Formula One on Friday launched an all-female racing series that is set to hit the track next year and prepare young girls to race in the sport.
The new category, which will be called F1 Academy, will feature five teams run by outfits currently competing in F1-feeder series Formula Two and Formula Three. They will each run three cars, creating a 15-strong grid, Formula One said in a statement.
Teams would select their own drivers, who would have to be at least 16 years of age, said F2 and F3 organiser Bruno Michel who will also run the new series.
Michel said they could come from senior karting, Formula 4, Formula Regional and even the existing W Series.
They will be required to bring 150,000 euros ($155,520) in funding, with F1 matching that amount and teams raising the rest of the 2.25 million euro total budget.
Next year's inaugural season will comprise seven events with three races each at circuits that host Formula One and 15 days of official testing. But only one round is likely to race on the same weekend as Formula One.
The series will feature Tatuus T421 chassis fitted with a 165 horsepower engine and tyres from F1 supplier Pirelli, with the cars sharing the visual identity of their F3 and F2 counterparts.
"Everyone should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and achieve their potential and Formula One wants to ensure we are doing everything we can to create greater diversity and routes into this incredible sport," said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali in the statement.
"That is why I am delighted to announce the F1 Academy that will give young female drivers the best chance to fulfil their ambitions through a comprehensive programme that supports their racing careers and gives them everything they need to move into F3 and hopefully to F2 and then the pinnacle of Formula One."
F1's launch of the new all-female series comes after a cash crunch forced the existing W Series, which is free to enter and pays the championship winner $500,000 out of a total $1.5 million prize money pot, to cancel the last three races of its season last month.
Organisers at the time said they were confident the series, which debuted in 2019 and ran on F1's support bill this season, would return in 2023.
There was no mention of prize money in the F1 Academy statement but Formula One said it would prepare young female drivers to progress to higher levels of competition including the W Series.
The F1 Academy would complement the W Series providing an "extra route for the next generation of young female drivers," the statement added.
W Series welcomed F1's announcement, adding it was looking forward to finalising its plans for next year.
"Our objective from the start has always been to increase the talent pool of women racing drivers, and the addition of the F1 Academy as a feeder to W Series and other series is a further step in inspiring the next generation to progress up the motorsport ladder," series founder Catherine Bond Muir in a statement.
No female driver has started a grand prix since the late Italian Lella Lombardi, also the only woman to score a top six finish, in 1976.