The world of motorsport, particularly at the top level, is notoriously male-dominated. 

At the sport’s pinnacle, Formula 1, more and more women are breaking through behind the scenes but on the grid, it’s men everywhere you look. 

It’s been 30 years since a woman appeared on the F1 grid and there’s widespread agreement it’s about time that changed. 

The Formula 1 Academy is designed to be the game-changer and ensure female drivers have a route to the very top of motorsport. 

This is no gimmick; the newly-formed F1 Academy is an all-female driver category that aims to develop and prepare young female drivers to progress to higher levels of the competition.  

That it’s headed up by Susie Wolff, the former Williams development driver who, in 2014, became the first woman in over two decades to take part in an F1 weekend, indicates just how serious an initiative this is. 

15 girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 22 from across the world have won the ferocious battle for seats on the grid, and one of those fortuitous individuals is Chloe Grant from Perth. 

The 17-year-old has long been touted as one of Scotland’s premier young motorsport talents with a string of successes in karting and then single-seater racing in the GB4 championship making clear she had significant potential.  

But it’s the promotion to the French ART Grand Prix team in the F1 Academy that has turned Grant’s career around. 

The exorbitant cost of motorsport meant that had Grant not been invited to be a part of this inaugural F1 Academy season, her dream of becoming a top-level driver would have, in all likelihood, been over, despite the fact she’s still a teenager. 

“To be a part of the F1 Academy is huge – it’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Grant says. 

“If I hadn’t signed this season, I wouldn’t be racing this year and that’d be the end of my single-seater career. So this means everything to me.” 

And as she goes on to explain quite how exorbitant the cost of being involved in motorsport is, it becomes clear that it’s no exaggeration when she describes it as “ridiculous” amounts of money 

“To do British F4, the minimum you’d be spending is around £350,000 and then when you get to FIA level, it goes into the millions of pounds so the amounts are crazy,” she says. 

“In this sport, everyone’s dream when they’re young is to be an F1 driver and it was definitely my dream too. When you start to understand the financial side of the sport though, you start to realise how difficult it is to make it to F1 so I began to think maybe my path would be down the touring cars or GT racing route. 

“So F1 Academy couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for me.” 

The championship begins tomorrow, with the first of seven rounds taking place in Austria, travelling round a number of European countries before culminating in America in October. 

It has been hailed as a game-changing initiative in a sport which has a clear issue with giving women the opportunity to reach the very top and so Grant is understandably appreciative of the opportunity to take this significant step forward in her career. 

And while she admits she’s been lucky enough in her decade-long racing career to have avoided being the victim of regular sexism, she’s certainly no stranger to being targeted as a result of being a girl in a man’s world. 

“I’ve been racing for ten years and it’s only recently I’ve experienced any sexism towards me,” she says. 

“In karting, I only experienced one driver who was sexist towards me and that’s because he couldn’t handle being beaten by me. He’d put me in barriers and try to take me off and he was definitely targeting me because I’m a girl. Other than that, though, things in karting were fine and I loved it. 

“Then, I won a JSCC scholarship and moved up to cars and I got a few comments saying I only won it because I’m a girl. I knew that wasn’t true because it was based on a points system but people would still try to argue the fact. 

“It’s jealousy, that’s why people act like that.” 

While some argue that the physical advantages men hold means women will never be able to compete alongside them, Grant entirely disputes the suggestion that, within motorsport anyway, physical disadvantages hinder her progress. 

The dearth of women and girls is, in fact, she believes, down to young girls having been so scarce at grassroots level which, inevitably, has led to few progressing through the ranks to the top of the sport. 

“In other sports, the physical side of things does matter and men have an advantage. But in motorsport, whether you’re male or female does not matter.  

“Yes it’s a very physical sport but I can assure you that I’m in really good shape and I can manage the physical side of things fine. I think some people just can’t handle that girls are getting into a sport that has traditionally been so male dominated,” she says. 

“It’s the fans who have that opinion though, not the vast majority of drivers. They respect you and as soon as you have your helmet on, they don’t care if you’re male or female, they only care if you’re a fast driver. 

“I think it’s simple why there’s so many men at the very top like F1 – it’s simply there’s just not as many girls have been doing it at grassroots but now, I think there’s more girls in the sport than there ever has been. I see a lot of young girls under 10 getting involved which makes me very happy.” 

Grant is well aware that with being awarded a seat in such a prestigious championship as the F1 Academy comes considerable pressure. 

Competition for podium places will be, she knows, fierce. 

The teenager admits she is far from oblivious of the weight upon her shoulders but no one has higher expectations for her than herself as she creeps that bit closer to her ultimate goal of becoming an F1 driver. 

“It is a lot of pressure being on the grid this season,” she says.  

“Every single girl there wants to win so it’s going to be very tough. 

“It’s difficult to set definite targets because there’s a lot of unknowns but I do want podium finishes and really, I want to be winning.  

“I want to show what I can really do. 

“I do feel like I’m a step closer to F1 now but it all just depends on how I perform over the season. I know how fast it can all be taken away though so I just have to keep training and focus on round one and driving well there.”