Written by Jane Tang, Edited by Sharifah Zaqreeztrina
Lights out, and away F1 Academy has gone. Its inaugural season has just begun, with racing veteran Susie Wolff spearheading the all-female drivers’ championship and fifteen of the best female drivers in the world hoping to make their mark in the heavily male-dominated field of motorsport. While this is a significant step for women in Formula 1, it’s difficult to see its future if the public can’t watch it.
So far, six races have been held– three at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, and three at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain. There are no tickets for public viewing, and there is no live TV coverage of the races; only race highlights and results on the F1 Academy website. In comparison, British F4, another feeder series for young drivers to build their eventual way up to one of the highly coveted twenty seats in Formula 1, gets extensive coverage in the UK on ITV4.
The lack of media coverage for F1 Academy damages its prospects for women's empowerment and only serves to further highlight how female drivers (with the same amount of, if not more potential and talent as their male counterparts) are treated unfairly. Not only does the lack of coverage diminish the act of creating a series for female drivers to make their way up to F1, but it’s also a missed opportunity for the FIA and the brand of Formula 1 to generate more revenue.
For the 2022 season, Formula 1 gained a total revenue of up to $2.6 billion. This revenue came from Grand Prix attendance, TV coverage, and the $10,000 charged per pass to the exclusive F1 paddock. So far, F1 Academy doesn’t have access to any of these opportunities for profit - whereas at least Formula 4 has ticket sales.
Of course, F1 Academy is not at the same level as Formula 1 just yet. F1 feeder series have always had less of an audience and more of a budget - that’s largely part of the reason why Formula 1 is always the end goal for these young drivers. But the absence of public viewing and media coverage does not - and will not - help the fifteen young women of F1 Academy make their mark.