On November 18 Formula 1 announced the 2023 launch of F1 Academy, an all-female driver category meant "to develop and prepare young female drivers to progress to higher levels of competition," according to the Formula 1 website.
F1 Academy is hoped to be a stepping stone toward Formula 3 and eventually the higher ranks.
"After assessing the barriers young female drivers face with entering the F1 pyramid, it became clear that they do not have the same amount of experience as their male counterparts at the same age. Thus the goal of the F1 academy is to fill this gap and offer female drivers access to more track time, racing, and testing. The racers will also grow by working with professional teams."
The first season will be held in 2023 and will consist of five teams (run by current F2 or F3 teams) entering three cars each. The series will include 7 events with three races each, for a total of 21 races as well as 15 testing days; a 2023 schedule will be announced "in due course."
Each car will be subsidised by Formula 1 to the extent of €150,000, to be matched by the driver— "A fraction of the usual costs in comparable series", according to Formula 1— with teams covering the rest.
CEO of Formula Motorsport Limited Bruno Michel will manage the series, and he's ambitious about what it can provide:
"I am absolutely convinced that if young women are given the same amount of experience as any other driver, they can successfully make their way through the period. Our goal is to see female drivers on the F3 grid in the next two to three years, and for them to quickly challenge for points and podiums."
Formula 1 is adamant that F1 Academy is not meant as a replacement for W series, the all-female series whose 2022 season was cut short due to financial difficulties and whose future is seriously in doubt. The original announcement emphasizes that it is a first step toward higher levels "including W series" and states that "W series continues to provide a great platform for drivers...the F1 Academy is designed to provide an extra route."
CEO Catherine Bond Muir responded "W series welcomes any initiative which shares our ambition to provide more opportunities for women in motorsport... The addition of the F1 academy as a feeder to W series and other series is a further step in inspiring the next generation to progress up the motorsport ladder."
Michel echoed the sentiment in his statement:
"The aim is to increase the field in the near future, because we hope that this category will inspire more young girls to compete in motorsport at the highest of levels."