2023 US Grand Prix: Marta Garcia Clinches Maiden F1 Academy Championship

Spain's Marta Garcia made Formula One history by clinching the first-ever Formula 1 Academy championship at the 2023 US Grand Prix.

Mark Phelan

By Mark Phelan
Updated on March 9, 2024

Marta Garcia Clinches Maiden F1 Academy Championship

At the 2023 US Grand Prix, Spain’s Marta Garcia made Formula One history by clinching the first-ever Formula 1 Academy championship after a decisive win in the first of three races.

Celebrations followed the 23-year-old’s victory as Lewis Hamilton, seven-time F1 world champion, told her, “You deserved this triumph.”

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The victory solidified Garcia’s lead, making it unattainable for competitors Lena Buhler and Hamda Al Qubaisi in this exclusive female racing series.

With one last race in Austin, the series’ inaugural season wrapped up an exciting and successful racing season in 2023.

Al Qubaisi marked her territory by seizing victory in the subsequent Saturday race.

Launched in 2023, the F1 Academy is motorsport’s newest initiative, striving to bolster female presence to elevate women to the sport’s pinnacle. Italy’s Lella Lombardi was the last female driver to earn points in F1 history; she scored half a point with a sixth-place finish at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.

Addressing the importance of the Academy’s success for the broader mission of gender diversity in motorsport, its managing director, Susie Wolff, shared at the US Grand Prix, “I am very conscious of this not being a flash in the pan and then it dies away.” Wolff continued, “That would be a huge regret because if that happens there is no chance for wider diversity in this sport. If this doesn’t work, nothing is going to work.”

When discussing the platform and visibility the Academy provides, Wolff said,

“Fifteen cars driving doesn’t fix the problem,” said. “There’s just simply not enough participation for F1 Academy to exist if it’s just a series.

“I don’t believe in segregation, but I do believe that the concept of F1 Academy it will be the rocket fuel to progression for these young drivers.”

“With the momentum that we are giving them, the exposure we’re giving them, I hope that will make it easier to go out and raise the money to further up the sport.”

Initiatives to elevate this year’s top racers to the subsequent stage in their journey to F1 are set to be announced soon.

While keeping specific details close to her chest, Wolff emphasised, “We are not just going to make sure that our winner progresses, I want my winner to progress with the best chance of success.”

Highlighting the strides made due to the visibility provided by the F1 Academy and its recruitment drives, Wolff recognised the budding interest in women pursuing racing careers. As evidence of this change, she pointed out a new initiative at UK karting circuits which has “seen an increase from 2.5% to 9% – from 18 to 65 girls – trying to qualify for the British indoor karting championship.”

This initiative, branded ‘Next Generation’, began this year in 2023 at a limited six circuits but is set for an expansion nationally and beyond in the upcoming year.

In a significant move, each of the 10 F1 teams will back an F1 Academy driver in 2024, racing in cars that reflect their team’s branding.

Wolff conveyed the commitment of the teams, “They’ve all taken a leap of faith to join us on this on this mission and we need to make sure that we’re delivering a strong package.

“One team principal in particular said to me: ‘You are just putting a plaster on the problem. Are you actually going to try and fix the problem?’

“I said: ‘Yes, we’re not here as a flashy series that is trying to gain exposure and give 15 young drivers the lime light. Because I’ve been there. I know how tough it is and I know how few women are participating in all the different levels.

“So we need to figure out how we’re going to change long term and that comes down to increasing that talent pool and that comes on to making the sport more accessible and inspiring the next generation to enter the sport.

“We’re going to show this huge global fanbase of Formula 1, that this sport actually wants to become more diverse. The sport wants to give opportunities to women and if I think of a 19-year-old girl zipping up the Ferrari race suit next year, that’s a powerful image that I can’t quantify in numbers.

“By the end of 2025 after two seasons of my vision of what F1 Academy, we will be able to have a very clear idea whether this is moving in the right direction or not.”

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About The Author

Senior Editor

Mark Phelan
Mark Phelan

Mark is a staff writer specialising in the history of Formula 1 races. Mark researches most of our historic content from teams to drivers and races. He has followed Formula 1 since 1988, and admits to having a soft spot for British drivers from James Hunt and Nigel Mansell to Lando Norris. He loves a great F1 podcast and has read pretty much every drivers biography.

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