We firmly believe that women and men can race one another on equal terms provided they are given the same opportunity.
At a time when most other female sports are growing exponentially, there are, in real terms, fewer women racing single-seater cars at the higher levels now than there were 10 years ago.
It is more than 40 years since a female driver last started a Formula 1 race and, unless a positive intervention is made, it could be 40 years or more before a woman will have the necessary experience and qualifications to take part in a Formula 1 race again.
So something must change.
W Series will act as a catalyst for that change. From 2019 onwards it will give 20 women the opportunity to race relevant cars on relevant tracks, giving them the relevant experience and qualifications to put them in contention for potential Formula 1 drives in the future.
Yes, but, as things stand, women are not barred from competing in any motorsport series, are they?
That is correct. However, the reality of the situation is very different. In the 68-year history of Formula 1 nearly 1000 Grand Prix races have been run, and nearly 900 drivers have raced in them, all but two of whom have been male. The most recent of those two female drivers, Lella Lombardi, started 12 Grands Prix, the last in 1976. The first of those two female drivers, Maria Teresa de Filippis, started three Grands Prix, the last in 1958, which is 60 years ago. It is fair to say, therefore, that, in modern-era Formula 1, female drivers have been, and remain, completely absent.
In Formula 2/GP2, the acknowledged single-seater ‘feeder’ series to Formula 1, things are if anything worse. In its current form it was inaugurated in 2005 and no female driver has ever competed in it.
In lower single-seater formulae the percentage of female drivers is tiny, and that percentage has not increased in recent years.
Why have there been no women in F1 during that time?
Formula 1 is the pinnacle of global motorsport, the cream of the crop. It is incredibly difficult for even for men, let alone women, to reach. However, having looked into the subject at some length, we believe there are two key influences that have disproportionately disadvantaged women.
Toto Wolff estimated in 2015 that it typically costs around €8 million to manage a young driver from junior karting into a position to be considered for a Formula 1 drive. That is a very daunting amount of money for anyone (male or female) to raise, but the lack of visible female talent in Formula 1 has made the challenge of raising it even harder for girls and women.
So how will W Series change all that?
Our drivers will not have to pay to race in W Series. They will therefore be selected on their ability rather than how rich their parents or backers are. By bringing together the best female talent into one series, at a time when women’s sport is attracting more attention and coverage than ever before, we believe we will create a platform that will be highly attractive to sponsors.
All our cars will be mechanically identical, capable of identical performance therefore, which situation will result in close and exciting races won by the most talented drivers, not those whose parents or backers can afford to place them in the fastest cars.
Our driver selection process will involve driver technique training, simulator training, technical engineering training, fitness training, media training etc, all of it carried out by a group of experts with decades of Formula 1 experience, meticulously recruited for the purpose: David Coulthard (multiple Grand Prix winner); Adrian Newey (the most successful design engineer in modern Formula 1 history); Dave Ryan (40 years’ Formula 1 experience in team management with McLaren and Manor Racing); and Matt Bishop (15 years’ experience as a journalist and editor, followed by 10 years’ experience heading up McLaren’s comms/media and PR operation in Formula 1).
Will female drivers ever be able to compete on level terms in Formula 1 with the best male drivers?
Our ex-Formula 1 experts – David Coulthard, Adrian Newey, Dave Ryan and Matt Bishop – are all of the firm opinion that they may well, eventually, in time, yes. There are no physical, physiological, biological or hormonal impediments to their being able to do so. Not every male driver is as quick as Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel, and neither may the best W Series drivers ever be as quick as those two feverishly brilliant multiple Formula 1 world champions; it would be unreasonable to make such a speculative claim so early. But, in time, with practice and experience, we expect that the best graduates from W Series will be able to compete in Formula 1 on level terms with the majority of their male rivals.
Will there ever be a female Formula 1 grand prix winner?
We are not making so bold as to predict that, but there may well be, yes, in time, with practice and experience. And if there were – or when there is – then overnight she would or will become the biggest sports star in the world, bar none. And every organisation, every company, every sponsor and indeed every single person who has helped her on her journey to that ground-breaking success will be able to celebrate their part in it, publicly, to lasting worldwide acclaim.
But could the same effect not be achieved merely by investing money in junior go-karting for girls?
More money being pumped into junior go-karting for girls is to be welcomed, of course. However, ‘more in’ does not always mean ‘more out’. Girls often hit a ‘glass ceiling’ after junior karting, and if more girls are engaged in junior karting it is likely that more girls will hit that glass ceiling. That is why we are hoping that the establishment of W Series will have a positive trickle-down effect throughout motorsport, encouraging more girls into junior karting and more sponsors for women drivers as they move on up into Formula 4 and on up through all the other motorsport series. The greater the number high-profile female role models we can create, the more we believe we will inspire young girls to go karting.
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