W Series – A new era for Formula 1

Why are there currently no female Formula 1 drivers? If you search this question online, the response is disappointing. It simply says that women are not good enough to compete against the men. Differences in physiology are cited as factors, but this cannot be accepted as the answer. Female racing drivers have never been given the chance to compete on the same stage as their male counterparts and it is vital that this changes. That is why W Series becoming a support race for Formula 1 is so important to the future of motor racing.   
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What is W Series?

The W Series a single-seater championship with an all-female grid, featuring the most talented female drivers in motor racing. As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, only one season has occurred, in 2019, after it was announced in late 2018. The top eighteen drivers, in addition to two reserves, compete in a series of races throughout the year. The top eight from each race receive points, using a 15-12-10-7-5-3-2-1 scoring system. The champion is the woman who gains the most points throughout the season, minus any penalty points. This is a simple, recognisable system in motorsport which makes it easy to comprehend by fans. This makes it a welcome addition to the F1 weekend for 8 races during 2021.

Female racing drivers are good enough…

It is well-known that being successful in motorsport is not based entirely on talent, but also heavily on money. While many people rely on their parents to fund their early careers, many also win awards throughout their youth. These prizes are vital to emerging drivers as they progress through the sport. In comparison to young boys, so far young girls rarely win these awards. Women therefore can often not reach the same standard as men do as they don’t have the financial backing.

With so many prizes given out throughout motorsport, the lack of female inclusion is a shame. We cannot accept that this is simply an issue with the number of female drivers in the sport. It is also an issue of representation. With little evidence of women reaching the highest levels in the sport, young girls aren’t as inspired to emulate this success. This is why the inclusion of W Series in the regular season is important.

Highlighting current female racing drivers encourages young girls into the sport. Seeing young women just like them on their screens during the F1 weekend shows them that these possibilities are out there. Many women struggle to find sponsorships that allow them to stay in the sport and to be attractive to teams. This can change if women’s motorsport occurs more often, and they can show that they are just as talented and are ‘good enough’. Female drivers being in front of the cameras, as well as in the management of F1, their teams and in supporting championships can only be a positive. Showcasing talent will benefit both female motorsport and the sport as a whole going forward.

The W Series also awards a top prize of $500,000 to the champion. The remaining $1 million is divided amongst the rest of the drivers. This is a massive incentive for women to achieve the heights of their male counterparts. Ultimately, the importance of money cannot be understated. This will always play a huge role in deciding who competes at the highest level. But it is not the only issue within the paddock which is stopping women from reaching their goals.

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Why is W Series joining the Formula 1 weekend so important?

By looking at any team photos from the end of the 2020 season, we can see the small the number of women currently playing a visible role in the sport. This is an issue that will not change overnight. Equality in the sport in terms of gender, race and sexuality was regularly discussed in the paddock in 2020. But it quickly became clear that this may not be as important as many fans would have hoped. The use of ‘We Race as One’ has repeatedly been under scrutiny on social media in recent months. Following discussions over the winter break regarding the safety and respect of women in the paddock, it is clear that a major change must occur. The inclusion of W Series as a support race is the perfect opportunity for this change.

Bringing so many more women into the paddock highlights the importance of having diversity in the sport. It indicates that women are just as capable of succeeding throughout the world of Formula 1 as men. Showing so many more women doing jobs that are typically done by men in F1 can only benefit the sport in the long run.

Will the pandemic delay the move?

It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to impact racing for much longer than anyone could have imagined. It is a worry that in the constant changes in locations and schedules will stop support races from being run. This was not a major issue in 2020 though. Formula 2 and 3 took place on a variety of weekends throughout the year and there is hope that this means that the same will occur in 2021. There is already uncertainty about whether this schedule can take place, particularly questioning the likelihood of street races. It could be that it becomes too difficult to plan properly.

This would certainly be disappointing for everyone. Despite this, the long-term agreement between the Formula 1 and W Series should mean that we see women racing very soon. Once schedules are more easy to plan, the calendar for the Series will be set at the same time. This means that women will play an increasingly important role in the race weekend. Ultimately everyone should be excited about this change.

Women are important to motorsport…

There are many obvious arguments for why W Series and female involvement in motorsport in general. It is is vital to the future of the sport as an inclusive environment. When the series begins, it will be interesting to find out what changes are seen throughout the paddock. I am looking forward to discussing this in more detail once the races begin.

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