Lia Block talks Miami Grand Prix, her motorsport journey, and ‘getting the call’

Lia Block may be just 17 years old, but she already has a wealth of motorsport experience under her belt. The Williams F1 Academy driver has competed in multiple disciplines, won at every stop along the way, including some prestigious events, and was tapped by Williams to slide into their spot for this F1 Academy season.

However, that experience comes with a caveat.

This weekend’s Miami Grand Prix will be just her second race weekend in a single-seater completion.

Ahead of this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix SB Nation sat down with Block to talk about her journey to F1 Academy, racing in Miami, and getting the call from Williams.

The journey to F1 Academy

Block’s motorsport journey began in large part to her father Ken, who was a rally car driver. She started her own motorsport career following him around the world. “So I grew up, traveling around the world with my dad while he raced in WRC [World Rally Championship and the World Rally Cross Championship,” said Block to me this week. “I started in Lucas Oil Off Road Series and racing short course and then went to karting for a little bit, but I eventually started rally at 15 years old.

“I won the Open Wheel Drivers Championship two races early and I was the youngest ever to do so.I’ve also done the Baja 1000 and I won my class last year as well as Pikes Peak. But barely anything in the circuit racing and open racing world.”

However, making the leap to single-seater racing, and the F1 Academy, was both a dream, and an opportunity that she could not pass up.

“I always grew up watching F1 with my dad and just, it was something kind of unknown to me that I never really got to experience,” described Block. “So, when the opportunity came about, it’s just something I definitely couldn’t pass down, kind of like a lottery ticket. Just something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the opportunity.”

F1 Academy Testing in Netherlands - Day 2

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Getting the call, and going to Goodwood

But Block did get the opportunity, getting the call from Williams that the legendary racing team wanted her to be their entry in the F1 Academy this season.

So I asked her what that moment was like. What was it like getting the call from WIlliams that an F1 Academy spot was hers?

In a word, it was “surreal.”

“I mean, it was kind of surreal to think that Williams thought of me,” described Block. “I didn’t think anybody knew of me over in Europe. So it was really cool that they were open to giving me this opportunity, even though I didn’t have any experience in the single-seater world as so much of my competitors do.”

But racing in F1 Academy is just one of the incredible opportunities Block has with Williams. At the upcoming Goodwood Festival of Speed Block will get a chance to climb into the cockpit of an F1 car for the first time, as she’ll pilot the FW08 at the festival.

“Oh, my excitement is out of this world for sure,” said Block when I asked her about driving the FW08 at Goodwood. “To be able to say that I got to drive an F1 car at 17 years old is really, really cool. And for Williams to give me this opportunity and trust me with this iconic car is also really honorable.

“So I’m excited and to go to Goodwood and be in front of a lot of people. And so it’s just a really cool experience, and yeah, I’m really excited.”

A first race weekend in Saudi Arabia

Block’s single-seater debut came this season, with the first F1 Academy race weekend in Saudi Arabia.

And her first practice session certainly tuned some heads:

Block posted a P3 in her first F1 Academy practice session, a stunning result that put the rest of the F1 Academy field on notice.

“So going into the first race, I didn’t have much of an expectation. I just wanted to keep learning as best as possible. And the first free practice, pulling P3, really felt like I made a statement,” described Block.

Unfortunately, the result in free practice could be described as the high-water mark of the weekend. Block managed to qualify seventh, after some issues involving track limits. But she took a DNF in the first race, and a P13 in the second.

“Going into qualifying, we had some issues with track limits and just some things that weren’t communicated. I just don’t think that we were able to show the pace that we actually had in the end and not get the ending position that we should have deserved.

“But all in all, I think it was just an experience and I learned a lot from it and I think we can just take everything that I learned from there and hopefully apply it in Miami.”

Still, it was a weekend filled with learning. Learning that she can boil down to one word.


“I think for sure, patience,” said Block when I asked her about lessons from Saudi Arabia. “Because I think I made a big mistake in the first race. I was looking for the pass for P5, but I pushed a little bit too hard in the corner and ended up in the wall. I think it’s just going into the rest of the season, just about patience, about learning.

“You know, obviously I have zero experience compared with my competitors so it’s just making sure I take in all of the information and keep learning as much as possible.”

Still, Block can look back at the week with fondness, because of the exhilarating nature of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

“Yeah, I would say it is really tricky but I found it so exhilarating because of how close you are to the walls and how fast the circuit is,” outlined Block when I asked her about the circuit in Saudi Arabia. “So I mean, I haven’t been to many circuits around the world yet because, this is only my first year in single-seater racing, but I would say it still tops my list right now because of how much of an adrenaline rush I get racing around it.”

F1 Academy Testing in Netherlands - Day 2

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

A first F1 Academy race at home

As I type this, Hard Rock Stadium is visible from my hotel room, which will within hours roar to life with the sound of race cars winding their way around the circuit built around the stadium.

Among those drivers will be Block, as she gets a chance to race in the United States in just her second F1 Academy race weekend. It is an opportunity that she truly cannot wait for.

“I’m really excited,” said Block when I asked her about racing in the States. “To be in front of the home crowd is gonna be — the first and only this year, unfortunately — but that just makes it that much more special and to have my family and my friends there.

“It’s gonna be cool, really cool. And to even be at a really cool track like Miami, which I drove in the SIM a couple of days ago, which surprised me how actually fun and challenging it is,” continued Block.

I then asked her to give me her impressions of the circuit in Miami, if even from the simulator.

“I think it’s quite different because sector one is really fast and flowy and there’s very minor mistakes that can put you in the wall but, and then you go into sector two and it’s very, very tight and so it just suddenly changes,” described Block.

In addition to challenging the circuit in Miami, Block also has to tackle the demands of a race at home. After all, she spent her Monday talking to people like me, before joining fellow Williams driver Logan Sargeant on “Good Morning America” Tuesday:

I wondered how it was for her having to balance the demands of a week like this — from a media perspective — while remembering there is a job she has to do, and a difficult one at that.

Her answer truly surprised me.

“I think of all the media and stuff as just the warm up,” started Block. “It’s what I get to do before I get to go race a car and it helps me in my career.

“So, the better I do with this [media] stuff, the better I get to race a car. So I’m excited, it’s just about turning it on when I get to the racetrack.”

But what are her expectations once she gets on that racetrack?

More learning for her, and continued excellence from her team.

“I would say, I mean, my team expectations are always very high,” stated Block, as she praised the team at Williams. “They’re very professional and there’s rarely any mistakes made. But from my side, I would just like to keep learning and keep the expectations pretty low because I’d just like to learn from Jeddah and just have a lot of fun this weekend.”

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