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F1 Academy: Marta Garcia on challenges facing females in motorsport

F1 Academy leader Marta Garcia could become champion at United States Grand Prix weekend; Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Liam Lawson all inspirations as Formula 1 remains the target for the Spanish racing driver

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F1 Academy championship leader Marta Garcia believes the F1 Academy can help female drivers get into F1

F1 Academy Prema driver Marta Garcia is aiming to become F1's first female driver since the series' CEO Susie Wolff.

The Spanish racing driver currently leads the all-female racing series' inaugural season by 48 points with just three rounds to go during the United States Grand Prix weekend on October 20-22.

F1 Academy was a series created by F1 itself to increase the talent pool at the level of Formula 4, to help give opportunities to and shine a light on more young female drivers.

Garcia is aware of the challenges women face in climbing the motorsport mountain to Formula 1, which has remained male-dominated, with female appearances few and far between.

But the Spaniard is determined to make it to the top, and inspire young girls while she does so.

"What I have in my [Instagram] bio is 'inspiring women to fight for the unthinkable' because I'm in a male sport", said Garcia.

"I know how difficult it is for a woman to grow or progress, so my main thing is to let women see that I am doing this, so I think you can do the same - you need to work, focus and just do it."

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Garcia started life on the karting track as the only girl, but her will to win has taken her to the top of podiums, including that of the Trofeo de Industrie (previously lifted by Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel) and the FIA Academy trophy, an international FIA karting competition that Charles Leclerc had won four years previously.

Garcia has since gone on to take victory in the W Series before finding another gear in F1 Academy, dominating the season so far with four pole positions, six victories and 10 podiums in 18 races.

The challenges for women in motorsport

Marta Garcia has been racing since the age of nine.
Image: Marta Garcia has been racing since the age of nine

In short, Garcia has the talent and the speed to move up the motorsport ladder.

But why is she the same age as Lando Norris, but still three rungs in the ladder below the top level, which the Brit reached in 2019?

"It's the same as guys when you start karting or single seaters - you need money and the economic support - if your family doesn't have money, you need to find sponsors," explained Garcia, who lives in Valencia.

"If you don't find sponsors, you are not racing, so everything is like a chain.

"The lack of economic support is the principal reason why I have not been able to make it to F3 - if I had that money, then maybe I would have been able because if you have money then you can race."

The expensive nature of motorsport means that drivers from less wealthy backgrounds must rely on sponsorship, but for Garcia, a female racing driver has been a tough pitch, which has limited her ability to show the world her talent.

"Of course, when you don't have the money and you don't have the experience - you miss experience compared with the guys," said the 23-year old, who handles her own business.

"Some of those guys can do a lot of training, a lot of testing, a lot of kilometers in the car.

"When I was trying to find sponsors, it was a bit more difficult also because they didn't really see a woman racing as an investment going forward.

"But I think for a sponsor, right now, it's interesting to sponsor a woman in motorsport and in other sports.

"At the end of the day, you need to be good - you need to have the talent, but need the support to be able to show that."

Assessing F1 Academy's success

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Sky Sports' Naomi Schiff believes the announcement that every Formula 1 team will have a driver in the F1 Academy is an exciting moment for women

Garcia will hope that F1 Academy will be the shop window that she needs, and says she is "confident" that she can secure title victory in Austin next month.

But she explains that her next step if she does become champion may define the success of the F1 Academy as a series so far.

"Right now, the way F1 Academy is done is for the young female drivers to get to other categories like F3 or F2," said the 23-year-old.

"I think it's a good base to build yourself from as a racing driver, with top teams like Prema [involved]."

"But for me, I think they are doing a really good job already.

"Obviously, the races have not been broadcast for different reasons for now, but I think they have a lot of ideas for these next years.

"For me, it's been good - I'm not going to be racing here in the case that I win the championship because I want to go to another step like F3.

"The whole idea of F1 Academy is to give the young female drivers more experience."

To get into Formula 3, the entry fee can be around the £800,000 mark, which means drivers need significant sponsorship to make the jump.

On whether she has been in any discussions for F3 in 2024 after her stellar F1 Academy campaign so far, Garcia is focused only on securing victory.

"Maybe we have to wait until Austin because honestly, right now, I'm first in the championship, but I'm not champion.

"But if you are in a new championship that is held by F1, I'm sure there you could get any kind of opportunity.

"Not necessarily a race seat but some opportunities will arise."

'I'm a racing driver - the reference is there'

Marta Garcia currently leads the F1 Academy championship
Image: Marta Garcia currently leads the F1 Academy championship

Garcia started karting when she attended a Summer karting camp at the age of nine.

"It was me and my sister - no brothers - and my Dad always loved motorsport, he loved F1 and he used to watch a lot of races", said Garcia, who grow up in a Spain hooked by F1 thanks to the successes of their hero Fernando Alonso.

"One day, we went to the race track and I was really into it - the speed and driving I really liked.

"We saw go-karts on the track and they told us that they were doing a course in the summer for two weeks, and I wanted to do it.

"There were seven guys and I was the only girl and I was the one that was the most competitive - I wanted to be in front of everyone when I was on the track, and they could see that my attitude was much better.

"They invited me to see a race and I was like 'Dad, I want to do this'.

"My Dad really liked it - if my Dad wouldn't have pushed a little bit for me to get into the sport, I wouldn't be where I am today because he wanted it as well."

Garcia stresses the importance of parents encouraging their daughters despite the lack of female drivers in F1 - the Spaniard hopes that her experience will help inspire the growing female fandom to race like she did.

"The thing was that when I was racing, in Formula 1, you couldn't see any female drivers but also you cannot see any female drivers nowadays," said Garcia, who, like Pierre Gasly in a recent interview, credits Lewis Hamilton for inspiring the younger generation.

"But I think with the F1 Academy as part of F1, they give us more visibility - a lot of young girls are watching this.

"I see a lot of girls are fans with Netflix's Drive to Survive show and social media.

"Girls are knowing motorsport more and this is helping the possibility for young drivers to make it in motorsport."

"If you're a girl and you want to drive and you're scared or you don't know if you should do it, do what you want to do.

"I'm racing in F1 Academy, in single seaters, I'm a racing driver - the reference is there, you can get to where we are right now."

'My goal is still to get to F1'

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

Garcia knows that she is older than drivers ahead of her on the journey to F1, but she is still lazer focused on her Grand Prix goal.

"I'm not 19 anymore but after everything I've been through, my goal is still to get to F1 at some point", she said.

"I'm still going to try to get to F3 and then F2.

"I need to find sponsors, I need good preparation, everything needs to be on point, I need to be fully focused, but I'm willing to do that.

"I'm willing to find people to help me who want to be on this journey, and that's my ultimate goal.

"If that doesn't happen, I also want to do the new LMP1 prototypes - I think that would be cool.

"Also, in the United States - if it's racing in any category, then I would have to go for it."

In F1, things change quickly - drivers can be given an opportunity at any moment and if they make a good impression, they can often stay.

Recent events have given Garcia reason for optimism, with AlphaTauri's Liam Lawson putting together two impressive race weekends after being parachuted in for Daniel Ricciardo following an injured hand.

"Now, I think with Ricciardo, obviously he's been racing in F1 for some years then he wasn't racing anymore.

"Then he came back and obviously had the broken wrist, and after that, Liam Lawson was able to drive - an opportunity for a young driver.

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Formula One content creator Aldas believes that Liam Lawson has given Red Bull a difficult decision to make with their driver choices next year after impressing in the AlphaTauri

"I think if he does well, he could have the opportunity to stay now.

"In F1, there is a lot of people coming from F2 and F3 that are quite talented drivers, and at the end of the day, we need to give those drivers an opportunity to get to F1 earlier."

Watch highlights of Marta Garcia as she looks to become F1 Academy's first champion during the United States Grand Prix on October 20-22.

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