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  • Writer's pictureDrew Bentham

Lia Block provides huge boost for women in F1

Lia Block set to drive a Williams supported drive in the 2024 F1 Academy

At the age of 17, Lia Block has already achieved more than most people her age. But the recent news that Williams F1 team will support her through the F1 Academy season in 2024 will elevate her success to dizzying new heights.

Lia and Ken Block

It seems flippant to say that this past year has been a roller coaster ride of emotions but it really has. After losing her Hoonigan Dad, Ken Block in January, Lia stepped up to fill Ken's spotlight and took the motorsport world by storm. Alongside her regular co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino, the pair have enjoyed success in the American Rally Association this year, reaching 4th overall and winning the 2WD ARA class. Lia has also been seen out in some amazing machinery, including the Pikes Peak tribute run in the Hoonipigasus 1400hp Porsche race car, completing the latter half of the Extreme E championship and a run in her dads Escort Cosworth in the Lake Superior Rally. 2023 seems to have been her year going from strength to strength.

F1 Academy

F1 Academy - In brief

In 2023 F1 launched an all new category designed to develop and prepare female drivers and put them on the road to Formula 1. This year there were 21 races over 7 rounds, all held on Grand Prix weekends, giving the drivers valuable seat time on some of the most challenging circuits. In all, 5 teams fielded 15 drivers with Marta García coming out on top with Prema Racing and a 56 point lead over second place Léna Bühler.

For 2024, the series will kick off in Saudi Arabia in March, all seven rounds acting as a support series to Formula 1. Next year, all 10 F1 teams will also provide a driver to the series and have their livery on one car.

So what of 2024?

Lia Block will join fellow women drivers from this year alongside some already welcomed names to the F1 series. Earlier this year McLaren announced that Bianca Bustamante would join its driver development programme for her second year, switching from Prema to ART.

She began karting and rallying as an 11-year-old, however her debut in the F1 Academy will mark her first full season of open-wheel racing. Lia has recently undertaken testing in open-wheel cars in preparation for this new challenge.

“I am so excited to be joining the Williams Driver Academy and competing in F1 Academy in 2024,” she shared following the announcement. This is something I never could have dreamed of. I can’t wait to embrace this new experience and learn as much as possible.”

James Vowles, Williams' Team Principal, added:

“We are excited to welcome Lia to Williams Racing as our F1 Academy driver for 2024. Lia has already achieved a tremendous amount in motorsport, has incredible natural talent, and the champion mindset and dedication to make a success of her journey into open-wheel racing."

Whilst each of the drivers have an obvious talent and speed, the existing fame and fan support she brings, will no doubt benefit the series, drawing in a widespread media attention required for its future. For as much as this is a great opportunity, raising awareness and showcasing women in a top level series is exactly what the sport needs if it's to attract more women into the next generation of future stars. I for one would like to see a blending of F1 and the W series into an open F1 grid running alongside a secondary series with equal Tv and media coverage. I have no problem with exclusivity, but there is far too much talent sitting on the sidelines, being wasted. F1 needs to crack open the doors a little more and let in some fresh air and light.

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