Women's racing series links up with Formula One in the Americas

In just one year, W Series has increased interest in motorsport diversity

16 January 2020 - 14:25 By Reuters
The women's racing series is set to grow its profile this year.
The women's racing series is set to grow its profile this year.
Image: Reuters

The all-female W Series will be part of the Formula One support programme in its second season, with new races at the US and Mexican grands prix in October, organisers announced on Thursday.

The W Series, conceived to help women gain experience to climb up the motorsport ladder and compete with men, started last year with six races at European circuits.

Those behind it have made no secret of their global ambitions, however.

The races at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez expand the second season to eight rounds, with the other six accompanying the DTM German Touring Car championship.

“In just one year, W Series has contributed significantly to increasing interest in the topic of diversity and inclusion in motorsport,” Ross Brawn, Formula One's MD for motorsport, said in a statement.

“We are convinced that our sport must offer equal opportunities for men and women to compete together,” added the Briton.

“It is no coincidence that improving the diversity of the F1 grid by supporting and promoting driver talent from underrepresented backgrounds is one of our strategic objectives.”

Formula One has not had a female racer line up on the starting grid since 1976.

W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir said she was thrilled her championship would be a part of the two weekends.

“I’m particularly pleased that W Series will now stage races outside Europe, and the USA and Mexico are, of course, both very important new territories for us,” she said.

The American races will be on successive Saturdays, when Formula One qualifying is the main draw. The two grands prix have been Formula One title-deciders for four of the past five years.

Both circuits have also been keen to show greater inclusivity in a male-dominated sport and have space on support programmes without the usual junior series.

“The fact that W Series will be even bigger and even better in 2020 than it was in 2019 will make the return on investment for our future sponsor-partners better and bigger, too,” said Bond Muir.

The 2019 title, with a prize of $500,000 (about R7,2m), was won by Britain's Jamie Chadwick, a development driver for the Williams Formula One team.

SA's Tasmin Pepper also races in the series.

Former F1 racer David Coulthard, who competed in 246 grands prix between 1994 and 2008, is the chairperson of the W Series advisory board.

“It (the agreement) demonstrates very clearly the extent to which W Series has quickly been widely accepted as part of the international motorsport calendar,” said the Scot.