Making History

Changing the Face of Motorsport

In 1958, Italian driver Maria Teresa de Filippis, became the first woman to enter a Formula One race, finishing 10th in the Belgian Grand Prix. Years later in 1976, Lella Lombardi became the first female driver to earn points in a Formula One Grand Prix, when she placed 6th in Spain. More recent times have seen women like Susie Wolff and Michele Mouton successfully entering the male-dominated world of Formula One.

These pioneering women provide inspiration for today’s W Series drivers but the fact that it is more than 40 years since a female driver last started a Formula One race, highlights the massive gender-inequality in motorsports, even today.

A New Philosophy

“We at W Series firmly believe that female and male racing drivers can compete with one another on equal terms given the same opportunity.” 

W Series organiser

This empowering statement is at the heart of W Series philosophy. Their mission is to be a catalyst for change and force greater female participation in motorsport. W Series plans to achieve this by establishing a competitive habitat, where women can gain crucial skills, qualifications and experience, so they can eventually go on to compete in higher-level races against male drivers.

“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.”

Adrian Newey, Red Bull engineer

W Series is also being backed by British Formula One legend, David Coulthard, who was so impressed with the idea of promoting female racers, that he has become their chairman and shareholder.

“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.”

David Coulthard, 13 times Grand Prix winner

Mixed Reactions

Not everyone agrees that W Series is a good idea. The main critic is Indianapolis 500 driver, Pippa Mann, who tweeted,

“What a sad day for motorsport. Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them.”

Pippa Mann

Formula Three European Championship driver Sophia Florsch agrees saying,

“Please compare it with economics: Do we need separate Women Management / Advisory Boards? No. Wrong way.”

Sophia Florsch

Other female drivers are more supporting, like GT4 European Series driver Stephane Kox who commented,

“W Series sounds like it’s going to be a really positive addition to the global motorsport scene, and it’ll clearly be a big help to ambitious female racing drivers everywhere.”

Stephane Kox

Whichever view you take, the fact that the issue of gender-inequality in motorsports is now being openly discussed and has gained widespread media attention, can only be a good thing.

Financial Backing

It has been estimated that the average cost of managing a young driver, male or female, from junior karting through to Formula One level, is nearly £7 million. This enormous sum is a huge obstacle for any driver, but even more so for women, who are less likely to attract any meaningful interest from investors or progress past Formula Three level.

W Series is fighting this by selecting drivers on ability alone and drivers are now able to race without incurring any financial cost. Organisers know that women’s sport is receiving more media coverage than ever before, and they hope to use this interest to attract sponsors. Global brand Puma have already signed up to supply the drivers with triple-layer Nomex suits. This cutting-edge racewear is specially fitted to ensure high-performance and is flame-retardant to comply with Formula One safety standards.

To prove that talent and ability are at the forefront of the W Series, all drivers will be given identical Tatuus T-318 Formula Three cars.

“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.”

CEO Catherine Bond Muir, W Series

The Selection Process

Unsurprisingly, 100 female drivers applied for the W Series and the final 18 drivers plus 4 reserves, were carefully selected by an expert panel of judges which included: David Coulthard; Dave Ryan, former sporting director of the McLaren Formula One team; Alexander Wurz, former Formula One driver; and IndyCar driver, Lyn St James.

The 28 drivers who made it to the 4-day selection phase in Almeria, Southern Spain, tested the Tatuus Formula Three cars, which will be used when the W Series begins.

The final 22 drivers have now been officially announced and will take part in pre-season testing in Germany, with the opening race at the Hockenheimring taking place on May 3rd.

Prize Fund

The competition will be held over six rounds in 2019, running in support of the DTM and the season finale is to be raced at Brands Hatch in August. The winner will receive the substantial first prize of $500,000, with all runners-up sharing a total prize fund of $1.5 million.

W Series has ambitious plans to expand in future seasons and hopes to race at famous Formula One tracks around the world.

W Series Survey