After some intense karting training in the middle of October, the final eight Rising Stars participants returned to Paul Ricard for the next stage of the program, the F4 training camp, this week. Some of the girls, like Juju Noda and Doriane Pin, already had experience in F4 cars. For others, the single seaters were completely new.
The girls who had become friends already saw each other again after 2,5 weeks, and were full of excitement for this next stage. Monday started with an introduction and a track walk. The 3.8 kilometre configuration of the Paul Ricard track was used for the first time, so the instructors from the Winfield Racing School helped the drivers understand this circuit and gave them some pointers. After the track walk, it was time for a seat fitting in the Winfield F4 car they would be driving this week. For some of the drivers, this was their very first time in an F4 car.
Many professional racing drivers will say the most important thing to prepare for a race is to use the simulator, so that’s where the girls were headed next. They then met Le Mans 1998 winner and GT World Champion Stéphane Ortelli, who would be one of the professionals to pick which girls would go through to the next round. After a last briefing and a drawing of groups for the following days, the first day of the F4 training camp came to an end.
The drivers were divided into two groups of four for the first F4 practices. Ferrari Driver Academy driver Arthur Leclerc drove to Le Castellet on Tuesday to set a reference lap in the car for the aspiring FDA drivers to benchmark themselves against. Arthur was also part of the jury for this week. The Tuesday was not all about driving though, as the girls also joined a technical workshop with Ferrari engineers.
“We need to see more women in motorsport because we want some change; I would be happy to see if a girl can reach the top level in Formula One, that would be great to see.” – Arthur Leclerc (FIA WIM website)
The knives were being sharpened on Wednesday. After a small warm-up session, it was time for qualifying. The fastest driver would receive a Pirelli tyre at the end of the day, courtesy of the FIA WIM Rising Stars partner. Frenchwoman Doriane Pin was the fastest of all, and thus had some heavier luggage to bring back home. It’s okay, she lives just a 3,5-hour drive away from the colourful circuit. After the 16-lap race, the drivers had some individual interviews with the jury. The day ended with a workshop about safety and medical issues, held by the promoters of the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign. In the evening, the four finalists were announced. These are 15-year-old Brazilian Julia Ayoub, 15-year-old Brazilian Antonella Bassani, 16-year-old French Doriane Pin, and 16-year-old Dutch/Belgian Maya Weug.
“The level has been high and it has been extremely encouraging to see how much the drivers have progressed since the shoot-out. They have shown real commitment to advancing their careers both on and off the track and it has been a pleasure to witness their on-going development.” – Cathy Muller (FIA WIM website)
These four drivers will take part in one final training camp at the Ferrari Driver Academy base in Maranello, from 9-13 November. After this last training camp, one of the drivers could be awarded a one-year contract with the FDA and a full F4 season in 2021.
“I’m very happy and even more motivated to keep learning and give my best in all sessions. Thank you for all the support. Let’s go!” – Antonella Bassani
“I’m so happy that I don’t even know how to explain this to you all!!! All I can think about is to be pushing at Ferrari’s official track.” – Julia Ayoub