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Formula E

Formula E planning mandatory test for female drivers

by Sam Smith, Alice Holloway
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Plans to hold an all-female Formula E test have been verbally agreed between teams for later this year as part of the promoter's push to get female talent into future race seats during the Gen4 era from 2026.

The Race can reveal that the test is provisionally slated to take place within the traditional four-day Valencia pre-season test on November 5-8 later this year. It will be at least a half day of running for female talent and will likely take place on Thursday, November 7.

Formula E trialled a similar test the day after the 2018 Diriyah E-Prix when 11 drivers, including Katherine Legge, Tatiana Calderon, Jamie Chadwick and Beitske Visser, took part in a day’s testing along with regular Formula E race drivers.

The same number will get a run in Valencia, with each team set to nominate one female driver each - with teams already in contact with some female racers to take part in the initiative.

One driver who could be part of the running later this year and who sampled Formula E for the first time at Berlin Tempelhof on Monday is 2023 F1 Academy champion Marta Garcia. 

Garcia, who is managed by the Iron Dames organisation, was selected by the ERT Formula E Team to join touring car driver Miguel Azcona in Berlin.

She was supportive of the plans to include an all-female test in the official promoters’ sessions at Valencia.

“I know in the past there was some testing also with the girls in Formula E like three or four years ago, but we haven’t seen more since then so I believe that they might do a test in November,” Garcia told The Race.

“It’s a really good initiative to try and bring more women into Formula E like me here, as well, in the testing.

“Even Alice [Powell] also with Envision. I think it’s a great idea from whoever’s idea it was, many girls are going to be able to show how they do in the Formula E test and also, who knows, like we have F1 Academy as well, maybe there could also be something related to electric but with girls or whatever. So, let’s see.”

Powell, who also drove in the Valencia test, sees further outings for female racers as an important strategy for Formula E going forward, saying that “more opportunities, like the rookie test obviously, will give us all an opportunity to get behind a brilliant piece of machinery and drive and be a part of a Formula E race weekend essentially". 

“It's these kinds of opportunities where then the teams will opt to either put myself or Marta, whoever, into the car, to gain that experience, and then for me, it's different because I'm mainly doing this for the simulator [correlation, as Envision's simulator driver], but I'm sure Marta will maybe want to have a seat in Formula E

“There's different routes but I think more opportunities like this is what it would take.”

Formula E is set to use power-assisted steering in its fourth rules set from 2026, a decision which is partly included to try and promote elements of parity between the sexes.

“That [Gen4] will be the first car we introduced with power-assisted steering,” confirmed Dodds recently on The Race’s Formula E podcast.

“Because one of the other hurdles we recognise is that 45 minutes of racing in a Formula E car requires a lot of physical upper body strength - neck, chest, arms, which does sometimes put women at a disadvantage, so the Gen4 car will actually come with power-assisted steering.”

Test isn't 'whole answer'

Formula E announced two weeks ago that sometime IndyCar team owner Beth Paretta would be taking up a position as vice president of sporting at Formula E Operations. 

The move will see her have a varied remit that, according to Formula E, will major on "all sporting and championship activities at Formula E, cultivating new business opportunities - working closely with the FIA, existing teams, manufacturers while attracting new participants to the series’ ecosystem". 

Speaking to The Race in Berlin last weekend, Paretta said that although testing was important and relevant, it was only one aspect of attracting more diversity into the world championship.

“This notion of- we need to do a deep dive and need to get the data,  but it needs to be beyond just opportunity, and opportunity is not just a test day,” said Paretta.

“Opportunity is signing a woman to a full-time deal, multi-year. You need the time behind the wheel to become who you are. Dropping in, you’re never going to get there. It can’t be for the show of it, it has to be [more] if you want to invest in people."

“The reality is, commercially, does it matter?" Paretta continued. "This is a co-ed sport and there’s something so wonderful about that, the fact that we’re not splitting an audience, it’s not men’s football and women's football, it’s not the Olympics.

“All of those things have value, but the unique thing about this is that it’s blended, and how wonderful [that is]. Everyone is welcome. 

“Usually, the bottom line is who’s going fastest, and give them the chance. You could also say that about an engineer, the engineer that’s going to make the car go faster or win the race, OK, is she getting the opportunity to learn? They want the opportunity, consistent opportunity.  

“So, test days, I don’t think are the whole answer, it’s real but I think a lot of it is that people need to realise why it matters and it matters because it’s ultimately going to make for better racing. How cool would that be?”

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