Races

Leading the way

Leading the way

Ferrari has been at the forefront of many firsts, but the recent conclusion of the FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme marked a particularly momentous occasion: the first-ever female member of the Ferrari Driver Academy
Words

Ben Pulman

The inaugural Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme has a simple yet pioneering objective. Organised by the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, it aims to promote women in motor sport and support talented girls aged between 12 and 16 in their ambition to become professional racing drivers. The exhaustive four-part process culminated recently at our Fiorano test track, and saw the winner secure a coveted – and historic – place in the Ferrari Driver Academy.

Marco Matassa, Head of the Ferrari Driver Academy, welcomes the finalists to the Fiorano test track
Marco Matassa, Head of the Ferrari Driver Academy, welcomes the finalists to the Fiorano test track

To arrive in Maranello was an achievement in itself. Girls on Track – Rising Stars commenced in February 2020 with an FIA-selected group of 20 young women, after a worldwide search among 145 national sporting authorities. The stars, despite the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic, assembled at the Paul Ricard Circuit in France for a shoot-out, which brought the number down to 12.

Julia Ayoub demonstrates her skill and speed during a simulator session
Julia Ayoub demonstrates her skill and speed during a simulator session

A subsequent training camp at Paul Ricard whittled this to eight, who progressed to a Formula 4 training camp, again at Circuit Paul Ricard. Four finalists were ultimately chosen: 15-year-old Julia Ayoub and 14-year-old Antonella Bassani, both from Brazil, Doriane Pin, who turned 17 in January, from France, and Dutch Maya Weug, 16, born in Spain with a Belgian mother and Dutch father.

Finalist Doriane Pin gets her first glimpse of the famed Fiorano test track
Finalist Doriane Pin gets her first glimpse of the famed Fiorano test track

To choose a winner, the young women spent four busy days in Maranello, undergoing the same selection programme that all candidates for the Ferrari Driver Academy face. There were simulator driving sessions and a series of tests, looking at reaction speed and endurance, attitude and communications skills, as well physical characteristics and mental suitability to a high-pressure life as an athlete. Finally, two days were spent at the Fiorano track, driving a Formula 4 car fitted with the same Pirelli tyres as used in the Italian championship.

Scuderia Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz talks to the four finalists during a respite from driving at Fiorano
Scuderia Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz talks to the four finalists during a respite from driving at Fiorano

On hand to lend their support and encouragement at Fiorano were Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal & Managing Director Mattia Binotto, together with the Scuderia’s newest driver, Carlos Sainz. ‘We are pleased and proud that the first edition of the FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme, devised in conjunction with the Ferrari Driver Academy, now comes to a conclusion at the Fiorano track,’ Binotto commented. ‘It is a great opportunity to establish a well-structured motorsport training route for young women who want to race, while also promoting the fact that there are no gender barriers in motor racing.’

Antonella Bassani in the pit garage at Ferrari's Fiorano test track
Antonella Bassani in the pit garage at Ferrari's Fiorano test track

Following the exhaustive training camp, the judges poured over the data gathered to pick the one candidate deemed the most deserving of becoming the first female student to join the Ferrari Driver Academy. After much deliberation, the Ferrari Driver Academy chose Maya Weug, who has now secured a one-year contract at the Academy and a full season in a 2021 FIA Formula 4 Championship.

After receiving the news at home with her family, Weug said: ‘I will never forget this day! I will give my all to show the people who believed in me that I deserve to wear the Ferrari Driver Academy uniform and I can’t wait to come to Maranello to start preparing for my first season of single-seater racing.’

<span style="font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; ">The first-ever female member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Maya Weug</span>
The first-ever female member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Maya Weug

That is not the end of Girls on Track – Rising Stars though. It was not easy choosing a winner because of the calibre of the candidates, so Ferrari has decided to offer the other three finalists a test in a 488 Challenge Evo race car. And while the first competition has ended, entries will be soon open on the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission portal for the second Girls on Track – Rising Stars contest. Once again four new female candidates will make it to Maranello, and fight to be the second young woman to join the Ferrari Driver Academy.

Maya Weug analyses her on-track data during a session at Fiorano
Maya Weug analyses her on-track data during a session at Fiorano

 

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