Dutch racer Beitske Visser has insisted she will continue to pursue a future in Formula 1, coming off of a difficult second year in Formula Renault 3.5.
Visser, 20, is among the most high-profile female drivers on the current junior ladder below F1, a category which has not seen a woman start a grand prix since 1976.
"I want to continue racing in formula cars," Visser told Motorsport.com, having recently signed a deal to drive for Pons in the rebranded Formula 3.5 V8 series.
"I don’t know what the [long-term] future holds, but for now it remains my goal to reach Formula 1."
Visser made her single-seater bow in German entry-level series ADAC Formel Masters back in 2012, winning two races and impressing Red Bull enough to join their junior programme for 2013.
She was subsequently let go by the Austrian team after a mixed sophomore season in Formel Masters and made the huge step directly to Formula Renault 3.5, contesting two seasons with AVF and finishing 22nd and 23rd.
"I learned a lot at AVF," she said. "It was a pretty big leap going from the ADAC Formel Masters to Formula Renault 3.5. There was a lot to get used to and the 3.5 car is physically quite demanding to drive as well.
"We knew we wouldn’t be racing at the front of the pack right away, but I made a lot of progress during my first season, which ended with a fifth place in Jerez. In my second year I was a bit unlucky and I made a bit too many mistakes."
GP3 was an option
Having done two guest rounds in GP3, Visser confirmed that it was a possible avenue for 2016, but insisted Pons and F3.5 were a better fit.
"We were choosing between switching to GP3 or doing another year of 3.5," she revealed. "It became the latter, because we got a good offer from Pons.
"I already worked with them as a driver coach for two days this winter, which went really well. I had a talk with my manager and sponsors and decided that this was the way to go for my career."
The Dutch racer said that she won't be gunning for a specific spot in the standings, but has stated that 2016 is "when everything needs to fall into place".
"I haven’t told myself that I need to finish the year in a certain position. The most important thing is that I work well together with the team during the pre-season tests and that we learn as much as possible together. After that we’ll see where we are."
Formula V8 3.5 still the same championship
The end of Renault Sport's long-term backing of the FR3.5 series was a major development for the junior ladder last year but, as Visser puts in, it has not been a big change for the championship.
"I'm not worried about [Renault pulling out]," she said. "It's true that you lose the name - and maybe it will be more difficult for the series in the future."
"But for us drivers everything remains the name. We drive the same car. Even if you look at the drivers who are confirmed so far, it’s actually of the same level as before."
Interview by Erwin Jaeggi