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Formula 1

Nine things to watch as F1 Academy steps into the spotlight

by Josh Suttill
10 min read

Formula 1's all-female series F1 Academy will be holding all seven of its 2024 rounds at F1 races this season, the first of which will take place at this week's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. 

The fledging championship is taking a proper step into the spotlight, having run just one of the events of its inaugural season on the F1 support bill last year. 

All 10 F1 teams are supporting one driver, who will race in that team's livery in the Formula 4-level series. The remaining drivers will be sponsored by a series partner or running in series branding. 

There are also F1 superlicence points on offer for the first time, with the 2024 champion set to receive 10 points, a quarter of what's needed to qualify for an F1 superlicence.

Ahead of the season opener, we've picked out nine things to watch this year: 

The title favourite

Doriane Pin

She's yet to even race in F1 Academy but the clear title favourite heading into 2024 is Doriane Pin. 

Even before Mercedes signed her to its driver academy earlier this year, Pin had made waves in the sportscar world as one of the brightest young stars in the World Endurance Championship.

She's continuing to impress in WEC but will dovetail that alongside a first proper season in single-seaters.

The 20-year-old already kicked off that programme late last year when she won a race and earned three other podiums in her first two weekends in Formula 4 at Sepang, as part of the South East Asia F4 series.

Pin followed that up by racing alongside other F1 juniors in the new benchmark winter F4 series, F4 UAE, where she was right among the frontrunners and won on her final weekend in the series last month. 

Pin racing in Formula 4 UAE

Her pace has been ominously quick across pre-season testing and having joined the Prema team that took Marta Garcia to the first-ever F1 Academy title, it's easy to see Pin as the 2024 title favourite. 

There's already great anticipation of where her future lies but, for now, it's down to Pin to deliver Mercedes its first F1 Academy crown. 

Ferrari's first female F1 junior

Pin's Prema team-mate Maya Weug is slated to be her closest competition in F1 Academy this year. 

Weug became the first female member of Ferrari's driver academy at the end of 2021 and already has a proven track record in mixed-gender F4, having scored points nine times during her second year in Italian F4. 

She stepped up to the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine [FRECA] - an intermediate step between Formula 3 and Formula 4 - in 2023, and scored points on six occasions to finish 17th with one of the smallest teams on the grid, KIC Motorsport. 

To the surprise of some, Ferrari's taken Weug a step back down the ladder to F1 Academy for 2024. 

Regardless of whether that's the right move for her career or not, it does leave her as one of the title favourites and with a good chance of securing the funding and opportunity to race in FRECA once more, as FRECA teams can run a fourth car for a driver who finished in the top three in F1 Academy. 

Weug has been among Pin's closest challengers in pre-season testing and there's little reason to expect that to change from this weekend. 

A fifth of the grid is Red Bull-backed 

No F1 team is backing more drivers in the series than Red Bull, which is supporting all three MP Motorsport drivers: sisters Hamda and Amna Al Qubaisi and Dutchwoman Emely de Heus.

All three drivers won races in the inaugural season and Hamda Al Qubaisi is the highest-placed second-year driver, having placed third in 2023. 

Both Al Qubaisis have extensive F4 experience as does de Heus, having raced in Spanish F4 in 2021 and F1 Academy last year. 

Hamda is the biggest title threat and will be appropriately racing in Red Bull Racing colours, while sister Amna's car will be RB-themed. De Heus appears to be racing in a 'Red Bull'-branded car.

Quantity doesn't guarantee Red Bull title success, as Red Bull having six juniors in Formula 2 last year proved (none of them finished inside the top three). But it does seem likely a Red Bull-backed driver will be on the top step of the podium at some point in 2024, given the talent among the trio. 

Pulling and Rodin's mission to strike back

One of the biggest disappointments versus pre-season expectations in F1 Academy last year was Alpine junior Abbi Pulling not mounting the title challenge most expected she would. 

The 20-year-old was a regular podium finisher in British F4 before her funding dried up and she lost her seat. W Series offered her a reprieve and Pulling was consistently at the front in the year and a half she spent there. 

So when Pulling was announced as one of the drivers for the inaugural F1 Academy season, title favourite status soon came her way. 

It started well when Pulling grabbed pole position for two races at the season-opening Red Bull Ring round, but things quickly went awry when she and her Rodin Carlin (now just Rodin) team-mates were disqualified for a technical infringement.

Pulling made a good recovery but that electric pace wasn't shown again until she scored back-to-back pole positions at Monza and Paul Ricard in July.

Pulling finished on the podium in a third of last year's races (seven in 21) but never tasted victory, with team-mate Jessica Edgar securing the team's only victory of the season.

In 2024, Pulling's desperate to put that right, having not won in single-seaters despite coming close in both British F4 and W Series as well.

She's been doing a lot of work behind the scenes with a psychological performance coach over the winter to try to improve her focus so she doesn't "latch on to things too much".

“I’m very guilty of putting too much pressure on myself and setting my expectations quite high,” Pulling told F1 Academy's website.

“I think I’m capable of getting results, but sometimes maybe overthink it. So, just focusing on the process and what it takes to get that done. It’s a similar approach that I’ve had in the past, but it’s reinforcing it."

Pulling will also return to British F4 where she has plenty of unfinished business and a proven track record.

A more consistent McLaren junior

Bianca Bustamante was the first driver confirmed for F1 Academy this year alongside a landmark deal to be the first female McLaren F1 junior.

Bustamante won twice last year but didn't have the consistency of her championship-winning Prema team-mate Garcia.

The 19-year-old only made her single-seater debut in 2022 and the rough edges were visible during key moments last year.

But there was also a real turn of speed and the potential to be a title contender in 2024. With a rule ensuring drivers can't race in F1 Academy for more than two seasons, there would be no better time for Bustamante to deliver with the full support of McLaren and single-seater behemoth ART Grand Prix behind her.

A rookie surprise

Pin and Weug are the most high-profile rookies on the grid but they're far from the only rookies capable of surprising.

As well as Weug, Ferrari also has Aurelia Nobels (pictured above) in the series. She'll be racing in the colours of series partner Puma but is a Ferrari-backed driver.

Like Pin, she raced in F4 UAE, but struggled to make an impact in her two weekends in the series.

Aston Martin-backed Tina Hausmann is lining up alongside Pin and Weug at Prema but will have her work cut out to match her two more experienced team-mates. It may well be a learning year for her before a potential title challenge in 2025.

One of the most exciting rookies is new Williams junior Lia Block, who became the youngest driver ever to win a major American rally championship when she claimed the Open 2WD title last year.

The 17-year-old - the daughter of the late Ken Block - begun her transition to single-seaters with a campaign in the winter Spanish F4 series (Formula Winter Series).

Her results compared to returnees Carrie Schreiner (Sauber-backed) and Bustamante (McLaren) suggest points will be the target this year, rather than podiums. But there's possibly huge potential for ART GP and Williams to unlock in Block.

Haas F1 junior Chloe Chambers (Campos Racing) has already won a race in Formula Regional Oceania (previously the Toyota Racing Series) and should be far more successful than the one point she acquired in her sole W Series campaign in 2022.


New for 2024 are wildcard entries where F1 Academy and Prema can help support a one-off entry for a driver local to the region of that round.

For the Saudi Arabian GP this week, it's 32-year-old Reema Juffali who raced in the likes of British F4 and GB3 (previously British F3), and more recently competed in GT World Challenge Europe last year.

The series is yet to confirm any wildcards for its other rounds at Miami, Barcelona, Zandvoort, Singapore, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

The progress of F1 Academy's first champion

A lot of eyes will be on the progress of F1 Academy's first-ever champion Garcia, who is stepping up to FRECA in 2024 with Prema.

Garcia's had a whirlwind of a career so far. She was signed and later dropped by Renault's F1 junior programme before returning to single-seaters in W Series in 2019, winning the fourth-ever race and finishing the year in fourth.

A troubled 2021 followed but she was back on form in 2022 and looked more complete than ever last year when she was the dominant F1 Academy champion, taking seven wins from 21 races.

Her three years in W Series should be particularly valuable to Garcia, who will join FRECA among the best-prepared rookies in the field and with defending champions Prema.

Last year's F1 Academy runner-up Lena Buhler will also be racing in FRECA full-time with ART GP. Buhler already has a season of FRECA under her belt, as she finished 38th in the championship in 2021, never finishing higher than 20th in a race. She returns to the series a more complete driver.

Just how well Garcia and Buhler do remains to be seen. The FRECA grid regularly swells to just short of 30 cars so even scoring a point (finishing in the top 10) can be challenging.

Somewhat unfairly, their relative success will be used to judge the quality of F1 Academy. But they are simply the first champion and runner-up in a long line of F1 Academy graduates and are not the sole determining factor of whether F1 Academy has succeeded or failed.

The F1 support bill effect

F1 Academy won't have its infamous year one problem of no live timing nor TV broadcast of its races (which only changed for its debut on the F1 support bill at Austin).

In the UK, it will be broadcast on Sky Sports F1, just like fellow F1 supports Formula 2 and Formula 3.

The weekends have slimmed down from three races to two versus last year, in part to accommodate F1's busy schedule. When W Series supported F1, much of its calendar was dictated by which F1 weekends had space available.

Having every round alongside F1 adds an extra spotlight on the drivers, teams and series. This is primarily a good thing, given many of these young drivers need exposure to secure sponsorship for future opportunities.

But inevitability it will come with some downsides. How the F1 teams and series help manage the drivers through those moments will be highly important.

F1 Academy is now where a lot of people thought it should have started, but 2023 at least gave the series time to iron out any kinks away from the mass attention of an F1 weekend.

Now it has a bigger platform to prove it should exist and showcase the growth of some future stars.

F1 Academy 2024 grid 

Doriane Pin (Mercedes)
Maya Weug (Ferrari)
Tina Hausmann (Aston Martin)

MP Motorsport
Hamda Al Qubaisi (Red Bull)
Amna Al Qubaisi (RB)
Emely de Heus (Red Bull*)

Abbi Pulling (Rodin)
Lola Lovinfosse (Charlotte Tilbury)
Jessica Edgar (F1 Academy)

ART Grand Prix
Bianca Bustamante (McLaren)
Lia Block (Williams)
Aurelia Nobels (Puma/Ferrari*)

Campos Racing
Nerea Marti (Tommy Hilfiger)
Chloe Chambers (Haas)
Carrie Schreiner (Sauber)

*Member of that driver academy but not officially backed by an F1 team

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