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10 female racing stars of the future

by Elliot Wood

Photo: Lola Lovinfosse

Since 2012, Formula Scout has annually identified the top talents in karting to look out for in junior single-seaters in the years beyond. In this special female-only edition, we’re naming the best from karts and cars

In the last five years, karting has been the biggest area of growth in motorsport when it comes to female license holders in many nations, and it is this all-important statistic that will ultimately pave the way for the long-awaited return of a woman racing on the Formula 1 grid.

Some of the young karters who started their participation off the back of Venturi Formula E boss Susie Wolff’s Dare 2 Be Different organisation and other prominent initiatives being launched in 2016, are now racing in the top global tournaments and making waves in the motorsport world.

Here are six internationally competing karters, and four on-the-rise car racers, who could make it to F1 in the future.

Key Rotax Max (MAX), Trent Valley Kart Club (TVKC), Russian Circuit Racing Series (RCRS)

 

Mathilda Olsson SWEDEN 18y/o
5th in 2020 MAX Euro Winter Cup – Senior, 2019 MAX Euro Trophy champion – Senior, 3rd in 2018 MAX Euro Trophy – Senior

Swedish star Mathilda Olsson made it into Formula Scout’s list of the top karting talents last year with an incredibly assured title in the Senior category of the Rotax Max Euro Trophy, a series which she had finished third in the year before.

Rotax Max is a spec-engined rival category to the more prominently known OK, and the level of competition is high in all of the main series. While the Euro Trophy wasn’t the highest calibre of events, it was won by Olsson in a classy style that built on lessons she had learned earlier in 2019, and costs less than the CIK-FIA competitions.

Olsson started her year in the Rotax Euro Open at Genk, where she was on the pace but a dud heat left her ninth on the grid for the first final. She charged through to second in that, then repeated the result in race two.

The Euro Trophy season began proper at Adria, where she was fastest in pre-event testing, free practice and qualifying. The split-session format kept her off pole, but she won her heats anyway then dominated the two points-paying final races.

Kristianstad was much of the same, but against additional adversity. An awful qualifying session on home soil left her way down the order, but she charged to sixth in both of her heats. She then flew past the field to win the first main race. Race two was a defensive job, which worked well until the very final corner of the race and led to a 0.173 second loss.

The Wackersdorf season finale also began with qualifying trouble that went beyond laptimes, but was of little consequence as she was already champion. Again, she almost won in the heats, then took victory and a second place in the two main races.

Olsson has stuck with the Strawberry Racing team she has already shared a significant amount of success with for 2020, and got the year off to a winning start in the winter Rotax competitions before the coronavirus pandemic stopped racing.

Ella Stevens ENGLAND 13y/o
2020 TVKC Winter champion – X30 Mini, 13th in 2019 British IAME Cadet Championship, 2017 BirelART UK champion – Cadet

W Series racer and two-time Formula Renault champion Alice Powell coaches many drivers in karting, and the protege with the most expectation on their shoulders is fellow Briton Ella Stevens.

In 2017 she won Birel ART’s British Cadet championship, doing so with a race to spare despite losing points early in the year as she was caught out in some areas of her racecraft due to her inexperience. That grid had strong female participation within the greater picture of British karting, but also marked a rare occasion where a female driver had won a British title.

Attacking the British Super One Championship and Little Green Man Series in IAME Cadet karts the next year as a privateer was not going to lend itself to top results, but in the latter series still put a title to her name in the privateer class. She was 16th overall in both series, despite missing races, and was the top privateer finisher several times in the more financially competitive Super One series. Unfortunately some strong overall results went amiss due to contact on-track.

Stevens joined Fusion Motorsport for her second attempt at the two series, but her 2019 got off to a bad start in the winter competitions with collisions and engine issues for which she was not to blame. A first win was also lost to a photo finish decided on who had fastest race lap.

Her main campaigns had messy beginnings that were difficult to shake off, but the pace was clearly there to fight near the front and she claimed a British championship pole but no podiums. Given her stellar 2017, the pressure was now on for Stevens heading into winter and her step up to X30 Mini machinery.

From the off, the larger karts suited Stevens better and she won Trent Valley Kart Club’s winter title. With that kind of confidence boost, she very well could have added another national crown to her resume this year (and may still do).

Cecilia Hedqvist SWEDEN 16y/o
7th in 2019 Swedish Championship, 4th in ’19 Swedish Kart League – OK, 19th in ’18 Swedish Junior Championship

Photo: Cecilia Hedqvist

One set of Swedish relations is coaching another in the case of Cecilia Hedqvist and her cousin Oliver, who have benefited from the support of touring car stars Andreas and Jessica Backman.

Hedqvist was set for a big year prior to coronavirus’s pausing of proceedings, and has come a long way since taking her first podium in a kart in 2016. She had the Backmans helping her by then, and results quickly improved after as she came third in the Junior 60 category of the North Sweden Cup the year after after several seasons of limited progress in the series.

For 2018 she moved up to OK and X30 junior karts, and entered major international competitions as well as building her reputation at home. Podiums were hard to come by, but the experience was priceless and she actually made her first race appearance abroad in the very different world of the top level OK karts in Trofeo Andrea Margutti at the start of the year.

Her first OKJ races in the Swedish championship came after, and her pace was immediately evident. The combination of illness, injury and bad luck sapped any momentum though due to missing races, but a return to regional competition did bring Hedqvist’s first ever win and a confidence boost in the rainy conditions she usually struggled in.

That year’s CIK-FIA World Championship was in Sweden, so Hedqvist joined local team Ward Racing for the senior tournament and came 96th overall. The confidence curve continued, and her year ended with a scholarship win that enabled a full-time move to OK karts with Ward for 2019.

She came an impressive seventh in the Swedish national championship – won by Ferrari junior Dino Beganovic – and fourth in the slightly lower profile Swedish Kart League but had a tough time on her world championship return. A second year spent in the category promised much more in 2020.

Maya Weug SPAIN 15/o
Currently 25th in 2020 WSK Super Master Series – OK, 16th in 2018 CIK-FIA World Championship – OKJ

Photo: Birel ART

Back in 2016, Maya Weug beat SMP Racing junior Kirill Smal and Mercedes-Benz F1 junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli to win the WSK Final Cup for 60 Mini karts. She beat both again in WSK’s Night Edition, and was one of the top drivers in the traditional pre- and post-season tournaments in Italy. In the national championship she was only 15th, but she’d certainly made an impact.

A move up to OKJ beckoned for 2017, and the only Italian highlight was 12th in WSK Final Cup. It was in Britain where she starred the most, qualifying behind only Sauber junior Harry Thompson in the X30 Junior element of the British Kartmasters Grand Prix and was very unlucky to only finish 28th in the final race. Weug’s efforts were recognised with the ‘Spirit of…’ award.

She returned to the PFI International circuit for the world championship, this time in an OKJ kart, and came 36th in a grid packed with current single-seater stars. There was cautious expectation that Weug could be at the very front in her second season at that level, but it didn’t prove to be the case.

The year started with 22nd in the WSK Super Master Series, with the only event where her pace really merited better was the world championship in Sweden. She finished 16th this time, once again in a grid filled to the brim with talent.

Birel ART brought Weug on board as a factory driver and part of the Richard Mille Young Talent Academy for her graduation to senior karts last year, and it was another tricky but promising season against the highest calibre opposition. Qualifying struggles left her 23rd in the Super Master Series, and she was 51st and 61st in the European and World championships respectively. Despite those poor results, she was quick to be resigned by Birel ART for 2020.

Weug could have been in French Formula 4 this year had she won last December’s Richard Mille Shootout, and, along with FR1.6 test experience, she is already preparing to be ready to race single-seaters in 2021.

Lola Lovinfosse FRANCE 14/o
15th in 2020 WSK Champions Cup – OK, 39th in ’20 South Garda Winter Cup – OK, 10th in 2019 Trofeo delle Industrie – OK

Photo: Sportinphoto / Manetti Motorsport

FFSA Academy student Lola Lovinfosse has aspired to the levels of success that AlphaTauri F1 driver Pierre Gasly has achieved since she started karting in 2015, and is another driver who’s now making her name with Swedish team Ward Racing.

Lovinfosse was a midfielder in the French Mini and Cadet scene prior to her teens, when she made the move into X30 Junior and Nationale karts. Results immediately improved at home, and she raised eyebrows in appearances abroad. After a single season in those, she moved up to OKJ and then OK karts in 2019. It was a remarkable rise in more ways than one.

Her first ever OKJ appearance was the WSK Champions Cup, where she came 21st as a privateer. Lovinfosse then teamed up with Manetti Motorsport, coming 58th in a part-campaign in the Super Master Series, and then building up momentum with 47th in the Euro Series, eighth in Trofeo Andrea Margutti and cameoing in the CIK-FIA European Championship.

Along with some races in the Swedish Junior Championship, Lovinfosse ended her time in OKJ by joining Ward for the CIK-FIA World Championship in Finland. She was pleased with her own performance, which resulted in 67th in a field of well over 100.

A month later she joined Ward’s OK line-up in the WSK Open Cup, and charged to 20th in the final on her debut. A five-second bumper penalty demoted her to 27th, but her pace was no fluke; she returned to Lonato a week later and came 10th in Trofeo delle Industrie. The next Open Cup round at the 7Laghi circuit was the week after, and 17th place earned her 27th in the points.

As an OK rookie they were seriously impressive results, and 2020 had already got off to a good start. In the wet Champions Cup she finished 15th from 10th on the grid after struggling in qualifying, came 39th in the talent-crammed South Garda Winter Cup and is 43rd out of over 100 in the Super Master Series despite missing one of the two rounds that’s been held.

French F4 is Lovinfosse’s target for 2021, with W Series next on the agenda before emulating Gasly in making it to F1.

Barbora Bauerova SLOVAKIA 14/o
11th in 2019 Motorsport Games Karting, 50th in ’19 FIA Academy Trophy, 7th in 2018 Slovakian Indoor Championship – Junior

Photo: FIA Motorsport Games

A graduate of Slovakia’s indoor karting scene, Barbora Bauerova was thrust into international competition last year by making her way to the final of the FIA’s Girls on Track Karting Challenge in France.

She missed out on joining the six-strong Girls on Track European Team, but the 14-year-old remained abroad to race in several high-profile FIA competitions.

The first of those was the three-round FIA Karting Academy Trophy, in which she finished 50th overall in. The single-make OKJ-level series where drivers represent their home nation was a step up in competition for the teenager, but provided valuable learning material for her 2020 programmes.

Bauerova then teamed up with countryman Michal Vilim to represent Slovakia again in the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games at Vallelunga. The karting slalom event used identical electrically power karts, which can handle very differently to more traditional outdoor machinery, and required each team to run a line-up that included a male and a female.

Slovakia’s duo finished 11th out of the 28 competing countries. They made their way into the knockout stages by going 15th fastest in qualifying, but were firmly beaten by Germany in their first face-off. While the Motorsport Games is off for 2020, Bauerova could be going for gold medal in 2021.

 

The stars already in cars…

Photo: LAT Images

Jamie Chadwick ENGLAND 22/o
Cars: 2020 W Series, 2019 W Series champion, 2018-19 MRF Challenge champion, 2015 British GT4 champion

The first ever champion of the all-female W Series is now a household racing name, and is aiming for a historic third single-seater title in 2020 by defending her W Series crown. It’s her results outside of the series that are more interesting though.

She’s become an expert at the winter racing series, winning the MRF Challenge title and a race in Asian Formula 3 on merit, and has also made starring appearances in Formula Ford’s end-of-year Walter Hayes Trophy. What Jamie Chadwick is capable of in higher-spec machinery, such as Euroformula’s Dallara 320, will hold the key to whether she makes it to F1, as she’s more than proven she has the pace across a variety of different cars to have a career in racing.

Marta Garcia SPAIN 19/o
Cars: 2020 W Series, 4th in 2019 W Series, 9th in 2017 Spanish F4   Karts: 4th in 2016 CIK-FIA European Championship – OK

Having already gone through the processes of being picked up and dropped by an F1 team, Marta Garcia has done a great job of getting her career going again with the help of W Series. Victory at the Norisring last year was her first in cars, and she’s likely to be one of Chadwick’s main title threats when the season eventually gets underway.

With a strong management team behind her, and some seriously encouraging test showings in other F3 cars already, Garcia should also be able to transfer her W Series form into other series as successfully as Chadwick has.

Irina Sidorkova RUSSIA 16/o
Cars: 2020 W Series, 6th in 2019 F4 SMP, 2018 RCRS National Junior champion, 2nd in 2017 RCRS National Junior

SMP junior Irina Sidorkova had an unconventional route into single-seaters, as have many Russian drivers, having won her first car racing title aged 13 and competed in ice racing and touring cars at a junior level in her home country.

After winning the national title in the latter, SMP was keen to get her into open-wheel cars and put her in its own F4 series for 2019. She claimed several podiums, and scored points in a Spanish F4 campaign, and then made it through the 2020 W Series driver selection process. With a year of single-seater experience under her belt, the Russian could really impress this season.

Juju Noda JAPAN 14/o
Cars: 2020 Danish F4, 14th in 2019 Lucas Oil Winter Race Series, 2017-’19 Formula U17

The daughter of former Formula 1 driver Hideki Noda wants to win in F1 and Formula E, and has already been racing single-seaters for several year. She turned 14 at the start of this year and relocated to Denmark to race in the country’s F4 series.

We know that Noda’s set ominously quick test times in F3 cars in Japan, but the Okayama-based Formula U17 series she’s won races in is a weak indicator of where she’d stand against wider opposition. But to be as comfortable as Noda is in a race car at her age is hugely impressive, and her tests across Europe and US racing debut suggest she could be champion in Denmark.

Photo: Noda Racing