Is segregation really the best means to rocket a female into Formula 1? There were plenty who said otherwise when W Series (see what they did there?) was launched last autumn. The all-female, one-make single-seater series kicks off next month and it’ll draw attention and contention in equal measure.
Devised by, among others, David Coulthard and Adrian Newey, the series is well intentioned. Unlike stick-and-ball sports, women can compete with men in motorsport, but still there’s a depressing lack of numbers and opportunity. W Series could change that.
A rigorous selection process led to 18 women being hand-picked to compete in the six-round series, which begins at Hockenheim on 3/4 May and ends at Brands Hatch on 10/11 August. Among them are five Brits, including Jamie Chadwick, 20, who last year became the first woman to win a Formula 3 race. Her profile is growing on merit, so surely she has the most to lose.
“You could say that, but I also have the most to gain,” she counters. “When I was looking at my options for this year, the new FIA F3 series wasn’t one of them because it’s €800,000 to €1 million for a season.”
In contrast, W Series entries are fully funded, so drivers don’t pay to race – and there’s big prize money: US$500,000 (£382,000) for the champion out of a total fund of US$1.5 million (£1.1m). Chadwick couldn’t ignore that.