Should any effort to widen the pool of female talent and give women a pathway to Formula 1 be applauded?
“Some people have misunderstood the premise behind the series: the message isn’t that women can’t compete with men,” Karun Chandhok says.
“I believe it’s about creating a platform to encourage more women to race.”
That’s the thing, you see.
The launch of the new female-only racing platform – the W Series – is about giving women the opportunity to progress to higher levels of motorsport. It is not limiting women, it is empowering them to achieve their goals and to ensure that equality will win in the long run.
Today, a list of 55 contenders for the 18 seats available for 2019 was released. Among those named are ladies from all four corners of the globe…
Let us get some basics out of the way.
The series will take to the track next year, with the competitors travelling to some of the “best and most famous” European circuits. The drivers will be select on merit after a series of tests and challenges.
The winner of the series will receive $500,000 (U.S. dollars), with further prize money being awarded for the drivers placed from second to 18th.
The cars they will be racing are essentially Formula 3 cars, powered by identical four-cylinder 1.8 litre turbocharged engines.
The aim? To get more females to the top of the motorsport ladder.
“At the moment, women racing drivers tend to reach a ‘glass ceiling’ at around the GP3/F3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent,” former F1 driver David Coulthard says.
“That’s why an all-new all-female single-seater motor racing series is required, to establish a competitive and constructive motorsport habitat in which our drivers will be able to equip themselves with the necessary skill-set eventually to move on up to existing high-level mainstream racing series and compete with the best male drivers on equal terms.”
When I first heard the news, I had conflicting feelings.
My initial reaction was that – to the naked eye – this was inferring that women need an exclusive series in order to be successful. If they have shown that they can compete at top levels, why is this needed?
We have been pushing so hard for equality, and the introduction of a women-only championship seems to be undoing the hard work. If we have been combatting the sexist remarks that women – supposedly – will never compete in F1 again, starting a female-only racing series could add fuel to that fire.
Pippa Mann has worked tirelessly to promote equality in motorsport and to push boundaries. She calls the W Series a regression.
There is also the argument that the money going into this adventure should be spent on bursaries and scholarships instead. For what it is costing, there could be enough backing for a number of female drivers. This would give them the financial boost for them to make the next step. Would this be more worthwhile?
Then there was Carmen Jorda’s comments last year that caused a huge backlash. The Spanish driver advocated that women faced a physical disadvantage and therefore would not be able to compete at the top level with men. Surely, this invention is perhaps proving that Carmen has a point?
But, then you begin to read deeper and look at the positives that the W Series can bring.
Jamie Chadwick, who is a British Formula 3 winner, says that the W Series will “give women another platform to go racing” and will “encourage many more to enter the sport”.
This is the factor that we should be focus on. We all want to see more females racing, so if the series inspires more that is one big positive. These women racing will hopefully provide a goal for young drivers at grassroots level. It will hopefully give them the determination to flourish.
The W Series is not stopping women from competing elsewhere, it is fundamentally giving those who would not necessarily have the chance to thrive. And that is awesome, right?
It is down to the individual girl or woman to decide where their racing will take them and, if the opportunity comes their way, they are fully within their right to take it. IF it leads to us seeing a female F1 driver in the future, or just encourage the general participation of females in motorsport, bravo.
At the end of the day, we all want to see men and women represented equally in sport. we want them to be there because of their talent – not because they need to be there to enforce gender equality.
So, if the W Series will eventually allow women to progress to the next level and equip them with a track record of success, why should it not be allowed? We should encourage this idea to find and develop talent, not badmouth it.
Give it a chance. Let us see what it can do.
What do you think on the introduction of the W Series? Leave your comments below.