W Series: F1’s newest support series

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W-Series: the all-female single-seater racing series, is soon set to return, better than ever, and now partnering with Formula One for the 2021 season.

The series’ inaugural season was in 2019 with the intention of increasing inclusivity and opportunities for women within motorsport. This is particularly important for a single-seater series as, while many sports are growing in female representation and gaining more attention in the mainstream, there are now fewer women racing single-seaters than ten years ago.

It has now been forty years since Lella Lombardi started a Formula One race and twenty-nine since Giovanna Amati tried to qualify for a race. Representation should be improving but unfortunately, it seems to be the opposite, with Lewis Hamilton recently echoing this statement relating to the finances of junior series.

W-Series aims to address mostly gender representational issues but also financial. The series initially received criticism, with many seeing the series as separating women from competing with men rather than giving them a step up to address the difficulties women face.

However, since the successful inaugural series these criticisms have been largely discarded. W Series instead is seen as providing a platform for women to obtain attention and financial assistance across the sport and hopefully find their way into other series’ and eventually Formula One.

The series had a prize fund of 1.5 million USD for the 2019 season, with $500,000 for the series winner and at least $7500 to all other drivers depending on their championship position and to help fund their participation in other series’ and to progress their motorsport career.

While many sports are growing in female representation, there are now fewer women racing single-seaters than ten years ago

The series also offers super licence points for the top eight finishers in the championship and is free to enter unlike other single-seater junior series’ which can cost as much as two million euros as Sophia Floersch recently revealed on Twitter when talking about a Formula Two seat.

The 2019 season was won by Jamie Chadwick who will be competing again in the 2021 season and currently holds a development driver role for Williams Formula One team, as well as driving in the newly launched Extreme E championship for Veloce racing.

She has also competed in Formula Regional European championship for Prema, one of the top junior teams, alongside the younger brother of Charles Leclerc, Arthur Leclerc. The W-Series win has undoubtedly helped in projecting her career forwards and the weight of the championship can only be predicted to be larger this season.

W series returns after a setback whereby the 2020 season was cancelled due to Covid-19. Its return brings a shinier, newer version, now partnering with Formula One as a support series, joining both Formula Two and Three and bringing vastly more attention to the series.

The driver line-up is largely the same as 2019, but a few new additions are present.  The first twelve finishers from the 2019 championship automatically qualifying again, with the rest of the 2019 grid-free to apply for a place alongside new applicants.

Drivers such as Chadwick and Visser (the 2019 runner up) will compete in their second W Series season and are now well-known faces for competing in other series’ namely, Extreme E for Chadwick and Visser as a part of the all-female Richard Mille WEC team, supported by the FIA’s Women in Motorsport initiative.

Other drivers entering their second season or joining W Series for 2021 include Jessica Hawkins, an ambassador for Aston Martin Cognizant and James Bond stunt driver, Abbie Eaton, who was recently a test driver in The Grand Tour and, seventeen-year-old Irina Sidorkova to name just a few.

The series had a prize fund of 1.5 million USD for the 2019 season, with $500,000 for the series winner

The 2021 W Series has also expanded to eight races this year, with the season beginning in Austria on 26th June at the Styrian Grand Prix, followed by the Austrian Grand Prix and races at, Silverstone, Hungaroring, Spa-Francorchamps, Zandvoort, Circuit of the Americas, concluding at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City in late October.

Off the track, there have also been several improvements to the W Series, and its product as a whole.

Firstly, the W Series has struck an innovative partnership with Puma Motorsport, who are specially designing race suits for women’s bodies for the first time, just one of the many issues women traditionally have in a male-dominated sport.

The series has also re-signed with Channel 4 but, crucially, have negotiated a new broadcasting deal encompassing 175 markets with a combined reach of 500 million, including well-known networks such as Canal+, Sky Deutschland, and Discovery. This reach is estimated to be double of the inaugural season with the upcoming season now accompanied by a six-part documentary entitled ‘W Series:Driven’, which is available now on Channel 4 and recaps the inaugural 2019 season.

And finally, the W Series will now feautre a well-known, diverse, presenting and commentary line-up with recognisable faces for Formula One fans including David Coulthard (who is also the W Series Advisory Board Chairman), Lee McKenzie, Billy Monger, Ted Kravitz and Alex Jacques.

The series is innovative and beneficial to the careers of the women who participate. Its expanding participation in motorsport, free-to-air, and hopefully inspiring the next generation. W series is an enjoyable watch, which I encourage you to check out this season, as well as the ‘Driven’ documentary. I certainly will be. 

Image: W Series

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