Will Alpine give Sophia Floersch and Abbi Pulling an F1 test?
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer says it could roll out its demo car to give its female academy drivers a taste of F1 machinery
Alpine could use its demo car to give the female racers in its young driver academy their first experience in F1 machinery, team principal Otmar Szafnauer has suggested to TG.
The team announced plans to focus on female talent through its Rac(H)er initiative last year, and last month revealed that it had selected half a dozen girls aged from 10 to 15 to support through karting.
Meanwhile Sophia Floersch and Abbi Pulling have joined the Alpine Academy for 2023, with the former set to compete in the F3 championship and the latter in the new, female-only F1 Academy later this season.
Asked by TG if these drivers could look forward to an F1 test session some day, Szafnauer replied: “The hope is that, yes, the ladies, the young girls that we’re supporting one day will get into a Formula 1 car and become F1 drivers. That is the hope.
“Will we give them a test? We do have a demo team which runs a two-year-old car, and we’ve put that to good use. We’ve run some of the current Formula 1 drivers in the demo car alongside our drivers, so it’s a good way to be able to compare driver ability.
“So I wouldn’t be surprised in the future - although we don’t have a plan yet - that we do that.”
A handful of F1 teams employ female drivers in development and ambassadorial roles, most notably three-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick at Williams and Jessica Hawkins - who TG caught up with at the Abu Dhabi GP in November - at Aston Martin.
However, seemingly only one woman has had the chance to run an F1 car properly since newly-appointed F1 Academy boss Susie Wolff completed her final FP1 outing for Williams at Silverstone in 2015. That was former Sauber and Alfa Romeo development driver Tatiana Calderon, who got 100km of running in the aftermath of the Mexican Grand Prix in 2018, followed by a two-day shakedown at Fiorano in Sauber’s 2013 machine.
“For me, there is no limiting factor that could explain why a woman would perform less than a man,” Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi explained to TG at the British GP last year. “It’s really a matter of levelling the playing field and pushing the areas where the girls are probably stronger than the boys.”
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