W Series will be a Formula 1 ladder division for women using cars designed by Adrian Newey. PHOTO BY W SERIES
(“RR-AZ SAYS, YOU CAN EITHER COMPETE, OR NOT. DEVELOPING A RACING VERSION OF THE WNBA IS LIKELY NOT GOING TO VAULT ANYONE TO F-1.”)
The idea has already been met with resentment from prominent female racers
BY: MATT WEAVER
A new all-female single-seater racing series launched on Wednesday with the stated goal of sending a woman to Formula 1.
W Series has the financial backing of former F1 driver David Coulthard and technical designer Adrian Newey. Veteran F1 team manager Dave Ryan will serve as the racing director. The league hopes to launch next May and will offer a prize fund of $1.5 million and free entry for 18-20 competitors who will be selected purely on merit after tests and appraisals.
The overall champion will collect $500,000, with prize money down to 18th place.
No woman has competed in Formula One since 1976. Overall, no woman has scored a point in F1, although Italian Lella Lombardi scored a half point in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, and only two have started races since the championship began in 1950.
Lombardi started 12 races between 1974 and 1976. The last to attempt to enter a race was Italian Giovanna Amati, who failed to qualify in 1992.
W Series is expected to feature 30-minute races throughout Europe, with one round to be held in the United Kingdom. The series hopes to expand into Australia, Asia and North America.
The concept of all-female racing series had gained momentum in the face of controversy over the past two years, with many women racers adamant that they should be pitted against men rather than be separated from them.
Spainard Carmen Jorda received a vitriolic backlash when she advocated for such a series on the basis that women had a physical disadvantage to menand could not compete with them on a level field.
Meanwhile, Williams F1 deputy principal Claire Williams, said earlier this season that such a series would be a “regressive step.”
IndyCar veteran Pippa Mann disagrees with this series on a fundamental level.
“What a sad day for motorsport,” she tweeted overnight. “Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them. I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backwards take place in my life time.”
In revealing the league, Coulthard said he believes women can compete with men on equal terms but needed a platform to show it without the expectation of providing funding and sponsorship.
“At the moment, however, women racing drivers tend to reach a ‘glass ceiling’ at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent,” Coulthard said.
“That’s why an all-new all-female single-seater motor racing series is required – W Series – to establish a competitive and constructive motorsport habitat in which our drivers will be able to equip themselves with the necessary skill-set eventually to move on up to existing high-level mainstream racing series and compete with the best male drivers on equal terms.”
W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir, a British sports lawyer and corporate financier, provided the initial funding for the series.
“There are just too few women competing in single-seaters series at the moment,” Muir said. “W Series will increase that number very significantly in 2019, thereby powerfully unleashing the potential of many more female racing drivers.
“W Series drivers will become global superstars – inspirational role models for women everywhere – and every organization, every company, every sponsor and indeed every single person who helps W Series’ winners and champions achieve those ground-breaking successes will be able to celebrate their part in it, publicly, to lasting worldwide acclaim.
“W Series is an inspiring innovation whose time is now.”