What is W Series?

W Series returns this weekend for their 2nd season! Chloe Harper Daly takes you through what the W Series is and what it stands for.

Written by Chloe Harper Daly

June 23, 2021

This weekend in Austria, it’s the return of the nearly all-female run W Series but what is it? W Series is a racing series launched in October 2018 for women to have an equal opportunity in motorsport. Instead of fighting for seats in other junior categories, women will have the chance to learn and develop before going onto higher levels of motorsports.

W Series Drivers via @WSeriesRacing on Instagram

A huge part of this series is the fact that it is free to enter. Female drivers simply apply and are chosen based on their talent and experience, not their money and sponsors. 55 drivers tried to qualify for the 2019 season, but only the fastest 18 made it. In other categories, there is no doubt that the people with the best sponsors and most money can get seats easily, which can leave great talents out of the sport altogether. This season in F2 and F3, there have been many lineup changes because of finances, further emphasizing the importance of a series run based on talent rather than money. The only requirements for W Series are that you are 17 years old and have racing experience. They run off partners and sponsors to the series rather than individual drivers. This helps calm the financial worries most drivers have and allows the sport to become more accessible, which is a must if it wants to continue in the future.

 

All cars are exactly the same in the series, and all mechanics are from W Series instead of the individual teams. The chassis used in W Series is the Tatuus F3 T-318 which follows the same spec as F3 and is powered by Autotecnica Motori-tuned Alfa Romeo 1.8-litre turbocharged engines. While there are teams in W Series, the cars and mechanics are owned by the series meaning cheating isn’t possible. In other series, richer teams often have better cars, being able to bend the rules and use their money to their advantage. In W Series, however, there is no possibility of teams gaining mechanical advantages, so it is down to proper racing to achieve results.

Photo via @WSeriesRacing on Twitter

In 2019, W Series had its debut season where Williams Junior driver Jamie Chadwick was the inaugural champion. Over 6 races, 5 different drivers made the podium proving the true competitiveness in this series. By the end of the season, only 10 points separated champion Jamie Chadwick and vice-champion Beitske Visser. 2020’s season was canceled due to COVID-19, so this year is only the second season. Unlike other feeder series, the reigning champion can return and challenge for the title again. Chadwick is coming back to defend her title, and there is sure to be a good fight coming. 

When I looked at the reasons why a number of women had stopped competing, it was because they couldn’t raise the money, drive the sponsorship. I’ve had this very strong belief that if we were really going to be serious about promoting women and giving women a platform, money couldn’t be any part of it,” Catherine Bond Muir told Forbes in 2020, “So we made a very early commitment in the business plan to cover every single expense for the drivers. The only thing that our drivers have to do at any point is get themselves to their nearest international airport. From there on, they didn’t need to spend a dime.

The creator of this female racing series is Catherine Bond Muir, who is not a racing driver but a solicitor and corporate-financier who worked mainly in sport. Muir realized that out of all the sports globally, the group with the least amount of female athletes was motorsport, and she wanted to do something about that. In a few years, her determination to change the representation of females in motorsport became a racing series with $30 million in investments. She ignored all the people who said it was a bad idea and made way for female racing drivers to have a platform. Due to Muir’s determination in its first season, W Series became the 2nd most-watched female sport. 

2019 W Series Champion Jamie Chadwick (Photo via @WSeriesRacing on Twitter)

As you can imagine, in a male-dominated sport that has never been open to change, there has been harsh criticism of an all-female racing series. Even some female racing drivers were against it as they understandably wanted to race against men in the typical categories. However, W Series isn’t to stop different genders from racing each other but instead gives an under-represented group a chance to show they can drive fast and give them somewhere to learn the skills needed to make it. If there were the equal opportunities that people say there are, why are there no women currently in F2 or F3? In 2019 there was a single female racer with 21 other men in F2, and that just isn’t equal. Luckily, we see more women enter the likes of F4, but a women’s racing series is still necessary to showcase what women can do. 

Photo of Belen Garcia via @WSeriesRacing on Twitter

W Series is more than a racing series; it also encourages women in STEM. There is a severe lack of women in STEM, but especially in the automotive industry and motorsport. This comes from many factors, but especially from the fact that often women don’t even see it as an option. Engineering and mechanics are still seen as a “man’s job,” but hopefully, the women in W Series can empower young girls to go for it.

As a woman who studied engineering in an all-boy class, I heard daily rhetoric about how STEM is a “boy thing” and that it was weird I was in that class. This is why W Series is so important. They want to inspire women and young girls to try STEM or try karting proving that women can do anything men can do. I wish that as a young girl, I had inspirational women to show me I could do anything I put my mind to. W Series has many goals, but one of their biggest is producing an F1 driver. The last female F1 driver we had was back in the 1990s, and without the intervention of W Series, who knows how long we would have to wait to see another one. I am so excited to see these women racing on F1 weekends this year and can’t wait for the day where we have more women in F1. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, I’m Chloe and I have a huge passion for motorsports. I want to work in media in the future and I love writing. My favourite drivers are Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo and my favourite team is McLaren. You can find me on Instagram @chloeharperdaly.

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