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Women’s W Series Could Feed into Formula 1 in the Future

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Jamie Chadwick Wins Inaugural W Series Race
Podium finishers at the inaugural W Series race in Hockenheim:
Jamie Chadwick (1st), Fabienne Wohlwend (2nd), and Sarah Moore (3rd)
Photo: W Series

The new women-only W Series, which aims to help encourage greater female participation in motorsport, may soon be helping women have a direct path to Formula One.

The first of six races took place on Sunday, May 4, at the Hockenheim circuit in Germany, with Jamie Chadwick taking the inaugural win in dominant fashion.

During the weekend, former F1 driver and Grand Prix winner David Coulthard, who is also a chairman of the W Series advisory board, said there had already been discussions about the W Series joining the Formula One support program.

The series is currently supporting the German Touring Car championship, with all of the women driving identical Tatuus T-318 homologated racing cars, the same used in the Formula 3 European championship.

Coulthard says the concept of the W Series appealed to F1 commercial rights holders Liberty Media. “I think it fits perfectly with the new owners and everything they stand for and what they are doing,” he said. “We have had a conversation, they would like to see how it develops.”

According to W Series chief executive Catherine Bond-Muir, the FIA will consider whether to award Super License points to W Series competitors at the end of the season. A Super License is one of the major requirements for competing in F1.

Only two women have ever started in an F1 Grand Prix, and none have even entered since 1992. Climbing the Formula One ladder is an almost impossible goal for the thousands of boys who get into racing karts every year, and it seems an actually impossible one for the outnumbered girls.

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Toto Wolff, Mercedes F1 team boss, estimates that it costs about €8 million (over $10 million) just to manage a young driver from junior karting into a position to be considered for an F1 drive. “That is a very daunting amount of money for anyone (male or female) to raise, but the lack of visible female talent in Formula 1 has made the challenge of raising it even harder for girls and women,” the W Series says on its website.

Though most people agree that increasing female representation in F1 would be a good thing, the way to do it remains a controversial topic. The W Series purports to foster true talent because its drivers do not have to pay to race, but many have criticized it for promoting segregation in a sport that shouldn’t discriminate between genders.

Pippa Mann and Simona de Silvestro, both women competing in high-level racing series, suggested the money used to fund the W Series and its $1.5 million prize pool would have been better used to support women in existing junior series and perhaps something akin to the Red Bull Junior Team, which helps talented young drivers have a better-defined path to F1 via an existing team.

Others argue that because the lack of female representation in F1 can be traced to grassroots level racing, where boys already significantly outnumber girls, the way to increase that representation at the high level is to generate more general interest in racing among girls. Even if the W Series doesn’t provide great racing talent for F1, it could help prop up high-profile female role models who can inspire more girls to get into junior karting.

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News Sources: Reuters, W Series