Line-up announced for More than Equal’s new female driver development programme

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The group includes six promising 13-14-year-olds from Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, Malaysia, Slovakia and the UK, who will all now follow a technical and tactical coaching and development programme that aims to accelerate at least one of them onto the Grand Prix grid.

A further four drivers under the age of 13 from Italy, Japan, Poland and the UK will join a new preparation programme that aims to further develop their talents with age-appropriate coaching and support, with a view to them joining the full programme in the future.

The drivers selected for the main group were Ivonn Simeonova, from Austria; Katrina Thung, from Malaysia; Kristýna Kalistová, from the Czech Republic; Lana Flack, from Australia; Laura Bubenová of Slovakia; and the UK’s Skye Parker.

Coulthard said: “This is a hugely exciting moment. This group of talented young drivers will now be part of a programme which has been designed with their age and their gender in mind, with specialist coaches supporting their journey to maximise their potential.”

Levelling the balance

There have been more than 1,000 F1 races since 1950 with 772 different drivers participating over the years – yet just FIVE female drivers have ever tried to qualify for an event and just TWO have ever made it into a race.

The first was Maria Teresa de Filippis, who started three races and finished 10th in the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix and the second Italian Lella Lombardi, 17 years later, who drove for RAM, March, Williams and Brabham and was sixth in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.

Giovanna Amati was the last woman to enter an F1 race, in 1992, but having failed to qualify three times she was replaced by Damon Hill. Since then, five women have tested or had F1 demo runs – Sarah Fisher, Katherine Legge, Susie Wolff, Maria de Villota and Jess Hawkins.

With almost 50 years now passed since the last time a female driver competed in F1, More than Equal’s philosophy is to identify the barriers that prevent women and girls from excelling in motorsport through data and insight, and utilise an evidence-based approach to bridge the gender performance gap. With women now seen in many different high-performance roles, such as fighter pilots and astronauts, why not in F1?

A new type of development programme

The More than Equal Driver Development Programme takes an Olympic-style approach to both early talent detection and to providing an age-appropriate, high-performance coaching environment designed to maximise the potential of the female athlete. It is the first of its kind within motorsport built specifically with the female driver in mind.

Coulthard co-founded More than Equal with entrepreneur-philanthropist Karel Komárek and brought in sport and business experts Ali Donnelly, of Sport England, as CEO; Chair Karen Webb Moss, from the IOC and Aquatics GB; and Kate Beavan, from F1, as Strategic Advisor.

Former British Cycling coach Tom Stanton, who has previously developed Olympic-level coaching programmes, is the Head of Driver Development and the driver coaches include Jordan King and Sarah Moore. All three were central to the selection process.

The candidates were chosen using the programme’s in-house global talent ranking system, which allows the comparison of different individuals without them racing in the same series or event and also analysed each contender as a person, an athlete and a performer.

Leading evidence-based coaching group Hintsa Performance, together with More than Equal’s coaching staff, will now provide a bespoke programme of technical and tactical coaching, alongside physical preparation, and personal development, to coach, mentor and support the girls’ careers.

Donnelly said: “We want to show that with the right support early in their career, we can accelerate the development of talented female drivers so that they can have an equal opportunity to reach the top of the sport.”

Komárek added: “Supporting these emerging talents at a critical stage in their development builds on our commitment to equality of opportunity and removing the barriers which have limited women in motorsport for decades.”

Last year, More than Equal published its first research report titled ‘Inside Track’, identifying the barriers that girls and women face in motorsport and proposing solutions to make a difference.

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