W Series launches 'Academy', confirms Sidorkova and Martí for 2 seasons
Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Nerea Martí and Irina Sidorkova – the two youngest drivers in the W Series grid – officially join the newly-launched W Series Academy, a 2-year program that grants them a funded seat, bespoke training and will include off-track activities to inspire the next generation.
A few days after its action-packed season opener at the Styrian Grand Prix, W Series announced the creation of an Academy program that will support its younger drivers with a 2-year plan. The first two drivers to enter this development program are Irina Sidorkova and Nerea Martí – respectively 18 and 19 – who are currently the two youngest ladies on the grid. Selected when they were 16 and 17 at the Almeria test in 2019, Sidorkova and Martí have also been paired by W Series in its 'Academy W Series team' with the fresh introduction of a team structure for the all-female championship. W Series confirms that they will have guaranteed seats for the next two years, giving them the necessary time and mileage to thrive. As stated by W Series, the Academy "guarantees youngest drivers fully-funded seats for two years." Additionally, they will receive coaching and bespoke nutrition and fitness programmes to maximise their potential as elite athletes. "We are delighted to be able to take the first step of our W Series Academy plans this season, despite the headwinds we and many others have faced over the past year." – stated Catherine Bond Muir, W Series CEO, in the series release. "The W Series Academy is an important step forward in our quest to enable young women to enter motorsport and compete on an equal footing with men." "Irina Sidorkova and Nerea Martí are our two youngest drivers but, at the first race of the 2021 W Series season in Austria, they both showed their tremendous potential on motor racing's greatest stage." Both Sidorkova and Martí had a remarkable first race and scored points at debut. Sidorkova is the youngest driver to have entered a W Series race and qualified 14th after an issue in qualifying. She recovered six places to finish eighth in the race. Similarly, Nerea – who has already competed alongside Irina in the 2019 Spanish Formula 4 championship – qualified in 16th place in her first W Series race and was seventh at the chequered flag. Together with Gosia Rdest, she was the biggest mover in the first round. They will be required to take on an ambassadorial role, with off-track activities planned to promote motorsport as a viable career path for young women and inspire more young females at grassroots levels. "I am so happy to be named as a W Series Academy Team driver and determined to make the most of this fantastic opportunity." – said Martí. "The W Series environment, where drivers share data and learn from each other's setups is the perfect one for me to develop and grow in." "Seeing the likes of my fellow Spaniard, Marta Garcia, thriving in W Series' first season in 2019 was so inspiring. There are things I need to improve to follow in her footsteps and become a W Series race-winner, and the extra support I will receive over the next two seasons will help me do that." – she added. "I have already learned so much in my short time with W Series, so the prospect of having two full seasons ahead of me with extra coaching is very exciting." – echoed Sidorkova, who is also part of the SMP Racing driver academy program. "The open and welcoming atmosphere is ideal for young females, like me, who are eager to improve and build a successful career in motorsport, whether that is behind the wheel or in one of the many support roles." "The thought of being one of the first W Series Academy graduates makes me so proud and I am now more determined than ever to build on that great start at the Red Bull Ring. When I was 16, I watched Jamie Chadwick win the first W Series title. Now I want to inspire the next generation of girls who are watching me race at some of the world’s greatest circuits alongside Formula 1 this year", concluded the Russian driver.
It is not clear yet how drivers will be selected from 2022 onwards, when private teams will make up for the entire field – and whether any other driver will have guaranteed spots based on the final classification, as adopted in 2019.