with Formula 1" – he said. "Of course, not everywhere, but that will be part of the plan to promote F1 Academy… that’s something we are really keen on, that hopefully that will be the right boost for the season to grow; of course we have just started." F1 Academy will get underway at Red Bull Ring, Austria, on 28-29 April 2023 and will contest seven triple-headers, including one F1 round, at the COTA season finale, where the championship will join the F1 paddock for the first time. The move to select rounds on the F1 bill in 2024 is a further proof of the F1 interest in promoting the all-female series, which is managed by Bruno Michel, FIA F2 and FIA F3 CEO, under the eye of newly-appointed Managing Director Susie Wolff. “F1 took the leadership on that to try to do something, investing, believing that by creating attention to that project we can have hopefully as soon as we can, a girl, a woman, in F1. That’s our hope and that’s why we are really investing a lot." – Domenicali added. “Susie Wolff will lead this plan, this programme and in the next couple of weeks we will announce the details of what is more than (on) the track because we need to start to create awareness." F1 Academy therefore follows in the footsteps of W Series, which raced in its inaugural year in 2019 alongside DTM before moving to the F1 platform in its second on-track season, in 2021. W Series halted its on-track operations at the end of 2022, and has so far not announced any plans for 2023 after hitting financial troubles. Sharing the track with F1 is expected to be a marketing boost for F1 Academy, with a record-breaking total weekend attendance of 5.7 million across the 22 races contested in 2022. The 2023 announced weekend format for F1 Academy includes two practice sessions of 40 minutes each, two 15-minute qualifying sessions and three races – two of 30 minutes + 1 lap and a reverse grid race of 20 minutes + 1 lap, for a total of 190 minutes of track time per race meeting. FIA Formula 2 and FIA Formula 3 currently enjoy 180 and 160 minute of track time in their F1-weekend slots, with W Series sitting at 90 minutes in the 2022 season. In most of the European rounds, Porsche Supercup is also part of the F1 weekend since its launch in 1993. It will be critical for F1 Academy to maintain its 2023 track time despite the strict F1 schedules, with mixed-gender F4 series providing crucial amounts of driving time in a critical stage of a racing driver's development. Historically, female drivers coming up the ranks of the single seater ladder have struggled to get the same amount of time behind the wheel in the junior stages of their careers compared to the drivers that eventually graduated to F1 and other elite racing categories – and this will be one of the issues that F1 Academy will have to address. With funding being the critical point for junior drivers on the single-seater ladder, F1 committed to a capped budget of € 300,000 per season per car – with half of the budget being covered by drivers and the remaining 50% being subsidised by F1 itself. With logistics playing an increasing role in the team's running costs, the ideal calendar should also remain financially sustainable for young drivers aiming to step up from karting, in order for F1 Academy to maintain its current edge over mixed-gender feeder series.