This Monday and Tuesday, the participants of the Girls On Track Rising Stars programme, created by the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, met for the first time in Le Castellet at the Paul Ricard circuit. The shootout took place, which was the first step in deciding which girl will do a full season in Formula 4 with the backing of the highly esteemed Ferrari Driver Academy.
The FIA WIM Commission released the final list of participants of the programme on October 8. Unfortunately, Australian Alice Buckley could not make it due to COVID-related travel restrictions, and Polish Natalia Gladysz is also not on the final list, for unknown reasons.
During the weekend before the shootout, the girls flew in to France from fourteen different countries and five different continents. The first introductions were made on Sunday evening, where the drivers finally met their rivals. There were also some encouraging words from Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, and Ferrari Driver Academy and F2 drivers Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott, who stressed that the most important thing was to have fun. Afterwards, some seat adjustments were made to the Praga Karts the girls would be driving in for the next two days.
“Don’t worry about the boys. You will find out later in your life there is a lot of talk, but normally the women take care of the business.” – Sebastian Vettel
The actual activities started on Monday morning with a track walk around Paul Ricard, where the young participants were clothed in their blue Girls On Track race suits and custom made (Ferrari-)red face masks. There was a safety briefing and a photoshoot, after which it was time to step into the karts for the first time. The drivers were guided by the Winfield Racing School. Stepping out of the karts too soon for their liking, the girls had a debrief session, before doing some physical and mental training together with 321 Perform, the training centre that also coaches drivers like Alex Albon, Jenson Button, and Tatiana Calderon.
Being a famous racing driver comes with a lot of media attention, and being a female racing driver could put one in the spotlight even more. Therefore there was a media training planned on Monday afternoon, which also made the girls do some practical exercises. At the end of the day, FIA WIM president Michèle Mouton visited the circuit and gave the girls some last words of support and advice. Tuesday was going to be the most important day of the shootout, so the participants headed to bed early in full preparation.
“I enjoyed every single minute of Day 1. The girls are lovely and we get on really well. Now it’s time for another busy day at Paul Ricard!” – Toni Naudé
Tuesday was the Selection Day. On this day, 12 drivers were to be selected to partake in the three-day training camp that will take place starting on Wednesday. The day started with a general briefing and some words of good luck. After some interviews for the FIA WIM social pages, the girls met FIA president Jean Todt. Then it was time for the real reason they travelled from all over the world to Le Castellet; to go racing. The Selection consisted of a few karting rounds and some physical and mental workshops. The karting was made up of a warm-up, a qualifying session, superpole, and a 15-lap race, which was all done in two groups and guided by the Winfield Racing School. The judges looked on with a strict eye, to determine which girls had the most potential and would move on to the next stage. One of the judges was ELMS star Michelle Gatting, arriving at Paul Ricard only two days after finishing on the 4 Hours of Monza podium. The twelve drivers who were selected at the end of the day to take part in the three-day training camp are:
The training camp will focus on driving skills, performance analysis and progression. There will also be more workshops from 321 Perform. This Friday, on October 16, up to eight drivers will be selected to move on to the Formula 4 focused training camp at Paul Ricard on 2,3 and 4 November.
“We still got a long way to go, but I keep focused on evolving, learning every day and to be one of the 8 selected to the next stage. Thank you guys for all the support!” – Antonella Bassani
“It is an amazing opportunity and I have learnt a lot these days. And of course I have loads of fun with the girls!😁😁” – Esmee Kosterman