The women of F1: ‘Discover your Drive’ initiative


Susie Wolff leads the first all-female motorsports academy, encouraging female representation in motorsports

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Image by Lukas Raich

By Evie Winter

Formula One, renowned as the pinnacle of motorsport, has long been dominated by men. The absence of female representation is shocking, coveted by the glitz and the glamour; the marginalisation of talented young women must be rectified. Given that the most recent female F1 driver was Lella Lombardi, who competed in her final race in 1976, the current lack of female representation must be addressed. With initiatives like SusieWolff ’s all-female F1 Academy, motorsports are gradually promoting gender diversity both on and off the track.

Susie Wolff, a former racing driver and a prominent advocate for gender equality in motorsport, has been a catalyst for change. In 2016, she launched the Dare To Be Different (D2BD) initiative, which aimed to inspire and empower young girls to consider pursuing careers in motorsport. Since then, the program has evolved into the “FIA Girls on Track– Rising Stars” initiative, supported by the FIA (Fédération Internationale del’Automobile).

The FIA Girls on Track program has emerged as a vital stepping stone for young female drivers, offering them opportunities to hone their skills in karting and single-seater racing.

With a rigorous selection process, the initiative identifies talented girls aged 12 to 16, granting them the chance to compete in the Karting Academy Trophy and Formula Four championships. Alongside skill development, this program provides support and guidance to budding racers as they progress in their careers.

Formula One has introduced a range of initiatives to promote inclusivity and attract more women to various roles within F1, with Susie Wolff spearheading the push for change. Wolff’s new academy is aimed exclusively at women to help bridge the disparity between the genders in F1. Acting as an extension of her previous initiatives, the ‘Discover your Drive’initiative aims to open in 38 UK venues over the course of 2023, to then expand globally in 2024.

Formula One teams are also playing their part in supporting gender diversity. Several teams have appointed women to key positions within their organisations. For instance, Ferrari recently appointed Maria Mendoza as their first female chief aerodynamicist, a significant milestone for the team.

Similarly, McLaren’s pro-motion of Ruth Buscombe as their strategy director demonstrates the rise in recognition of the talent and value that women bring to F1 both on and off the track.

While progress has undoubtedly been made, dismantling the remaining barriers for women in Formula One should not be forgotten. Greater female represent-station in the driver lineup and increased female participation in technical roles are ar-eas warranting continued attention and support. However, the efforts of individuals like Susie Wolff and the commitment of the motorsport community signal a positive shift in attitudes and opportunities for women in F1. Wolff’s message is clear, more women must be seen in Formula One for successful and meaningful change in motorsports, and she is striving to facilitate this as far as possible.

Speaking to F1, she said, “There’s already 45,000 young girls going to these venues and participating; that’s an encouraging statistic. But why are so few not coming back and not progressing with their participation?

“A lack of role models – if you can’t see it, you can’t believe it. I think there’s this belief that motorsport is still quite a male-dominated environment that we really need to break down, and we need to also create the opportunities.”

It will be a long time coming, but in the next ten years, there could be a change in the male monopoly within Formula One, enabled by these important initiatives. Wolff’s stature and reputation within the sport may push F1 to embrace change in inclusivity, where women can thrive and contribute to its rich history. Women are moving closer to taking their rightful place on the starting grid alongside their male counterparts.