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Exclusive: I 'wouldn't have believed' what Wolff has achieved - Pulling

F1 Academy championship leader Abbi Pulling has said she "wouldn't have believed" what Susie Wolff has achieved with the series if told a decade ago.

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Abbi Pulling has said she "wouldn't have believed" F1 Academy was possible 10 years ago, when she began her karting career.

The 21-year-old sits atop the all-female championship standings after two rounds, following a dominant weekend at the Miami Grand Prix, where the Alpine junior took double-pole position and both race wins.

Following that triumph in Florida, Pulling became the first woman to win a British F4 race, en route to scoring points in all three races at Brands Hatch last weekend. Having taken part in the inaugural F1 Academy season last year, finishing the championship in fifth following a string of podium finishes, Pulling is splitting time between both series this term.

F1 Academy was launched in the wake of W-Series, a championship Pulling also competed in, in order to boost the prospects of talented female racing drivers, who have long not been afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

Led by managing director Susie Wolff, F1 Academy is supported by five powerhouses of feeder series racing to fill the grid of 15 full-time drivers, and all seven rounds of the series are part of the F1 support bill - much like F2 and FIA F3.

Furthermore, this year, it has the backing of each team in the F1 paddock, as well as a host of high-profile brands - many of which adorn the liveries of the cars, including Tommy Hilfiger and Charlotte Tilbury. 

"If you'd told me this 10 years ago, that we'd have this all-female championship - that's racing on support of the F1 and achieving so much and giving so many opportunities - I probably wouldn't have believed you," Pulling told RacingNews365 in an exclusive interview.

"But Susie [Wolff] has set out and done that and created F1 Academy, that provides great seat time for us all and also great exposure - the coverage is absolutely incredible, to be honest."

Wolff 'knows exactly what we needed'

Wolff raced in Formula Renault and British F3 in the early 2000s before moving to DTM. Following that stint, she spent three seasons as development driver at Williams, prior to retiring from motorsport in 2015.

After that, the 41-year-old joined Venturi Formula E team as team principal in 2018, where she remained until 2022 - just before taking the helm at the newly-formed F1 Academy last year.

"Susie knows exactly what we needed. She's been there and done it as a junior driver," Pulling explained, highlighting the experience the series boss has to draw upon.

"She knew the track time and financial support is such an important thing. So, getting all of the F1 teams on board, it's hard in the best of times to get them all to agree to one thing, but to achieve getting all 10 of the F1 teams on board for this is great.

"It's only helping us girls continue our careers and continue developing and getting better, and putting us in front of the right people - they're the ones that are watching.

"I'm on the Alpine Academy, of course, but it's a great opportunity for the others to also enter a junior programme with an F1 team."

Also interesting:

In the latest episode of the RacingNews365.com podcast, Ian Parkes, Samuel Coop and Nick Golding look ahead at this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. The trio discuss last season's cancelled race at Imola, whether McLaren's Miami pace is genuine and if Mercedes teenage sensation Andrea Kimi Antonelli will make his debut before he turns 18.

Want to watch the podcast instead of just listening? Check it out here.

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