Written by Sean McKean, Edited by Tom Evans
No matter the sport, a well-functioning schedule is essential to its success. For instance, NASCAR regionalises their week-by-week tracks; IndyCar gives ample space between long travelling distances. Every sanctioning body wants the “perfect schedule,” but there will always be some weak points.
Although, whether the weak points are long gaps between rounds, massive travelling distances, or little schedule diversity, these blemishes usually get forgotten with the continuation of the season. However, what happens when a schedule’s weak points defeat the entire point of the series itself? Thus, I present to you, F1 Academy’s 2024 schedule.
In the last few years, Liberty Media has made the push to the Middle Eastern market, as seen by the additions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the Grand Prix lineup, alongside Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.
However, these additions were met with open arms by fans, with the Twitter and Instagram announcements receiving many negative comments. The aforementioned countries do not exactly have a great track record when it comes to the treatment of women, and with this demographic becoming larger in recent years, the backlash holds more weight to it.
That is a justifiable criticism, in my eyes. So, what does Liberty Media do? Of course, they bring the all-women F1 Academy championship to three Middle Eastern countries.
To me, this comes off as a slap in the face to the point of the series. For one, the goal of F1 Academy is to promote gender diversity in the sport by making women feel more welcome on the grid. While the first season has been good thus far, fan opinion has been and will continue to be swayed with the inclusion of the Middle Eastern countries, especially knowing their track records with women’s rights.
Furthermore, the inclusion of Qatar on the calendar couldn’t have been announced at a worse time. Only two weekends ago, the Formula 1 circus went to Lusail and it went terribly wrong.
During the race, many drivers reported that the heat exhaustion they experienced caused heat stroke whilst racing. Though Logan Sargeant was the only driver to have retired from it, Esteban Ocon reported he vomited in his helmet early on and Lando Norris reported that many fainted post-race.
Knowing this, it is incredibly dangerous to throw inexperienced junior drivers onto what might be one of the most physically demanding tracks. If Formula 1 drivers - proven top tier athletes - struggled with this, who knows how these junior drivers will deal with it for three races!
Qatar’s inclusion is made all the more farcical when you consider that the feeder series ladder doesn’t even go there; in fact, there are two more tracks - Miami and Singapore - That are not used by any other feeder series championship. Not only are these tracks typically physically demanding, they also provide little in the form of driver development, as these drivers are unlikely to encounter these circuits again as they move up the ladder.
All in all, the 2024 F1 Academy schedule is a farce, and if FOM wants to encourage female participation, then this is a solid five steps backwards from their goal.