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Sky Sports F1 Podcast: Danica Patrick says female drivers should take a 'normal' route to Formula 1

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Former NASCAR and IndyCar driver Danica Patrick believes women drivers need 'proper tests' against men drivers in order to help their progression in the sport

Former IndyCar driver Danica Patrick says women drivers need to be given the opportunity to compete with men early in their careers to enable progression into Formula 1.

Sky Sports F1 pundit Patrick, whose victory at the 2008 Indy Japan 300 remains the only win by a woman in an IndyCar Series race, has questioned whether all-female series provide enough competition for the best female drivers.

Formula 1 this year launched the all-female F1 Academy, which will be contested exclusively on F1 race weekends in 2024, while before that the W Series provided a women-only category in 2019, 2021 and 2022.

Asked on the latest episode of the Sky Sports F1 Podcast about getting a female driver into F1, Patrick said: "Well, you're assuming I want that, you're assuming that is important to me, and it's not.

"It's always an interesting stance I have on it. I think that what makes the sport really popular is great racing - you can have half the field out there women and have it be follow the leader, and it's not going to be interesting to watch.

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Highlights of race three from the sixth round of the F1 Academy series in Le Castellet

"Good racing, and that's what we have so much of these days in Formula 1, I mean pretty much everything other than Max is a toss-up for who's going to be second, third, fourth, fifth that weekend, and so that's what makes it really appealing.

"And so I think, as someone who obviously was a girl, you've just got to come up like normal."

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It was announced in July all 10 current Formula 1 teams will have one F1 Academy driver competing under their team name and with the same car livery in 2024, while all F1 Academy events will take place within F1 weekends.

However, Patrick believes that competing against the best in class is crucial to developing talent, using golf as an example to explain her theory.

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Patrick highlights Jamie Chadwick and Hailie Deegan as two women drivers that could have the speed to be competitive in F1

"I do have a little bit of... not a criticism, but an opinion about female series, is that it's fine, it can give opportunity for some who might not get a chance otherwise to show what they can do, but at the end of the day, you're going to have to race against guys.

"So when you watch golf, you watch that a lot of times, a golfer that's maybe not ranked as high, will rise to the occasion with whoever he's golfing with, and I think that tends to happen in all sports.

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"That's why you see some of the best wanting to practice and be with the best, because then they get better. If you bench yourself off something that's not the best, then it's going to affect your effort level, your mental goal, what you envision yourself doing.

"So you really have to put yourself in the toughest situations and you might as well do it early because it's only going to get harder."

'Give female drivers proper tests'

While the full details of how the link-up between F1 and F1 Academy will work in 2024 have yet to be revealed, Patrick is adamant that giving female drivers the opportunity to conduct tests in F1 cars should be part of it.

"I just think that, giving proper tests, to be able to see if a female driver is fast enough, is a great way to know if there should be a next step forward," Patrick added.

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F1 Academy Managing Director Susie Wolff explained before the start of the season what she hopes to achieve with the new all-female series

"But as far as anything beyond that, I think they should be racing with the guys, I think racing in the same series, and they've just got to get people around them that that believe in them.

"I think the more times that you put yourself in a position to show what you can do, the better off you are, and it's better to be in the car than not.

"So I think just more cars, more track time and more opportunities to show what you can do is just always a good thing."

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