F1 bosses say a key goal is to have female drivers on the Formula 3 starting grid in the next two to three years.
Formula 1 has launched the F1 Academy, a female-only driver series to support the development of a new generation of young drivers and reach the “highest level in motorsport”.
Female drivers currently in karting and other junior categories will have the opportunity to work with professional teams to progress through the ranks and gain a more equal amount of time on track.
F1 bosses say a key goal is “to have female drivers on the Formula 3 starting grid in the next two to three years and for them to quickly challenge for points and podiums.”
The category will develop drivers for Formula 3, Formula 2 and eventually Formula 1, providing them with experience to match male counterparts at the same age.
It comes following an assessment of the barriers faced by female drivers when entering the sport.
It will consist of five teams run by existing F2 and F3 entrants. Each team will enter three cars for a 15-strong grid, with the inaugural season featuring seven events consisting of three races. There will be 15 days of official testing, the organisation said.
Drivers will make use of a turbocharged Tatuus T421 chassis, with 165bhp on tap and currently used in Formula 4.
The future of the existing W Series is still in doubt, though, despite F1 implying the competition would run alongside the F1 Academy.
Key organisations are also supporting the project, with tyres supplied by Pirelli and the engine from Autotecnica.
The series will be overseen by Bruno Michel, Formula Motorsport Limited CEO, who said the move would help to boost diversity in motorsport.
“I’m very excited to launch this new category. Diversity is extremely important in motorsport, and with the F1 Academy, we will prove that female drivers have what it takes to compete at high levels.
“I’m 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 pyramid.
“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.
“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.”
F1 will subsidise each car with a budget of €150,000 (so €2.25 million in total). Drivers will also also be required to subsidise the same amount with teams set to provide the rest of the budget, however F1 says this is “a fraction of the usual costs in a comparable series”.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and achieve their potential, and Formula 1 wants to ensure we’re doing everything we can to create greater diversity and routes into this incredible sport,” said Stefano Domenicali, president and CEO of F1.
“That’s why I’m delighted to announce the F1 Academy that will give young female drivers the best chance to fulfil their ambitions through a comprehensive programme that supports their racing careers and gives them everything they need to move into F3 and hopefully to F2 and then the pinnacle of Formula 1.
“The more opportunity there is the better, and this is designed to provide another route for the drivers to succeed.”