Interview: Marta García on winning the F1 Academy championship, her racing inspirations and being a woman in motorsport

Tempus caught up with F1 Academy champion Marta García ahead of International Women’s Day to discuss her career and being a woman in the world of Formula One

Marta García F1 AcademyMarta García is on her way to conquering the world of Formula One. Having already won the inaugural F1 Academy championship last year, the motorsport driver has set her sights on her next hurdle: the Formula Regional European Championship. Like many other F1 greats before her, Marta started her career with kart racing, and ended up winning the Trofeo delle Industrie — the oldest kart race in the world — in 2015, which counts F1 stalwarts Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel among past winners.

When we met for the first time, Marta had this presence about her that is hard to ignore. Humble, kind and settled in the weight of her career achievements thus far, Marta is refreshingly candid in highlighting the highs and lows of her time as a motorsport driver — especially from the perspective of being a woman. 

So in honour of International Women’s Day on 8 March, we asked Marta to walk us through her storied career so far. From her Formula One racing inspirations and her mental health struggles to the best advice she’s ever received and what it is like to be a woman in the world of Formula One and motorsport, see why Marta García is a force to be reckoned with as she talks about it all.

What was it like winning the F1 Academy championship last year? How has it changed your perspective on the sport?
Winning the Formula One Academy championship last year and making history by being the first woman to do it felt really good. I’ve had really bad years before. I was struggling a little, mentally. So being able to race in the F1 Academy and being able to showcase my skills was — from the first race to the last — has been an amazing journey and a huge opportunity to grow in motorsport.

It also means a lot to me because at the end of the day, the F1 Academy will be a great opportunity for young women to go into a racing environment, a racing championship, where they’re going to be together with Formula One. It’s a great arena for women to jump in and grow as drivers by working with people who know a lot. As a woman in motorsport, we didn’t have any of this before. So the fact that Formula One is doing this is great for us drivers and also women in motorsport as well.

What advice do you have for any female race drivers looking to enter the F1 scene?
If you like it, just do it. I know it is hard to say because you also need support from your family, your parents, but now there are many programmes like F1 Academy’s Discover Your Drive that can help. So if your dream is to get into motorsport, or Formula One, or becoming a professional racing driver, just know that you have a lot of support from F1, the FIA (International Automobile Federation), and a lot of big places.

So my advice would be if you want it, just go for it. Motorsport is normalising more and more the fact that women are racing and are a part of this sport, and in the future, will probably compete in Formula One. So if that is your passion, just get into motorsport.Marta GarcíaAre there any unique challenges about being a woman in F1?
When I started racing 13 years ago, I had to earn the respect of all the guys racing with me. When I was going into international karting and trying to do my best, a lot of guys would take me out of the track, because the bumpers [of the kart] didn’t fall down like they do now if you hit someone really hard. So it was a bit tricky in the beginning, because I felt like I had to do the same to them in order for me to show that yes I’m a girl, but I’m here and I’m racing.

I was probably one of the one or two girls racing versus approximately 90 guys in karting internationally. And I think you have to show them and prove that you’re there and earn their respect, which I did when I started being really good and winning. 

Being a woman in motorsport is not easy. It is still a male dominant sport. There are things you experience as a woman racing driver or as an engineer where you have to show that you are really good at it and deserve to be here — which we shouldn’t have to do because that’s something that should just be a given. But I think we’re going the right way because so many women have shown that we can do this and normalised it.

What is your biggest professional dream?
When I started racing in karting at nine years old, seeing [fellow Spaniard] Fernando Alonso win two seasons of Formula One with Renault, my goal was always to get there, to get where Fernando was. And that is still my dream goal.

I know it’s difficult, you need a lot of support. If things go well this year, and I can work, do well and have the right support, that’s something that could probably happen. At the end of the day, being a professional racing driver, doing what you like and being able to live from that, is also one of my goals.

You mentioned Fernando Alonso as one of the drivers you watched growing up. Are there any other F1 drivers that you look up to as well?
Since I was really young, I always looked up to Fernando Alonso. Because he was Spanish and he was the only Spanish driver on the grid — and he was winning. So for me, it’s always been like a reference and something to work towards. Also the fact that he’s still racing in Formula One despite not being as young anymore is very impressive.

Apart from him, I have always liked Lewis Hamilton. I like how he speaks to the people, how he is using his social media to shed light on different issues and getting his message across to the people of the world. I’ve been seeing what he’s done even outside of racing and  think it’s really cool. I just like to see the drivers, the way they drive, just try to get the best out of it. 

So I will say those two are the ones I look up the most. If I had a dream race, it would probably be with them.
Fernando Alonso
How has your experience been working with and being part of F1 Garage?
I remember I went to Austin when I was racing there and I went to F1 Garage. I think it’s really cool and it’s a unique experience. The food is incredible and there are hosts who are commentating on the race, so if you have any questions, they can be easily answered. And also the fact that you can see the Formula One cars all the time going down the pit lane.

I think it’s a really cool place for unique experiences in Formula One. I love going there. I would highly recommend it because I think it’s a really good experience to have at least once in your life.

Do you think the rise of interest in women’s football might be a turning point for women’s sports in general?
Yes, I think so. Football is probably the most seen sport in the world. So starting from women’s football, we can see that it’s working and there is visibility, and I think it’ll keep going towards other sports as well — especially motorsport.

I think in the last few years, there has already been progression in women’s football, and I think it’ll go towards Formula One as well. As we can already see, having the F1 Academy, it is already improving things for us. It’s just gonna take time. I think that’s the direction that every other sport is gonna go in — I’m 100% certain about that.

What is the best advice anyone has given you about the sport?
I think when you go through motorsport, there’s a lot of people that you meet, like mechanics, team managers, engineers, etc. And a lot of people have given me tips. I’m who I am also because of all the different types of advice I’ve received. But the one thing I would keep in mind is, as I said, motorsport is a difficult world. You need a lot of support. So you need to enjoy it, you need to enjoy racing.

Because obviously when you start racing, there are a lot of things on your mind going ‘Oh my God, I need this. I need that because otherwise I’m not gonna be able to race next year.’ And at that point, you’re really not enjoying racing. So I think one of the most important things is to enjoy racing and to have fun, even though sometimes it’s difficult when things are not right. So that’s one advice I keep in mind, since I was struggling a lot mentally as well during that time.Lewis Hamilton with Marta GarcíaBesides winning the F1 Academy championship last year, what do you think has been the greatest moment in your career?
There are a few things. One moment would be when I won Trofeo delle Industrie in 2015. I was probably one of the two girls racing, competing against 40 guys for this and ended up winning in the last few laps, so it was a very special moment for me. I also love that all of the mechanics from all the other drivers were super happy for me, and that will always stay with me because I was the first woman to win this trophy.

I think this year has also been really important, one of the highlights would be winning the first race in Austria. Going on the pole and also winning the F1 Academy has been amazing.

What are your hopes for the sport — especially from the perspective of a woman?
My personal goal is to get into Formula One. But as a woman in motorsport, I would love to see in the next few years, girls in Formula Two, in Formula Three, racing against the boys, beating them, just being there and showing what they’ve got.

I just want to see more women, not just in motorsport and Formula One as drivers but also engineers. They deserve to be there because they’re good at what they do and in the last few years, I’ve seen more women in this industry. And I think that is great for all the young girls who are interested in or are coming into the sport from karting or F1 Academy.

And finally, what are your goals for 2024?
This year, I’m competing in the Formula Regionals European Championship, so that is a very big step for me. Coming from the F1 Academy, where the level obviously was not the same to the Regionals will be a huge step up. There are about 30-35 drivers competing, so that’s something to have in mind.

The target is to try my best, to always give my 100% because I think that’s one of the most important things. And to work with the team and try to work on the things I know I’m missing the most. I want to work on myself and grow as a racing driver — so just focus on the growth.

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