F1 Academy blog 3

Verstappen: What’s the “next step” for F1 Academy female drivers

F1 Academy blog 3

Max Verstappen questioned the existence of the F1 Academy that is receiving undue coverage on race weekends, apparently with the intent of providing female race drivers with a ‘fast track’ to Formula 1.

In a lengthy interview with Linburger, the three-time F1 World Champion, discussing his sim racing passion the conversation turned to females competing in sim racing (iRacing being the benchmark platform where Max excels.

iRacing is an online eSport racing platform that attracts the majority of the current generation of professional drivers including the likes of Fernando Alonso, and Lando Norris among many race drivers of all ages who use the sim to stay race sharp, as well as dedicated expert sim racers and a huge wannabe crowd of amateur racers.

Asked how the sim race driver male/female percentages add up, Verstappen ventured: “It’s a bit the same. There are females, but much fewer than males. For example, our team [RedLine]  now only has male drivers.

“But if there is a fast girl among us, then of course we want her too. That’s just how it is in the real world, isn’t it?” reckoned Verstappen, alluding to the percentage of real-life women racers vis-a-vis males who traditionally dominate a sport that has always been unisex.

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This is unlike all other major sports from tennis, soccer, Olympics, cycling, marathons etc where men’s and women’s disciplines are segregated for obvious reasons. Not so motorsport.

Verstappen explained the reality of motorsport: “Team bosses don’t look at whether someone is a boy or a girl. It’s about how fast they are.”

That means racing girls and boys, who become racing women and men have traditionally started on the same rung. Karting through to F1, F3, F2 etc. But stats show, that when the cream rises and drivers are chosen for F1, there has been no female candidate.

Like a pyramid, the grassroots of racing (karting) has more females competing at all levels than ever before. Ditto F4 where most tend to stay or opt out because F3 becomes increasingly male-dominated, as does F2 and of course F1.

The current ‘ladder’ to F1 is well established and has few exceptions. The first rung of that ladder starts with karting for several seasons until mid-teens. The next steps on that ladder, are a season in F4, a season in F3, a season in F1 before knocking on F1’s door.

The very good guys (Max Verstappen) or the very rich guys (Lance Stroll) tend to miss F2

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 03: Max Verstappen of Toro Rosso and The Netherlands during practice for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit on October 3, 2014 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Max Verstappen

Now, this season F1 Academy is being sold hard by the sport’s decision makers. Giving the ‘Get-A-Girl-To-F1-No Matter-What’ unwarranted exposure, which would be better served on the hard-charging blokes and real F1 candidates in F3 and F4.

Verstappen said of the series’ intentions: “It is good that Formula 1 now pays extra attention to women in motorsport with the F1 Academy, although I have doubts about how they approach it. The cars they drive are way too slow. If you ever want to get them into Formula 1, it really has to go to a higher level.

“It’s nice and nice that girls are now sponsored by Formula 1 teams, but what do we actually help them with? There is no next step for them now. For example, the gap to a Formula 4 car is already too big,” Verstappen explained politely.

That “next step” should be the real feeder series – Formula 3 first, then Formula 2 – where the next generation of potential F1 superstars (aka Oliver Bearman Kimi Antonelli) are plying their trade. A level none of F1 Academy drivers will ever reach on pure talent and merit.

Inexplicably from a sporting perspective, the next rounds of the F1 Academy season run at the sport’s first Stateside showcase in Miami from 3-5 May.

On the support bill for that weekend in Florida, the season’s first Grand Prix in the USA, the powers that be would rather not run F3 and/or F2, instead they will showcase the mostly talentless, crash-prone F1 Academy ladies to American fans. Be safe Girls.

Big Question: What’s right or not right about the F1 Academy?