When the calendar turns to 2019, auto racing will have a new single-seater championship. The new series will have 18-20 participants racing the 2018 Tatuus Formula 3 cars for a prize fund of $1.5 million. While the six European races are still to be determined, one decision has become non-negotiable.
This championship is the first time in motorsports; women will have an exclusive series to race. With no fee to enter, the drivers will not have to bring sponsorship with them. Drivers will be selected by their ability determined from judges to ensure the best racing possible. The judges will be 13-time Formula One race winner David Coulthard. Designer Adrian Newey. Former F1 manager and the series’ race director Dave Ryan, and Matt Bishop, who has run the PR and communications for the McLaren Group since 2008.
The overall winner will collect $500,000 of the $1.5 million total purse with the rest of the money spread throughout the remainder of the field. This money will help these women climb the rungs of the racing ladder, as this money is going to assist in the advancement of women into Formula Two and eventually Formula One.
This announcement did not come without its fair share of criticism. Claire Williams, daughter of Sir Frank Williams and deputy principal of Williams F1, commented by saying that this series is a “regressive step.”
Pippa Mann, a winner in the U.S. Indy Lights series and a multiple time participant in the Indy 500, took to Twitter to say that the series is “a sad day for motorsports.” She also adds that she is “disappointed to see such a historic step backward take place in my lifetime.”
W Series organizers are adamant that this kind of segregation is necessary for the advancement of women racers. By saying that the DNA of the series is the belief that women can compete equally with men in motorsports. Coulthard reiterates “We at W Series firmly believe that female and male racing drivers can compete with one another on equal terms given the same opportunity.”
In a time where women’s equality is at an all-time high, this series does feel like a social step backward. In a sport where gender shouldn’t matter, women aren’t prevalent, and the W series is trying to fix this problem by providing opportunities to women drivers.
This series will give 18-20 women a chance to showcase their talent amongst other women of their caliber. They aren’t racing amongst men, but by using a spec Formula 3 car that men are also competing in, teams can compare telemetry among the genders to spot the differences in individual potential. Sponsors, who are realizing the potential of this series, will also see the potential of these women as they climb the ranks and hopefully see the benefits of sponsoring them going forward. It is about providing women racers the opportunity to be seen by the racing world and help them develop skills to challenge a man for a driver’s seat.
It isn’t that women can not compete with men. This narrative has been seen throughout various disciplines of motorsports. But in the competitive world of single-seater racing, opportunities are far and few between for men but even more so for women. This series gives the potential for women to open a door into Formula One.
“We want women and men to race equally, and we want to make female champions in mixed racing,” says the W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir. With due diligence from her, the organizers, and various investors, it wouldn’t be hard to fathom this is becoming a reality.
Milton Berle said it best “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”