F1 explains university scholarship plan to improve diversity

Formula 1 will pay full tuition fees for talented young engineers from under-represented backgrounds to complete their degree through a scholarship as part of its push to improve diversity.

F1 explains university scholarship plan to improve diversity

F1 announced last June that it would be forming a new foundation to help fund apprenticeships and scholarships to improve diversity within the series following a push from many within the series to enact change.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has been at the forefront of calls to bring deep-rooted change to F1, and spoke last year about the importance of providing opportunities to those from more diverse backgrounds. 

Speaking at the inaugural Autosport International Connect on Thursday, F1 director of strategy and business Yath Gangakumaran revealed further details about F1’s scholarship programme.

F1 will pay full tuition fees for students from diverse and traditionally under-represented backgrounds through the scholarship programme, as well as giving them a living allowance so they can focus fully on their studies.

“2020 was all about showcasing to the world that we take this topic very seriously, and ’21 is to show we’re not just all talk, we’re going to execute on our actions as well,” Gangakumaran explained.

“You’re going to see a number of different initiatives be launched, first from a job creation perspective, we’ll be launching within F1 opportunities, internships, apprenticeships, traineeships, for people from traditionally under-represented backgrounds to work in our organisation, within different departments.

“We’re really focused on ensuring that this experience isn’t just a box-ticking exercise, but is one where they will gain qualities and skills that can be transferrable to other organisations. That’s number one in terms of job opportunities within our company.

“Two is scholarships. We’ll be launching for the first time engineering scholarships for talented young students from diverse backgrounds, where we will be paying their full tuition fees across their degree.

“We’ll also providing them with a living stipend each year, so they don’t have to go and get a job while they’re studying.

“We’re working with all of the teams to ensure that these scholars are then given work experience opportunities at the teams, so it provides that pathway into a Formula 1 career where potentially they may not have thought that was an opportunity there.”

Gangakumaran also confirmed that F1 is working closely with Hamilton on his own commission to help improve diversity within the industry. Hamilton is also set to launch a new charity with his Mercedes team to further tackle the issue.

F1 is also set to place a greater involvement on female focus in motorsport this year by adding W Series to its support series roster at eight grands prix through 2021.

Gangakumaran explained how F1 was also working with the FIA to ensure the championships throughout the motorsport ladder were meritocracy, and did not disadvantage any group.

“We’re working with the FIA to look at what we can do in karting to make it much more accessible and meritocratic,” he said.

“We’re also looking at studies to understand the amount of effort and force required by drivers at different stages of the driving ladder, and whether or not there’s actually unconscious bias and a competitive disadvantage for certain cohorts versus others. For example, it’s actually easier to drive an F1 car than an F2 or F3 car, in terms of the amount of force required.

"We need to start looking into the data here, and if that’s the case across the ecosystem, what can we do with the FIA to introduce new regulations that can remove some of that disadvantage for certain cohorts?”

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