New racing series aims to find F1’s first female champion
Will there ever be a female Formula One champion? It’s a question that’s been asked for years, but efforts to make it finally happen gathered pace this week with the launch of a new female-only racing series aiming to get more women into F1 and ultimately, find a future world champion.
The W Series will consist of six rounds across Europe, with its first races planned for spring 2019. It will be a one-make series using the single-seater, 1.8-litre turbocharged Tatuus F3 T-318, which should make for close, exciting racing as drivers battle it out in identical machinery, making it a true test of skill to come out on top.
A total prize fund of $1.5 million (£1.14 million) is on offer for the debut season, and the series anticipates interest from women across a variety a racing disciplines, from Formula 3 and Formula 2 to GT, rally, Nascar and Aussie V8 Supercars.
W Series chief executive officer Catherine Bond Muir said: “This is a tremendously exciting time for motorsport in general and for women in particular, as we aim to bring the sport up to date and show the world just what women are really capable of.”
While the W Series will be free to enter, you can’t just show up and jump in a car. With just 20 seats up for grabs, prospective entrants will need to prove they’re worthy of competing through a range pre-selection programmes, including simulator appraisals, fitness trials, media training and on-track testing.
If successful, the series hopes to break the long barren streak for female drivers in F1. While Susie Wolff tested for Williams and took part in free practice in 2015, you have to go all the way back to Lella Lombardi in 1976 for the last time a female driver actually lined up on the grid.
David Coulthard, winner of 13 Grands Prix and one of the judges for the trials, said: “In order to be a successful racing driver, you have to be skilled, determined, competitive, brave and physically fit, but you don’t have to be a man.”
Not everyone is impressed by the idea though. IndyCar racer Pippa Mann, who was the first British woman to race in the Indianapolis 500, tweeted that it was a “sad day for motorsport”, adding the W Series is a backward step that will only segregate female drivers.