Next year will see the inception of the first all-female racing series launched in May, with the aim to encourage more women to get into motorsport and provide them with a route to a Formula 1 seat.
According to CNBC, the W series has the support of some big names in the industry, including those of former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard and top car designer Adrian Newey.
Formula 1 is very much a boys club, and the last woman who was actually in a driver’s seat in the sport was involved back in 1976. Organizers of this new series are hopeful that it will help women to “break through the glass ceiling” of Formula 1, with Coulthard detailing the requirements for racers.
“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 possess the kind of super-powerful strength levels that some sports require. You also don’t have to be a man.”
The series will see women in single-seater Formula Three cars, with 1.8-liter engines. The competition will involve six 30-minute races at former Grand Prix circuits around Europe. Competitors in the series will be afforded free entry and between 18 and 20 women will be given an opportunity based “purely on merit after tests and appraisals.”
We believe any woman with talent, passion and commitment should have a chance in motorsport. We’re here to create those chances and increase participation in a sport we love. #RethinkRacing pic.twitter.com/Ilhq0ZhfLL
— W Series (@WSeriesRacing) October 10, 2018
Total prize money for the series will amount to $1.5 million dollars, with the winner being awarded $500,000 of that total. Competitors all the way down to 18th place will be awarded a sum from the pot.
Coulthard explained his support of the initiative, pointing to the lack of funding that most female racers run into around the Formula Three mark, making it impossible for them to reach the hallowed Formula 1 series.
Newey also reiterated the lack of opportunity that most women are faced with in the competitive sport.
“I have a reasonable understanding of the constituents of a top-class driver’s necessary skill-set. With proper training women are physically strong enough to tick that constituent. The reason why so few women have so far raced successfully at the highest levels against men may, however, be a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of capability.”
Organizers are hopeful that the new competition will not only get more women interested in motorsport to begin with but will also create a pathway to Formula 1 once the industry is saturated with more female drivers.
But not everyone is happy about this step. British racer Pippa Mann, a winner in the U.S. Indy Lights series, called it “a sad day for motorsport,” and many following her Twitter page seemed to agree with her thoughts on the matter.
What a sad day for motorsport. Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them. I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backwards take place in my life time. https://t.co/8ZrKqaADwx
— Pippa Mann (@PippaMann) October 10, 2018