David Coulthard is adamant that his More Than Equal initiative – aimed at finding and developing the first female F1 World Champion – will not provide any sort of "token gesture" opportunity.
Coulthard and entrepreneur Karel Komarek have founded and funded the programme, which promises to bring together some of motorsports' best scouts, physical trainers, psychologists, nutritionists, racing coaches and drivers in order to find and develop a future female Formula 1 talent.
The announcement of the project in June came shortly after Alpine revealed their 'Rac(H)er' programme, aimed at increasing diversity within the team's workforce and helping female talent reach F1, while W Series is now into its third campaign.
But, in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com, Coulthard and Komarek have explained that More Than Equal will aim to provide earlier support to young drivers.
"We appreciate all those initiatives, because they will attract more people," Komarek said.
"But our project is based on something similar. We are not linked to any current Formula 1 team, but we would like to remain independent, and our strategy is to really find and support young drivers at the age of 10 to 12, and to give them the support."
Coulthard hopes More Than Equal drivers will progress "on merit"
Formula 1 team academies often retain a driver under contract for a certain period of time.
In the case of More Than Equal, Coulthard is not aiming to keep anybody under the programme's wing in this way, as the aim is for the driver to have the talent to progress through the ranks on merit.
"It's not about making them ours, because the vision that we have isn't about providing all of the funding," the former F1 driver detailed.
"The vision is to have them good enough that your Alpines and your Ferrari academies and all the existing academies will want to pick them up – not as a token gesture, because they're good enough."
Coulthard is realistic about the level of talent required for a driver to succeed in Formula 1, and has warned that only those who display this potential will make it.
"The dream would be that we've got a Max Verstappen or a Lewis Hamilton down the line," he continued.
"But we know [that] to win in Formula 1, these exceptional drivers come along once or twice a generation if you're lucky. So we need to find and support someone that's got the talent to be in Formula 1 on merit.
"None of them will go through any of those programmes if they're not good enough, because there isn't enough time [and] there [aren't] enough cars for any team to do a token gesture."
Why the process could be a long one
With this in mind, Coulthard admits that the journey involved with the More Than Equal initiative will not be an overnight one.
"This is about taking them to the point where they're picked up because they're good enough," the Williams and McLaren Grand Prix winner said. During his subsequent years with Red Bull between 2005 and 2008, Coulthard also worked closely with the team's junior driver programme.
"This is not about trying to say, 'Here's a pot of 20 million pounds, and this is going to be ringed with one person or two people or three people', and [then] force-feed them into a system that's saying, 'We are not sure they're the right person'.
"So that's what makes this different, that's what makes us ambitious, and that's what makes it the beginning of what will potentially be quite a long process."
Coulthard: If they aren't quick enough, they cannot progress
The process of moving drivers through the programme will ultimately be based on them delivering at the highest standard.
"They've got to be fast. This is not tokenism," Coulthard reiterated.
"If they aren't quick enough [they won't progress]. I have the same thing right now with my son; he's 13, he's quick, but he's inconsistent, and he crashes too much. If he doesn't get rid of the inconsistency and the crashing too much, he cannot progress.
"No matter how much I love him, no matter how much he wants to, he needs to iron out those two issues.
"So [progression through More Than Equal] will
be decided by results, because [it cannot be a case of], 'She's almost
there, so let's take her to the next level'.
"You've got to win in every level. You've got to win in karting, you've got to win in Formula 4, you've got to win in Formula 3."
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What the future holds for More Than Equal
The aims of the project are ambitious, and Komarek is realistic about the time that may be involved in the process of finding the best female driver to support on the journey towards Formula 1.
"We said in the beginning that this initiative is at least for eight to 10 years, but we strongly believe that there is no end of such initiative, that it will continue beyond the point [of] eight to 10 years," Komarek explained.
"We just would like to be realistic, and it will take us a while to find the right talent. First of all, we need to [be] attracting more women to become racers in karting.
"Then [we need] to find the right talents, develop the talents, give them the support the same way [that] the male drivers had, and then we can find the right girl who will be able to win the Formula 1 title."
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