What is Formula 1 Doing?
Formula 1 are planning a develop a brand-new all-female series for women between the ages of 16 and 22, which could be seen as early as 2023.
This news comes after the W Series season had to be cancelled three races before the end of the scheduled calendar due to financial problems.
W Series Cancellation –
Catherine Bond Muir (Chief Executive Officer, W Series) said: “It’s with both great sadness and frustration that we announce that our much-anticipated final three races of the 2022 season in Austin and Mexico City will not go ahead.
“As a start-up in only our third season of racing, we are always working hard to ensure regularity of funding as we continue to grow our business, but due to recent unforeseen circumstances outside of W Series’ control, we had not been in receipt of contracted funds due to us.”
However, the new all-female series would reportedly not be a competitor for the W Series, and would instead run alongside.
Why Are Formula 1 Investing In This?
It is believed that Formula 1 want to insert the new series into the Formula 2 and 3 pyramid to serve as a feeder competition with 12-15 drivers on the grid.
While the series has not yet been confirmed, Formula 1 did release the following statement: “We are committed to ensuring the best possible opportunities for women to get into our sport and to get the skills and experience necessary to get to the top of F1.”
It is likely that Formula 1 see this as a more sustainable way to feed young female drivers into the main W Series, in order to improve the product as a whole. The more opportunities are given to young female drivers, the higher the pool of talent, the higher the quality of racing, and the more likely people are to watch and invest in it.
How Much Will They Invest?
Motorsport, especially at the top level, is an extremely expensive sport and relies on sponsorship from some very rich people. The fact that the W Series, which is a funded start-up, had to cancel the season early, showcases how tight the margins are. So we would not expect Formula 1 to pump crazy money into this, but also they wouldn’t be getting involved unless they thought it could be socially beneficial and, eventually, profitable.
What Has Lewis Hamilton Said?
Once the W Series was called off early, following another Jamie Chadwick season victory, Lewis Hamilton was critical of Formula 1 not doing more to assist. The Mercedes driver claimed more needs to be done to create a pathway for female drivers.
Despite the rise of Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton arguably remains the face of Formula One, and perhaps motorsport in general around the world. He has also always been outspoken on issues relating to gender equality, LQBTQ+, and race representation.
When the seven-time world champion chooses to speak out against something, people generally listen, and his words certainly hang heavy here.
On the idea of a new all-female series, Hamilton added (Auto Sport): “I mean, it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Hamilton when asked about the new initiative.
“But it’s not about finding one female driver. There are thousands of jobs here. And very, very few high positions particularly for women.
“I mean, last night, I was in the drivers’ briefing, and there’s around 70 men in there, two female, and two people of colour. And it’s a stark contrast, when still after 15 years you’re still seeing that exactly the same.
“So a lot of work needs to be done, not only in supporting and putting spotlight on young girls trying to get into racing, we’ve got Ignite that we’ve started to try and get 8000 girls into STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], and into motorsport.”
What Driver Prospects Are There?
One name to look out for in the future is 18-year-old Chloe Chambers, who spent some time with Lewis Hamilton recently which is always a great place to start. She has already taken part in seven races for Jenner Racing in the W Series and has a successful history in youth kart racing.