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“This is a trial year”: Lia Block on F1 Academy, social media stress, and more

“This is a trial year”: Lia Block on F1 Academy, social media stress, and more

In a way, motorsports fans have watched Lia Block grow up before their eyes. As the daughter of famed wheelman Ken Block, she made her first on-camera appearance at the age of 13 (learning how to do donuts, of course), in a YouTube clip that drew more than three million views. 

But since her father’s tragic passing in January of 2023, she’s established herself as a cross-series racing star in her own right. She won the two-wheel-drive class of last year’s American Rally Association championship, competed across the world in Extreme E and Nitrocross, and even won the Pro Stock UTV class of the Baja 1000 alongside her mom, Lucy.

“Honestly, it’s been such an adventure—every day is something different,” says the 17-year-old Block, still full of energy despite a hectic travel schedule. This year, she’s tackling a whole new type of adventure, having signed with Williams Racing as its F1 Academy entry. It’s a big change from the off-road racing she grew up on, and one that hasn’t been gentle. She had only a couple weeks to acclimate to open-wheel racing—never mind the Williams car specifically—before F1 Academy’s season-opening races in Jeddah in March. 

“It’s been a very steep learning curve to get to that first race in Jeddah, but I’m having a blast,” she says. 

Ahead of this weekend’s F1 Academy race in Miami, Motorsport sat down with Block to chat about her whirlwind year, the difficulties of open-wheel racing, and the pressures of being a young driver in a social-media-obsessed world. 

Was Formula 1 and open-wheel racing always on your radar as something you wanted try? 

I grew up watching F1. Me and my dad would sit down and watch whenever a race was on, but it’s always been an unknown area for me because I grew up in rally. [It was] always something I wanted to do but never had the opportunity. To have this chance is really, really cool. Kind of like a lottery ticket for me.  

I’ve done a lot in the American rally scene, winning the championship. And while I know the next step for myself [there], I want to go try this. This is a trial year to see if I love it enough to stop doing rally and rallycross—which is a big and daunting thing, to leave something I know so well behind. We’ll see where it takes me. 

How has it been adapting to open-wheel racing?

Honestly, it’s been quite hard. In the beginning, I thought it was going to be a bit easier than it actually was. It’s a completely different motorsport, and I knew nothing about it. I did a bit of karting when I was a kid but nothing to the extent of my competitors when they were younger. The challenge is what excites me the most. Not being good at something going into it makes me want it that much more. 

Every race is new—I’ve never competed on any of these tracks or against any of these girls. So it’s really just a big learning year for me, and I’m taking every bit of information that I can. 

Lia Block racing in F1 Academy at Jeddah in March.

And racing at Williams means you’ve got a storied team behind you. Plus I hear you’ll be driving the FW08 from the ’80s at the upcoming Goodwood Festival of Speed.

I’m very, very excited to be part of the Williams team and the history they have. To drive that iconic piece of history at Goodwood is going to be so crazy. I’m a bit nervous to drive this very expensive, old car, but to be able to say I drove an F1 car at 17 years old is definitely really exciting. 

And it’ll be a Goodwood I actually remember! I’ve been a few times with my dad, but I was too young. 

As a teenage driver in the F1 orbit, you’re extremely active on social media . Is there a lot of pressure to maintain that online presence?

Yeah, social media presence is really big now. I was thankful to have my dad, who knew so much about marketing from owning his company. I experienced that from a young age and saw how different he did it compared to his competitors. Going forward, it’s definitely one of the biggest parts of motorsport, and having a good social media presence can make or break a contract. 

It’s quite hard. And honestly, if I could just be a racecar driver and not have to worry about that, it’d be a dream . But with the new generation, it’s only going to get bigger and bigger, and it ultimately puts so many eyes on the sport, just like with Drive to Survive . I think we’ll also be seeing [more social media] with rally and rallycross.

Block prepping for a stint

You’ve even dipped your toe in the fashion world a bit. Is that something you want to continue?

Growing up—this sounds funny—but I always wanted to be an actor. I’m fascinated by modeling and acting. It’s so cool that someone like Lewis Hamilton has brought the fashion world into the motorsports world, merging them together. It’s fun to have a personality off the track as well as on. So it’s something I’d like to do more. 

Speaking of Lewis, there’s a really cool video of him and your dad racing against each other in their respective cars at a Top Gear festival about a decade ago.

I’ve seen that!

Lots of F1 guys clearly loved watching your dad. Has there been a lot of support for you and the Block name in the paddock? 

Yeah, I think so. Now it’s just trying to make my own career, go a different path and my own way. Having his support, and the people that knew him, feels really nice. The whole motorsports world is like a big family.

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