Bianca Bustamente and Marta García's bright futures
One small step for women, one big lap for womankind as F1 Academy finishes its first year of competition. After a painful end to the first all-women’s motor sporting championship, the W series, it’s delightful to see its successor prospering. In 2022, the F1 academy announced its first inaugural season for 2023, established by Formula 1. Its goal is to create an environment to support female drivers, creating a smoother track for them to make their way through the karting industry. They plan to accomplish this by lowering costs for participation and cutting costs for competitors. F1 Academy also plans to fund three female drivers in each category by giving them subsidies for their drives, while providing F1 Academy branded kart and race suit for the nine competitors. The star of the season was Marta García who delivered an exceptional performance throughout the season, receiving a fully funded Formula Regional European Championship (FRECA) seat for the upcoming 2024 season.
The inaugural season for F1 Academy began in Spielberg, Austria, in April, with Marta García finishing first in the first and third races. Competitors then moved on to Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, and France, where they accomplished exemplary performances and distinguished technique. Marta García performed exceptionally well in France finishing first for the second and third races of the event. Demonstrating her amazing speed and versatility on the track she completed the final race four seconds ahead of her rival Léna Bühler. Moving onto the United States, competitors met on the track in Austin, Texas, for the seventh and final round of the season where Marta García received a first pole position in an early race and finished first by edging out the attacking Pulling. She received 28 points for the first, adding to her season total of 278 and securing her spot in the lead as the F1 Academy Champion, with two more races still to compete.
Marta García was crowned F1 Academy’s first champion on 1 October 2023 after an exhilarating run all season, she completed dazzling performances at the Grand Prix Formula 1 event. She began her karting career in Formula 4, where she competed in Spain during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Taking a pause, she returned to the karting industry with the W series in 2019, where she had a largely successful season. She finished fourth in the inaugural championship, winning a single round, and collected four podiums over three competitive seasons. However, no season has been as fruitful for Marta García as the 2023 season, as she received a seat with Prema Racing for the 2024 FRECA, supported by F1 Academy, PREMA Racing, Tatuus, and Pirelli. FRECA was started in 2021 and aims to assist young drivers in moving through the ranks of karting by honing the skills they need to progress. As part of the agreement, FRECA also plans to allow top teams a season-long fourth entry if they sign a driver who finished in first, second, or third places, in the F1 Academy season. This historic moment shows the shared desire between the two organizations to reach out to youth drivers and increase collective participation in the industry, while simultaneously promoting the development of female participation in the Championship.
Marta García was not the only one to have a prodigious season with F1 Academy. Many of the female competitors showed exemplary skill and received wide successes for their accomplishments. Bianca Bustamante became the first female driver to be invited into the McLaren Driver Development Program. In her maiden 2022 campaign she won the W Series and Top Rookie. Already an accomplished driver she came into the F1 Academy with an ambition to show the motor sporting world what women could accomplish in a largely male dominated industry. She did just that by becoming the first female in the McLaren development program at 18 years old. Jessica Edgar also had a thrilling ride, winning her maiden F1 Academy win in the season finale. Edgar was able to cut inside the line from Marta García and hold onto the lead for the last race in Austin. She expressed her excitement for her first win with F1 Academy, demonstrating all her hard work through the season. A storybook ending to a charming inaugural season for F1 Academy.
What’s next? F1 Academy has already announced a calendar for next season, with seven rounds beginning in Saudi Arabia on 7 March 2024 and finishing in Abu Dhabi in December. There will also be rounds completed in Miami, Spain, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Qatar. It was also announced that all 10 Formula 1 Teams will have F1 Academy drivers and liveries for the 2024 season. Considering the view from the racetrack, it seems things have never looked better for women in motorsports.
Image: Wikimedia Commons