Last year, Maya Weug made history, becoming the first girl to join the Ferrari Driver Academy. The Dutch girl born in Spain with a Belgian mother and Dutch father was rewarded for winning the finals of the FIA “Girls on Track-Rising Stars” programme, set up by the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, along with the FDA, with the goal of promoting women in motor sport and supporting promising youngsters from the ages of 12 to 16 in their aim to become professional racing drivers.
Maya Maya began karting at the age of seven and a half and in 2013 she was already racing against much older children in Spain, where she stayed until 2015. The following year, she moved to Italy, while in 2017, she made her debut in European karting championships in the OK Junior category.
In a recent interview for F1 Feeder Series, she talked about her experience within the academy and women in motorsport:
“I started when I was seven years old because my dad used to do karting as a hobby, and I always used to go to the kart track with him close to home, and then I got a kart for Christmas together with my brother and I really never stopped. I used to watch the [F1] races on TV, but it was more just being at the track that I was interested in.”
A series of impressive performances during her years in karts attracted the attention of the FIA – Women in Motorsport commission, who invited Weug, along with 19 other girls, to take part in the Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme, with the reward for winning this shootout being a place in the Ferrari Driver Academy.
“The first selection was karting. Then a couple of drivers went on to do two days of testing in Formula 4 at Paul Ricard, and of course there were physical activities and some simulator as well. And then we did one week at Maranello, the Ferrari Driver Academy, that was the final where there were four girls selected. That was cool! It was close between all of us, especially Doriane [Pin], who is now with Iron Dames in GTs; she was very fast as well.”
When asked if this was a deciding the shoot-out was the deciding factor in her progression on the motorsport ladder, Maya Weug replied:
“Yeah, being selected for the Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme and at the end winning it gave [me] the opportunity to join the Ferrari Driver Academy and also be with Iron Dames and Iron Lynx for the Formula 4 season last year. It all came together in a good way, and I think they all played a big role into that, FIA WIM, Iron Dames and the Ferrari Driver Academy. [Without that support] it would have been difficult, of course. I don’t know what I would have done, maybe F4 if there was an opportunity, but it’s difficult to say.”
The step forward from karts into cars is maybe the most difficult for a racer in his early career, as not only the driving style, but also the physical aspects are much different in both series. The Dutch girl born explains her learning experience within her first year of single-seaters:
“[We could learn] especially from Fornaroli, because we had good data, he was always in front. And it always helps to have someone as a reference. That helped to make a bigger step and to move forward even quicker, so it was a good learning experience. It’s a big step from karting to F4, but I was quite happy with it. We do sim work mainly with the team, but we do physical activities and are in meetings with the FDA just to see where we can improve, what we can do. We look at data and videos, of course.”
In general, the support for women in the motorsport scene has never been greater: “Every year there are more girls in racing thanks to FIA – Women in Motorsport and what everyone is doing in the FDA, as well as Iron Dames, as Richard Mille [in WEC], they’re all helping it a lot; That is why there are more girls every time and why they’re more accepted, of course. There are still not enough girls, for sure, but the more girls there are at the top, the more girls will be influenced to start karting and to start racing. It’s difficult to get the same amount, of course, but still seeing that every year it’s getting more and more is already a good step forward.” – she said, as reported by Maya Weug.