F1 Academy’s Jess Edgar on her racing journey so far28 November 2023
18-year-old British racing driver Jess Edgar is putting the north of England on the map as she pushes towards her ultimate goal of securing a paid drive in motorsport one day, having competed in the all-new, all-female F1 Academy for the 2023 season.
With British team Rodin Carlin, Jess has competed at all seven rounds of the brand-new racing initiative, funded by Formula 1 with the hope of developing and preparing female drivers to see them progress upwards on the motorsport ladder. Jess travelled across Europe, before ending the season on an ultimate high at the Circuit of the Americas alongside F1, across the United States Grand Prix weekend.
Silverstone caught up with Jess to round up her year in F1 Academy, and to talk about just how she secured her spot on the grid for 2023.
Hailing from a family with a rich history in motorsport, Jess was first introduced to the concept of racing from a very young age, with both her grandparents, uncle and dad racing at some point in their lives. She spent her formative years at a race track watching her dad race, until she tried it out for herself.
“I had my first go in a kart when I was four, and from there, I did it as a hobby until I was about 12,” Jess says. “Then, I decided that I wanted to be a racing driver.”
Motorsport was all Jess ever knew when she was young, so her decision to follow in the footsteps of her family made sense. She began karting at 13 and competed in the British Championships, unexpectedly winning her first round.
“I liked the feeling of winning, and so I wanted to do it more,” Jess says. “That was the start of everything.”
After a few years in karts, Jess made the move to cars in 2022, joining Fortec Motorsport in the GB4 Championship.
“It was a big step from karting into single-seaters and I struggled to adjust,” she says. “But I learnt massive amounts so it was a really valuable year for me.
“I don’t think I would have done what I did this year in F1 Academy without doing GB4.”
Silverstone appeared twice on last year’s GB4 calendar and it’s one of Jess’ favourite tracks in the UK, having experienced what it’s like to race on the Grand Prix layout, the same layout used by Formula 1 cars.
After her first year in GB4, Jess was looking into potential options for 2023; she was considering another year in the GB4 Championship, but there were rumours that F1 Academy was going to be announced as a new series for young female talent.
Jess’ management team reached out to Rodin Carlin and asked what the process would be like to qualify for a seat in F1 Academy. She did a tester session to see if she would be suitable for a full-time seat. Jess was successful in her test, and ultimately, her seat in F1 Academy all came about quite quickly.
“It was really exciting from that point onwards to be working with Rodin Carlin and racing on a global stage,” Jess says. “From racing in Europe to one race in America with F1 was a massive opportunity for me.
“I was so excited to get started and see what we could do together.”
Jess has been constantly progressing throughout the 2023 season, making multiple trips to the podium. Aside from her win in Austin, Jess secured three P3 finishes; one at the first race in Austria, one at the first race in Italy, and one in the second American race.
“Rodin Carlin have worked really hard with me to get me from where I was at the start of the season to where I finished,” Jess says. “We’ve just gradually been making steps every time I go out, every race weekend making steps towards winning a race.
“The team have been behind me the whole way.”
Stephanie Carlin, the Team Principal at Rodin Carlin in F1 Academy, has vocally believed in Jess every step of the way, and that support has been there to push Jess to winning a race.
“From the start of the year, Stephanie told me I’d definitely win a race this year, and I did, so it’s nice to know that the team are behind me and pushing me,” she says. “It’s like a real family in the team.”
F1 Academy races have been held predominantly on circuits that Formula 1 and its feeder series categories also race at during their year-long calendars, and Jess sees how useful that might be for her in the future, should she make the step up to Formula 3 or Formula 2.
A special result in Texas
One of those circuits is the iconic Circuit of the Americas located in Austin, Texas and F1 Academy’s final race of the season was held there alongside the Formula 1 Lenovo United States Grand Prix.
Jess qualified on Pole in Qualifying 2 for the final race of the weekend, and the season. During the year up to that point, Jess secured her podiums as a result of battling for position by fighting through the pack.
“I was hoping for the win but obviously, starting from Pole, anything can happen,” Jess says. “I’d never really been in that position before throughout the whole year.
“I was nervous but I managed to hold the lead around the first corner and then I just chipped away at the gap, making it bigger every lap, so it was really exciting to win the race.”
After her win, Jess found herself in the F1 Paddock, being given an award by Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, who had been following the F1 Academy action across the weekend. This, as well as being interviewed, all happened live on Sky Sports F1.
“The interviews with Jenson Button and Naomi Schiff were really exciting as well,” she says. “Just being in the F1 Paddock and seeing the F1 drivers walk past you, it’s amazing.”
Since Austin was F1 Academy’s first race event on the F1 support calendar, it was a brand new environment to be in for Jess and the rest of the grid. They were joined by Sir Lewis Hamilton in their Paddock, before they headed on-track in front of thousands of fans and spectators in the grandstands and on the grass banks. But, racing in front of the F1 teams was also a huge part of Jess’ weekend.
“The F1 teams are watching us and they can decide our future so it can be scary,” she says. “But the support F1 Academy has had from F1 this year has been massive so it’s really good to finally get a race alongside them.”
Inspiring the next generation
Not only is Jess chasing her dreams of becoming a racing driver by competing in F1 Academy, but she’s also part of the new movement of young female talent who are inspiring the next generation.
“When all of us F1 Academy girls started karting, we were the only girls and we’re all from different countries,” Jess says. “So, we were the only girls racing in our classes and in our countries throughout our karting careers.
“My little brother is still in karting and when I go and watch him at the track, there are definitely a lot more girls racing in karts now and it’s nice to see that there are more girls coming into the sport.”
You can keep updated with Jess’ racing career and her next steps for 2024 by following her Instagram.
The 2024 F1 Academy season kicks off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia alongside Formula 1 on March 7th.