Explainer: The future of Formula 1 is fast, furious and female

By Prarthana Mitra

W Series on Wednesday announced a ground-breaking motor racing series exclusively for women drivers, with a $1.5m prize pool to be launched in 2019.

With big names backing the initiative, including 13-time grand prix winner David Coulthard and Red Bull design engineer Adrian Newey, the new motorsport series not only claims to offer a fantastic opportunity for top female drivers to race, but will also encourage many more to enter the sport.

“We are more than just a series,” the organisers wrote on Twitter, “we aim to provide valuable training, experience and expertise at no cost to the driver. Once they graduate from , we will continue to support them.”

As a funded championship, W Series will select competitors purely on merit following tests and appraisals. It will accept 18-20 applications free of entry costs. The winner will receive $500,000, with allocations to award prize money down to 18th place. The tournament will involve six 30-minute single-seater races at top circuits in Europe, with future expansion to America, Asia and Australia on the cards.

But the announcement was met with an equal measure of criticism, from women including several female drivers like Pippa Mann, questioning the motive for segregation if W Series really wants to empower women and champion gender equality.

British racing driver Abbie Eaton was visibly peeved, tweeting, “I’ve won and been on the podium in every series I’ve raced in. So what’s stopping me [from] reaching the very top? Not my ability. It’s lack of Money. Why waste money on a segregation? Invest in the already successful female racers that NEED the money.”

However, Jamie Chadwick who recently became the first woman to win a British Formula 3 race, lent her whole-hearted support to the series, tweeting,

As outrage over Twitter mounted, organisers reaffirmed that they believe that women can compete equally with men in motorsport on equal terms given the same opportunity. However, an all-female series is essential in order to force greater female participation, Coulthard told the press.

“At the moment…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,” he added.

“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.”

The last woman to start an F1 grand prix was Italy’s Lella Lombardi in 1976.

Prarthana Mitra is staff writer at Qrius



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