Outside Line: The Rapid Rise of W-Series

I’ll admit that when W-Series launched last year, I didn’t give it much thought. While I was by no means opposed to it, I was sceptical it could secure a long-term place in the motorsports landscape.

However, considering what they’ve achieved in the past twelve months – and particularly this past Friday – I’m much more of a believer.

Having already produced one legitimate talent in Jamie Chadwick, the series took another big step forward this week with the announcement it will be a support race for F1 at the US and Mexican Grands Prix. I mean, as a junior formula, you literally can’t get better exposure than that.

And sure, a cynic could say this has as much to do with the lack of road-racing categories present in those countries as it does W-Series making itself a legitimate option, but it’s nevertheless remarkable progress for a racing series one season into its existence.

Adding to the announcement’s credibility, W-Series CEO Catherine Bond-Muir confirmed in a conference call with journalists on Friday that they would be paying for their own shipping, so you’d have to say there’s at least some financial solidity even if Bond-Muir admitted they’re a few years away from turning a profit. In that respect I assume the new partnership with Rokit has helped – although like most of you, I still have no idea what Rokit actually does. Supposedly phones?

All that considering, I’d argue W-Series has been quite a success for so early in its history, with the caveat that it has much more it needs to do to be a true launching-pad for an underrepresented demographic in motorsport. Surviving as your own product is one thing, but if the goal is to get women both into motorsport and then through to the higher echelons, it’s got a long way still to go.

As things currently stand, there’s still no on-ramp for girls at the grass-roots level – although a karting series is apparently something Bond-Muir is considering – so the barriers to entry are the same as they ever were, even if more youngsters might be excited about the prospect of racing. On the other side, as impressive as the rise of Chadwick has been (and she would’ve had a lights-to-flag victory in Asian F3 race over the weekend were it not for a jump-start penalty), the 15 superlicense points she got for winning in 2019 puts her well short of the 40 needed to race in F1, and frankly, we don’t know if she, or any other woman is good enough to cut it at that level.

Still, whatever the answer to that question is, I like to think W-series is helping us get it. Obviously, it would be unreasonable to expect we’d have the female Lewis Hamilton (or even Marcus Ericsson) after one year of racing. For now, what they’ve done is enough – they just have to keep developing.


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Two W Series races form part of F1 support bill

The all-female W Series has a closer alignment with Formula 1 as the last two races of the season will feature on Formula 1’s support bill.

The United States Grand Prix and the Mexican Grand Prix will now also form part of the W Series’ double header to end what will be their second season, which features eight rounds running from May to October.

“We at W Series are absolutely delighted that, in only our second season, our championship has been welcomed by Formula 1, and we’re utterly thrilled that the final two races of the 2020 W Series season will therefore take place as part of the Formula 1 platform,” said CEO Catherine Bond Muir in an official statement.

“Our two all-new races will follow six races on the DTM platform, making a very varied, extremely exciting and truly international eight-race championship, in eight countries across the globe.

“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.

“A lot of work has gone into stitching the W Series / Formula 1 deal together, but above all I want to thank W Series’ drivers, the brave and talented young women who captured the imagination of the sporting world last summer.

“Mark my words: they’ll do so again this year, from May to October, all over the world.”

Ross Brawn, managing director of motorsport at Formula 1, added: “We are delighted to welcome W Series to two such spectacular events of the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship such as those in Austin and Mexico City.

“In just one year, W Series has contributed significantly to increasing interest in the topic of diversity and inclusion in motorsport.

“We are convinced that our sport must offer equal opportunities for men and women to compete together – it is no coincidence that improving the diversity of the F1 grid by supporting and promoting driver talent from under-represented backgrounds is one of our strategic objectives.

“The ability for the great crowds who traditionally attend the Austin and Mexico City Grands Prix to see these talented female drivers up close will definitely further raise the awareness of the importance of inclusion and diversity in motorsport.”

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W Series to feature at US and Mexico Grand Prix weekends

The W Series is adding races in the United States and Mexico to its 2020 calendar, organisers of the all-female championship have announced.

The races at the Circuit of the Americas and the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez will form part of the weekend support package for the respective two Formula 1 Grand Prix events being held at the venues at the end of October.

It will be the first time that the W Series has ventured outside Europe, where this season it is set to run as alongside the DTM championship. Williams F1 development driver Jamie Chadwick is returning to defend her title.

The news was welcomed by F1’s managing director for motorsport, Ross Brawn, who said: “We are delighted to welcome W Series to two such spectacular events of the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship such as those in Austin and Mexico City.

“The ability for the great crowds who traditionally attend the Austin and Mexico City Grands Prix to see these talented female drivers up close will definitely further raise the awareness of the importance of inclusion and diversity in motorsport.

“In just one year, W Series has contributed significantly to increasing interest in the topic of diversity and inclusion in motorsport,” he continued. “We are convinced that our sport must offer equal opportunities for men and women to compete together

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

The addition of the two new races on October 24 and October 31 will give the W Series a high profile ‘double header’ over consecutive weekends as a climax to its second season of competition.

“We at W Series are absolutely delighted that, in only our second season, our championship has been welcomed by Formula 1,” commented W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir.

Jamie Chadwick's 2020 car with ROKiT branding

© W Series

“We’re utterly thrilled that the final two races of the 2020 W Series season will therefore take place as part of the Formula 1 platform,” she added.

“Our two all-new races will follow six races on the DTM platform, making a very varied, extremely exciting and truly international eight-race championship, in eight countries across the globe.

“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.

“Interest in and enthusiasm for W Series was enormous in our first season, 2019, among media and fans alike, and the addition of two all-new W Series races on the Formula 1 platform will inevitably increase that enthusiasm and interest.

“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.

“A lot of work has gone into stitching the W Series / Formula 1 deal together, but above all I want to thank W Series’drivers, the brave and talented young women who captured the imagination of the sporting world last summer.”

The full eight-race calendar for this year consists of:

  • May 30 – St Petersburg, Russiah
  • June 13 – Anderstorp, Sweden
  • June 27 – Monza, Italy
  • July 11 – Norisring, Germany
  • August 23 – Brands Hatch, UK
  • September 5 – Assen, Netherlands
  • October 24 – Austin, USA
  • October 31 – Mexico City, Mexico

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Jamie Chadwick secures inaugural W Series title!

Jamie Chadwick became the first laureate of the W Series, the Williams development driver sealing the inaugural all-female championship with a fourth-place finish at Brands Hatch.

Ahead of Sunday’s season finale, Chadwick enjoyed a 13-point lead over title challenger Beitske Visser, but the 21-year-old launched her race from pole while her Dutch opponent lined up fifth.

Chadwick blasted off the grid at the start, leading Alice Powell and Assen winner Emma Kimilainen in the first half of the race.

Powell and Kimilainen eventually overhauled Chadwick in a combined move through paddock bend, the pair extending their lead while the championship leader fell into the clutches of title rival Visser.

©RedBull

A spin by Miki Koyama at the entry to Sheene Curve brought out the Safety Car, which closed up the pack. The restart allowed Visser to jump Chadwick to claim the final podium spot behind Powell and Kimilainen.

It was a great effort by the Dutch racer but too late in the race to make further headway and snatch the title from Chadwick.

A solid fourth was enough for the latter to seal the W Series and the $500,000 top purse.

In the overall standings, Chadwick was crowned champion with two overall wins from six races and 110 points, followed by Visser with 100 points and Powell with 76.

The top 12 drivers in the series final standings are guaranteed a spot on the W Series grid in 2020 while the others will need to go once again through the qualifying process.

©WSeries

“To be the inaugural W Series champion is simply unbelievable. It’ll sink in soon I’m sure, but it hasn’t yet,” said the 2019 champion when all was said and done.

“This year has been a whirlwind, and today’s race was more intense than any other racing day I’ve ever had. Even though I finished only fourth, I was just so happy finally to cross the line and secure the championship.

“The whole W Series experience has been incredible. At the beginning of the year I thought it just might be a great season,” added Chadwick.

“I suspected that W Series had the potential to be something big, but I never expected it to be this big.

“Obviously, each race has got bigger and better but coming here to Brands Hatch, my home circuit, well, I’ve simply never experienced anything like it.

“I’ve never felt attention from the spectators as much as I did today, and that really is a credit to W Series.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity for all of us, and the things I’ve been able to go on to do alongside W Series have made it by far the best year of my career so far.”

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