F1 has fallen behind IndyCar on diversity – where is its feeder team?


The US racing ladder has teams to help both women and ethnic minorities get into motor sport – why is F1 not doing the same?


IndyCar has led the way in both having all female and ethnic minority teams – why is F1 falling behind?


Formula 1 is meant to be the best of the best: engineers, drivers and crew drawn from the best that the world has to offer.

But you just need to glance at the paddock to see that it’s falling short: a global talent pool isn’t mainly made up of white men from northern Europe.

Diversity in F1 can’t be just a box-ticking exercise. It’s essential if it really wants to be the world’s leading racing series, but the reality is it’s falling behind.

Giovanna Amati at the 1992 F1 Mexican Grand Prix

Giovanna Amati was the last woman to be entered for an F1 race, driving at three GP weekends on ’92


There hasn’t been a female attempting to qualify for an F1 grand prix weekend Giovanna Amati – over 30 years ago – and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali limply stated recently that he couldn’t see a female driver in F1 in the next “five years”.

Lewis Hamilton has made the running when it comes to racial diversity, but there are few obvious candidates to replace him when he retires.

F1 could be grabbing the situation by the scruff of the neck right now, as other series such as IndyCar, WEC and IMSA already are.

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Each have feeder teams for either women or people of ethnic minorities in their top series and the question that F1 should be asking itself is, ‘Why don’t we?’

Funding a team where driver and crew roles are largely reserved for under-represented groups is the obvious answer to racing’s major diversity barriers: the lack of role models and the budget required to reach the top.

It would be a huge undertaking, but what is F1 if not ambitious?

Bringing back customer cars, paid for by a diversity fund — with a significant contribution from commercial rights owners’ Liberty — would provide a route in for those less represented in the sport.

Lower-ranking teams could be given the opportunity to supply and run the cars, with the benefit of being able to gather additional data to offset the logistics of running four cars.

Sophia Floersch in her Women in Motorsport LMP2 car racing at Le Mans

WEC has already seen all-female teams with Richard Mille and Iron Dames

Xavi Bonilla / DPPI

From a purely commercial perspective, if Liberty’s goal is to continue growing its fanbase across the world, can it really afford a grid without a single female driver or risk one that’s made up entirely of white drivers?

If the idea of setting a customer feeder team is too much for the head honchos to stomach, then why not an F2 or F3 outfit?

They are, by their very nature, customer spec series. Perfect for a feeder team to be set up in.

For those who would argue it would dilute the competition, the need for sponsorship and with it pay drivers already makes all levels of motor sport contrived to some degree – the governing body creating a gateway team is arguably less so.

Adding weight to the idea is that the drivers are there. Simona de Silvestro, part of IndyCar’s female-centred Paretta Autosport, was previously a development driver for Sauber, as was Tatiana Calderon. The former is certainly a strong racer, meaning there’s no reason why she couldn’t compete in F1 with the right amount of preparation.

The same would surely go for Sophia Floersch, currently racing in ELMS, Lilou Wadoux, driving in WEC, and Katherine Legge in IMSA. These are not the only examples.

The closest F1 is to a female racer appears to be Alpine’s ‘Race(H)er’ project to help bring a female through from karting within ten years, but no drivers have yet been announced.

McLaren does have Ugo Ugochukwu in its junior ranks, but with the young black driver currently competing in British F4, he is a long way from making it to the top.

An obvious candidate for a team to help racial diversity – were it to compete in F2 or F3 – would be the American Myles Rowe, who recently only just missed out on the USF2000 series (equivalent to F3). The FIA should be falling over itself to offer him a test in one of its junior categories.


Where is the next black F1 driver coming from to step into Hamilton’s shoes?

And while we wait, multiple series are leaving F1 in their dust on diversity.

WEC has both the Richard Mille and Iron Dames teams as a platform for female drivers at the top level in their discipline (aided by the FIA’s Women in Motor Sport initiative), whilst Extreme E has gender equal driver pairings as a rule.

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But the championship really leading the way by some distance is IndyCar, which is breaking boundaries with its Race for Equality and Change initiative, supported and strongly pushed forward by series CEO Roger Penske.

IndyCar has long been more amenable to women competing with men. It already has a female pole-sitter in Sarah Fisher and race-winner in Danica Patrick, and has now funded the female-centred Paretta Autosport team’s entry into the championship.

Run by automotive executive Beth Paretta, the squad made its debut in the Indy 500 last season with IndyCar podium-finisher De Silvestro behind the wheel.

“I knew that there are women in racing; we tend to all know each other,” Paretta told the Burn It All Down podcast. “My light bulb moment was like, ‘Well, if we grab those women that are scattered about and put them on one team, it makes a pretty compelling visual.

“It really is for everybody and can be for everybody and should be for everybody because, you have the drivers who can even start literally as five-year-olds and come up the path.”


De Silvestro racing for Paretta at Laguna Seca last weekend


Despite having a six-year IndyCar hiatus with her last entry in 2015, De Silvestro has competed respectably in four more races for Paretta this year, finishing the season finale at Laguna Seca 22nd out of the 25 cars left running, ahead of experienced ‘team-mate’ Conor Daly – who drives for Ed Carpenter Racing, which essentially facilitates the Paretta entry – and two-time Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato.

Additional Paretta race entries are planned for next year. Fellow female racer Calderon competed for AJ Foyt earlier this season, and two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick will test for Andretti’s Indy Lights team later this year.

Lower down the US junior ladder, Roger Penske and IndyCar are doing sterling work in helping those from ethnic minority backgrounds get into motor sport too, via the Force Indy team.

Making its debut in the USF2000 series (equivalent to F3) last year with young black racer Rowe, the team won a race in its first season before jumping up to the second-tier Indy Lights championship for 2022 with Ernie Francis Jr.

Penske has continued to fund Rowe in USF2000 this year, where he narrowly missed out on the title after taking five wins.

The dynamism in these initiatives makes F1’s efforts look paltry to some degree. IndyCar isn’t just “exploring ways” to make things more accessible or providing work experience internships, it’s providing a direct entrance to the sport straight away.

Despite the FIA’s efforts with Women in Motor Sport and F1’s Diversity and Inclusion programme, they haven’t even managed an annual test session or looked at running prospective drivers in free practice sessions.

Myles Rowe USF2000 driver

Talented racer Myles Rowe has been helped by Roger Penske to keep his career going


Alpine gave Abbi Pulling and Aseel Al Hamad the opportunity to sample an F1 car by driving it around Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh, becoming the first women to do so in the country but also hardly pedal-to-the-metal stuff.

And when Motor Sport asked Reid where the next black F1 superstar was coming from, who could step into the shoes of Hamilton when he retired, the Force Indy boss said he simply didn’t know.

As things stand, F1 is falling behind.