After an intense week at Circuit Paul Ricard, six Senior candidates had the chance to show their skills at the wheel of F4 cars. Here are the four finalists that will advance to the next stage at Maranello, fighting for a place in the prestigious FDA.
Undeniably, the ‘Gils On Track – Rising Stars’ programme promoted by the FIA Women In Motorsport Commission has been a real game changer for young women in the industry, despite only being in its third edition.
While the presence of female entries in the main single-seater feeder series has certainly increased in the last 10 years or so, a huge numerical imbalance is still the result of a narrow base of the pyramid, with female karting drivers struggling to advance into race cars – thus reducing the number of potential stars of the future.
By encouraging applications from all over the world through the national federations (ASN), ‘Girls On Track – Rising Stars’ has provided a pathway for karting drivers, who get to battle for a prestigious contract: a place in the Ferrari Driver Academy.
With the partnership with Ferrari – as well as a series of technical partners that make it all possible – the FIA Women In Motorsport Commission was in fact able to select Maya Weug, winner of the inaugural edition, who went on to become the first ever female driver within the Italian team. Weug has since then graduated to Formula 4 and is widely considered one of the brightest talents of the future. Spanish racer Laura Camps Torras was the winner of the second edition – and six new candidates gave it their all to succeed the first two winners.
All born between 01/01/2006 and 31/03/2008, Alice Buckley, Aurelia Nobels, Chloe Anna Grant, Chloe Chong, Macie Hitter and Agustina Sanchez gathered to Circuit Paul Ricard, in the scenic home of the French GP, for this week’s selection tests that ultimately elected the four finalists.
Over 80 applications from 146 national federations were assessed and the 6 successful candidates were invited for a five-day selection that included karting, mental and physical tests, workshops on topics such as nutrition and media training – as well as the big target: Formula 4 testing.
Having joined the Junior candidates – 8 karting racers under the age of 14 that competed for support from Ferrari in an international karting season – the Senior hopefuls had runs in the Kart Republic karts on Thursday, before they switched their attention to the F4 preparation. After workshops by sports training specialists 321 Perform, the drivers had the chance to walk the famous Le Castellet circuit, absorbing the secrets of the 3.8km layout from the coaches of Winfield Racing School.
The fast configuration features a double-right hander before the full-layout first corner, bringing the car back to the Mistral Straight, where they approach the Sud-Nord Chicane before the iconic Signes and Le Beausset corners.
Back at the Winfield facility, the six drivers made themselves at home in the Mygale F4 cockpit with the seat-fitting session, as well as a simulator session that allowed them to process the information learned during the track familiarization.
Saturday was the big day and, in perfect sunny conditions, cars hit the track for 5 practice runs.
In between each session, the Rising Stars went through data and video analysis with the coaches, who could rely on the reference laps set by Maya Weug herself.
The sessions were untroubled and uninterrupted, with all drivers – despite the different backgrounds and levels of experience – consistently improving their times through the day with no major mistakes.
In a crescendo of emotions – and pressure – Sunday’s schedule included a practice run, qualifying and race simulations, where drivers really had to push their limits and prove their skills to the jury.
Judges included Iron Dames’ Rahel Frey – fresh winner of the 24 Hours of Spa in the Gold class – French former racer Cathy Muller, as well as representatives of Ferrari Driver Academy, Winfield Racing School and 321 Perform.
At the end of a really intense and emotional week, Aurelia Nobels, Chloe Grant, Alice Buckley and Chloe Chong were named as the four finalists that will advance to the next stage: the FDA camp in Maranello.
In an extremely transparent process, drivers were assigned the identical-prepared cars with a lottery and, after every – minor – technical issue, they were always allowed to recover the lost track time.
Nobels was born in Boston, USA, from Belgian parents and raised in Brazil. She has just started her single seater journey after four years of impressive karting results. She is on the grid of the inaugural Brazilian F4 championship and has made appearances in Danish and Spanish F4 in 2022.
She scored her first top ten finishes in Interlagos, but was mainly familiar with the new Tatuus F4 car prior to the selections.
Chloe Grant is also a familiar name to the followers of the brand-new GB4 Championship. The Scottish lady has scored seven top ten finishes at the wheel of the Tatuus F4-T014, the older generation car, and was new to the Mygale car.
She started karting at 7 and quickly gained experience in the Cadet, Minimax and Junior categories.
Alice Buckley, from Australia, has been really surprising in her F4 development, showing a big progression throughout the testing days. The 15-year-old has been racing in karting on home soil and, with only one test day in a F4 car in Australia, she managed to consistently show her potential at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Similarly, Chloe Chong impressed the jury with fighting spirit and good improvements, having set personal best laps at almost every outings. Chong has been among the protagonists of the British karting championship, particularly in the IAME X30 classes. Like Buckley, Chloe Chong has also stepped in a formula car only once before the Girls On Track event.
British racer Macie Hitter and Uruguayan Agustina Sanchez both have remarkable karting resumés and, having learned a lot at the wheel of the F4 car, are surely to become better drivers. Their participation in the 2022 Girls On Track – Rising Stars was a great opportunity and platform, and is surely just the beginning of their journey in motor racing.
The four finalists will now prepare for the FDA camp, where they will undergo more tests in November, ahead of the decision that could change their professional lives.