FRECA set to abandon fourth car for female entry
Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine is set to abolish the fourth car that teams were allowed to field for a female driver – in a move that is set to jeopardize opportunities for female racers in the series’ top teams.
With the merge of Formula Regional European Championship and Formula Renault Eurocup in 2021, one of the biggest and most competitive junior single seater championships saw the light of the day: Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) quickly established itself as the reference series for young talents stepping up from Formula 4, before moving up to the FIA F3 championship.
With grids increasingly getting closer to 40 entries, FRECA limited the teams to a 3-car line up – but introduced a rule that allowed a fourth car fielded for a female racing driver (Art. 6.1.1 of Sporting Regulations), in the quest to support more young women on the single seater ladder.
Racers has learnt that the fourth car for the female driver is set to be abolished in 2023 – in a move that is already disrupting plans for a few drivers. The rule, in fact, encouraged teams to field young female racers, who had the opportunity to drive in top teams alongside well-funded drivers and academies-backed youngsters. Drivers such as Hamda Al Qubaisi, Léna Bühler and Belén Garcia had their chance to join the championship in a fourth car for Prema Racing, R-Ace GP and G4 Racing respectively. Tereza Babickova also entered a race meeting in a fourth car from G4 Racing, while Amna Al Qubaisi raced in place of her sister Hamda in a Prema entry in the final two events of the 2022 season. FRECA's move to cancel their inclusivity initiative represents a major setback for the championship, which now risks jeopardizing the efforts of female drivers coming up the ranks of the national Formula 4 series. Tatiana Calderon and Sophia Floersch remain the only two women to have entered the FIA F3 and F2 feeder series in the last five years, with female talents still struggling to break through the glass ceiling at F3 level. And the latest developments for F3 Regional level opportunities are not looking positive either.
On October 10th 2022, the free-to-entry all-female championship W Series – which also uses Tatuus F3 Regional cars – announced the cancellation of its final three races of the year due to financial difficulties, casting doubts over the next season. In October 2021, FIA F3 and FIA F2 promoters announced the plan to generate links between F3 and motorsport programmes that promote women in motorsport. The first step was a test day for graduates from W Series and the Iron Dames project. The test – which was held again in 2022 – was said to be "part of a larger diversity plan, something the FIA Formula 3 and FIA Formula 2 promoters are invested in" – but no follow up action has so far facilitated the participation of a female driver in the two main F1 feeder series. The reason behind the cancellation of the FRECA fourth car is likely to limit the over-expansion of the grid; but that has unfortunately come at the expense of a simple yet important concrete action for diversity. Senior management of the series was unavailable for comment.
Racers learned that the decision has disrupted the 2023 plans of at least a couple of drivers.