A new women-only motorsport series has been launched with the intention of identifying potential future Formula One stars.
The series, which is set to be launched in 2019, has been backed by a number of current big names in F1, such as the Red Bull design chief, Adrian Newey.
It has been suggested that F1 could become one of the first major sports to incorporate direct competition between men and women. Newey himself believes that this is very possible as “brute strength” is not an important personal factor in motorsport, unlike other sports such as rugby and football.
The series, which has been given the name W Series, will aim to attract the top 20 female racers in the world who will compete for a prize pot of 1.5 million US dollars. The series will take place across six different European venues.
As well as receiving a big prize pot, the winner will also receive funding to aid their career and specialist advice and coaching from established Formula 1 professionals.
The money and time that appears to be going into the organisation of this series shows a clear intent from the organisers to give the women’s sport the attention that it deserves.
Motorsport is unique in the sense that it has the potential to allow women to compete alongside men, using the same equipment and receiving the same level of coaching.
Michelle Mouton, a rally winner in the 1980s and current President of the Women in Motorsport Commission for governing body the FIA has expressed these ideas, saying that one of the primary objectives of the commission is to “help ensure females have equal opportunities to compete at the highest level”.
She continued to say that whilst this series will be a female-only environment, the ultimate goal is to promote competition between men and women in motorsport.
13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard highlighted the necessity of a series such as this as bringing new female stars through the existing feeder categories would take a “generation”.
Women’s involvement in the sport is by no means new, as Italian driver, Maria Teresa de Fillipis entered her first race in 1958 and achieved her best finish (10th) in the same year at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Her career in the sport at the highest level was cut short due to problems she faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry. An infamous moment was at a race in France during the 1958 series when the race commentator denied her involvement in the previous race in Belgium and said that “the only helmet that a woman should use is in the hairdresser”.
Since then, women have not featured prominently in the sport, yet there have been some very impressive competitors, such as Italian driver Lella Lombardi who started 12 races from 1974-76.
Yet there appears to be a surging interest amongst women, as shown by the success of Jamie Chadwick who made history by becoming the first ever woman to win a British Formula 3 race last August.
British IndyCar driver Pippa Mann, however, has taken a much less favourable view of the W Series. She tweeted recently that when the decision was made it was a “sad day for motorsport” and that it is disappointing that female drivers are being segregated like this.
Her worry is that female drivers are being forced into this series and that it is degrading that their best chance of making it big in the world of races is to do this single sex series.
Regardless of her reservations, it seems that there is a clear desire in the world of racing to provide equal opportunities regardless of sex and allow women to compete alongside men at the top level.
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