Jessica Hawkins, Aston Martin, Hungaroring, 2023

Why the latest woman to test an F1 car knows real change won’t come ‘overnight’

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Formula 1 puts women centre stage this weekend as the final races of the inaugural season of the all-female series F1 Academy will be broadcast live on Saturday and Sunday by 18 broadcasters covering over 100 territories.

After five rounds of racing away from the glare of an F1 round, the first F1 Academy champion will be crowned at the Circuit of the Americas at the United States Grand Prix weekend. Spanish driver Marta Garcia is the favourite to clinch the title at some point over the final three races in Austin.

Unlike the independent championship W Series which collapsed last year, F1 Academy comes with the blessing of the world championship and from next year all 10 F1 teams will have one driver and their livery on one car competing in the all-female series. Next season promises to be bigger and better than this first season, with seven rounds instead of five – all of which supporting world championship events.

This is welcome progress. But is F1 as a whole doing enough to get more women into the sport? Why are there still so few women in motorsport?

Of course, it should not be solely down to F1 to make the changes needed in motorsport across the board. They have already done more than most major championships by creating F1 Academy and helping pave a way for women in the sport.

Extreme E has gone further, putting inclusivity at its forefront by making it mandatory for each team to feature one man and one woman in its line-up. Many other championships have women dotted around here and there, but very few have any that are competing for titles.

Yet that is not down to talent – at least in the view of the latest woman to have an opportunity to drive an F1 car. Former W Series driver Jessica Hawkins is one of few women affiliated with an F1 team as a test driver and an ambassador. She recently took part in a test for Aston Martin in Barcelona, becoming the first women to test modern-day F1 machinery in five years.

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“I believe 100% we have had women that are talented enough,” said Hawkins. “We’ve had women that have had the backing behind them. We’ve had women that have been driven enough. We’ve had women that are passionate enough. We’ve had every single thing that you need to become a Formula 1 driver, we’ve had a woman at that [level].

Jessica Hawkins, Aston Martin, Hungaroring, 2023
Hawkins ‘believes 100% we have had women talented enough’ to race in F1
“But what we haven’t had is a woman that’s got every single piece of the puzzle you need to make it to Formula 1. And as soon as we find one of them, 100% they are going to be in Formula 1. I don’t doubt it whatsoever.”

They key is making them aware the opportunity exists, says Hawkins. “We’re not going to find that one without numbers. And I’m sure a lot of women probably aren’t interested in Formula 1 or becoming a racing driver or anything like that. But there are probably loads that are that don’t even know it’s an option for them.”

A recent study by the initiative More Than Equal, co-founded by former F1 driver David Coulthard, showed women struggle to progress to the higher ranks of motorsport, like F1, partly because of problems raising funding based on prejudice.

More Than Equal aspires to get more female drivers into F1 over the next decade and aims to help find the sport’s first female champion. It said obstacles include fewer role models, lack of female-specific training and mechanical challenges.

Female participation in motorsport is in the region of 10%, it notes. Karting, where most young and inspiring drivers start, accounts for 40% of female participation in all motorsport, but women and girls are only 13% of participants.

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As drivers progress to GT racing and single-seaters the numbers are significantly slashed again to 7%. As you go higher, the ratio reduces again to only 4% in the top categories of the sport.

Susie Wolff, Jessica Edgar, Circuit of the Americas, 2023
Edgar took pole in F1 Academy yesterday
With a view to addressing that, F1 Academy announced they are to collaborate with Champions of the Future on new global karting series to increase the opportunities given to young female racers. “With so much momentum building around F1 Academy, we must continue to strengthen the pipeline of talent coming into our sport,” said F1 Academy managing director Susie Wolff, herself a former F1 test driver.

The Champions of the Future Academy Program will “operate a lottery system for the chassis and engines plus implement a fixed budget, giving us the opportunity to identify the top talent across all age groups,” Wolff explained. “We will also provide the best in the senior category with an F1 Academy test, giving them a chance to prove themselves to our teams.”

Hawkins believes young women often do not consider motorsport as a future destination for them as they do not see women competing there to begin with. Worse, the announcement of her F1 test prompted abuse from some.

“Of course I feel like we’ve had barriers along the way and there were still lots of not-so-nice comments as well,” she said. “But I just think we need more women to be inspired at a younger age and for younger women to see that it is possible.

“I started because I saw it in the distance one day and I begged my dad to let me have a go. But if I hadn’t seen it, would my dad have taken me? And he probably wouldn’t, maybe because I was a female, he would have presumed that I wouldn’t be into it. It’s changing that perception that motor sport is a men’s sport and it’s not.

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“If I would have just just turned on the television and watch Formula 1 when I was younger, if that’s how I started. I wouldn’t have even probably known that it’s something I could do.

“I think it’s changing the perception. We can’t expect miracles overnight. You can’t just magic loads of us here and that. But I think that we are changing and we’re so much further forward than what we were when I first started.”

F1 Academy is encouraging more young females into motorsport and showing them it is an option to compete in F1. Through this we may have more of a chance of seeing women get higher and higher up on the ladder to success, if F1 and its teams continues to support them.

As things stand, as we are already starting with fewer women in the lower echelons of the sport, the pool of drivers becomes increasingly smaller as participants drop out – whether that’s for financial reasons, lack of drive or not enough talent.

It does not come down to F1 to find the next superstar of the sport, it comes down to things like parents and caregivers, it comes down to advertising, it comes down to sponsorship, it comes down to money. One thing that is certain is that it does not come down to a lack of talent, it comes down to a lack of belief. But as Hawkins points out, whatever change may come is likely to be gradual.

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Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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17 comments on “Why the latest woman to test an F1 car knows real change won’t come ‘overnight’”

  1. A lot to do isn’t there, but these are good steps. Live races is a big thing, and interviews, Lewis calling in, all builds it. The website and app aren’t as good they could be tho, have to say. Yet at least

  2. If Jessica outperforms Lance they will claim that the lap didn’t count!

  3. “But is F1 as a whole doing enough to get more women into the sport?”

    It is not F1’s fault that parents generally don’t send their little girls doing karting. And it is not F1’s fault that girls are generally speaking less interested in motorsports, which statistically results in far less chances a girl is gonna rise one day to the standarts F1 naturally requests from a driver.

    1. It is to an extent, because while the FIA uses the income from F1 to fund various programs, much of it is also spend on the F1 races themselves. If F1 were to contribute more to the FIA’s initiatives to make karting and other forms of racing more affordable and accessible, it can go a long way to making motorsport a viable pursuit for more than just the kids of the very wealthy.

      As RaceFans reported two years ago:

      The split is approximately: $2m on karting, $500,000 per season in F4, another $1m on F3 and $3m plus on F2 – without contingencies. Not all of that may come from parents’ pockets, but seven million bucks is still a massive pile, particularly given there are no guarantees of an F1 seat at the end of it.

      Promoting female participation is obviously currently popular in the West, but that is just one of many talent pools that are being missed in motorsport. The way the much-mocked ‘state funded’ Zhou has been holding his own against race-winner Bottas – already in his first year! – is a good example of this. There must be thousands of folks that could do better than those currently in F1, especially further down the field, and they might be male or female, Chinese or Chilean, tall or short, whatever. Making junior motorsport more affordable is better for everyone.

      1. I didn’t know that rich people only have sons.

        Why would cheaper karting help girls more than boys?

  4. “But is F1 as a whole doing enough to get more women into the sport?”
    – It’s doing way too much.

    “Why are there still so few women in motorsport?”
    – Because they’re not interested in it, you dummy. And if they are, they’re not neaerly as good as men at it. Women are not even 1/100 as interested in cars as men are. Women are more interested in dancing, singing, yoga, aerobic, fashion etc. So stop pushing it down their throats.

    1. @Asd
      A full comparison fails, but your arguments are exactly the same as they have been for women football, for years and years. I don’t have numbers, but some sites cite that women football is the fastest growing sport in the UK, proving them wrong.

      In fact, you could easily use your argument against it by flipping it 180 degrees:
      we are forcing dancing, singing, yoga, aerobic, fashion etc. down their throats for years and years.. We should let them figure out what they like for themselves and not be narrow minded grumpy acidic backwards old stuck ups about it*

      *I took some liberties with the quote…

      1. How does this go through the filter and all my comments on Stroll where I quote him saying p00p in that interview do not….

      2. Women football is a separate sport (and the best female national teams lose against amateur men teams, by 7-8 goals). Here you need women to do as good as men. That’s the difference. I suppose in racing they can get closer, but it sure is hard to compete still. You talk about popularity, but this is a matter of competitiveness. And let’s hope that won’t change because of politics.

      3. @baasbas
        You are creating lies and nonsense. Your supposed 180 degree flip is just manipulation.
        “we are forcing dancing, singing […]”
        – No, we’re not. Woman have danced/singed and loved to dance/sing for as long as dancing and singing existed. And they love doing it much more than men do.

        “[…] aerobic,”
        – Again, nonsense. Women on the whole prefer non-violent, free-flowing, individual sports activities more than men. Even more so if they involve listening to MUSIC and may somewhat resemble DANCING.

        “fashion etc.”
        – LOL, you must be joking.

        “We should let them figure out what they like for themselves”
        – So why do you not let them?

        “and not be narrow minded grumpy acidic backwards old stuck ups about it”
        – That’s a lot of vitriol and grumpiness my man. You should try being less hypocritical, Baas.

        1. @Asd
          You can call me out on a lot of things in my response to your comment. It wasn’t exactly the most polite reply, true, blunt even. But a hypocrite? I can’t see that even remotely being close here.. All I did was respond to your sweeping obtuse statement, by mirroring it and be just as obtuse. Sure, if you don’t recognize what I did there you might mistaken it for hypocrisy.. And you can dissect my quote all day long, but it’s your words in that quote in case you haven’t noticed.

          According to you it seems girls like pink stuff because they are girls. They’re born with an understanding that pink is a girly color, correct?

    2. Just. Wow. Talk about sweeping generalisations. There have been many articles – both on this site and elsewhere across the internet – explaining why it isn’t as simple as you’re making it out to be, then Im not sure any of us stand a chance of changing your mind in a comment section. But maybe stop steteotyping an entire gender whilst you’re at it, at least?

  5. W Series is a free-to-enter championship that provides equal opportunities for women and eliminates the financial barriers that have historically prevented them from progressing to the upper echelons of motorsport.
    W Series drivers are selected purely on their ability and the series’ cars are mechanically identical, which means that W Series races and championships will be won by the most talented drivers, rather than those with the wealthiest backers.

    ^This is from W Series website.

    A driver who finished 9th and 11th in two season of W Series, and has one podium to it’s name, is an driver ambassador for Aston Martin F1 team and got a chance to test an F1 car.

    If one podium makes you good enough to be an F1 test driver, I believe that better results will get you a bigger role with an F1 team.

    Those drivers that finished ahead of Jessica in W Series championship standings, for which F1 teams are they driving or testing?

    Answer is – none.

    What piece of a puzzle are they missing just to get a chance to test an F1 car?

    Can we really expect that F1 Academy will be any different?

    Let’s hope it will be.


    Jessica is Driver Ambassador for Aston Martin F1 Team, not a test driver.

    There is no need to mislead people. Even Aston Martin’s press release about Jessica’s test is clear it was a PR stunt.

    She tested at Hungaroring, not Barcelona.

  6. Anyone starting to race faces these same barriers to entry, they are not specific to gender. I started club racing FF1600 in an older car, spent 50% of my income on the sport, eventually got a newer car and raced in SCCA National events. There were women racers doing the same thing; there was no discrimination, only the cost of racing and the commitment to that goal. I eventually gave up driving because of cost and opened a race prep shop and rented out FF cars.

    I got married and had a daughter so gave up the shop and got a real job. When my daughter was about ten I offered her the chance to learn to race; I was about the perfect dad to do that, but she wasn’t interested at all, although she did watch F1 with me.

    If someone wants to race they have to show the initiative and determination to do so and aggressively pursue their goal; it isn’t going to be handed to them on a platter (unless your name is Stroll). To succeed as a race driver they, man or woman, have to be faster than the other drivers.

  7. Given how thirsty sponsors and the media are for a female driver in F1, why are teams missing out the massive income and media attention they would secure by putting one of these drivers in the car for 2024?
    The W series / f1 academy allowed these female drivers to display their skills and commitment, made it very clear which ones are the most skilled and prepared. Just sign one up already!

    1. Because they are not dumb enough to put drivers that finish around P20 in F4 in to top level machinery and expect them to perform well… (even if it was allowed!).

      To drive in F1 you need to have a valid superlicence, that you earn by competing and finishing well in the junior ladder. If they can’t compete at the bottom for the title, they won’t be competing at the top of F3 & F2 to get the points needed.

  8. They could at least have put some wheels on the car!

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