Oh great. Another article about women in motorsport being written by a guy. Here we go! Hear me out here. There’s something fundamentally wrong with the W Series and there needs to be a change.
Before you jump down my throat, if you know anything about me I am a huge supporter of getting more women involved with motorsport at all levels in all roles. Motorsport media needs more women behind the camera to balance out some of the male egos that dominate the photo spots.
Back in 2020 I put together this Women in Motorsport feature which was heavily pushed on DriveTribe (RIP!). Knowing the ownership of DriveTribe the fact it was featured came as a surprise given the perceived “hatred” of women by at least one of the owners.
I’ve also been invited along to capture the FIA Girls on Track program both in Sydney and Perth and have been working towards getting more women involved with my media business Turn 7 Media. I am constantly on the look out for women who want to be involved with motorsport media. My choice to have more women in my business isn’t a “woke” or “token” move. I want them to grow bigger than us and move on to bigger and better things.
The W Series was started as a “pathway” to get more women involved at top level motorsport, mainly into F1, but women both in and out of the program have mentioned there is something wrong with segregating women from men in motorsport at this level, while pushing the “there is no reason a woman can’t race against a man” message.
At a very junior level, programs such as FIA Girls on Track are segregated which allow for a comfortable environment to learn about aspects of motorsport without the boisterous behavior of adolescence boys interrupting the sessions. Also at this level in Australia is another program Ricciardo’s Racers which focuses on track skills more than the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) side of motorsport.
Ricciardos’ Racers welcomes both girls and boys to participate and at a recent event in Perth, one of the top competitors of the day was in fact a young girl who is super keen to get involved with racing. On the day she was rather shy and reserved, however she also attended the FIA Girls on Track program after the Ricciardo’s Racers event and completely came out of her shell, showing the need for a program such as FIA Girls on Track.
Back to the W Series, money is being spent to promote the segregation of motorsport and the category is used as a support category at male dominated motorsport events including the Formula 1. Perhaps its time to divert this money into starting a Formula 1 team?
Based on 2018 figures, a team such as Torro Rosso has expenditure of US$181 million per year and is a fairly competitive outfit. While we don’t know the actual cost of the W Series (we searched and searched), surely the total cost spent to run the entire series would be nudging close to that when you take into account all the teams, track costs, etc.
A woman only F1 team would not only give hope to women at all levels of motorsport of being able to reach that level, but also show that women can compete against men in motorsport and don’t need their own series.
If you look at the innaugural Extreme E series, Australian Molly Taylor was in the 2021 championship winning team where she drove to stage wins and wasn’t just a prop to promote the series. She was there to compete and compete she did.
There are plenty of women in engineering roles in Formula 1 teams as well as administrative and management roles. Women such as Ruth Buscombe, Dr Kathryn Richards, Monisha Kalternborn and Australian Krystina Emmanouilides are all working in Formula 1. Many more women could get the opportunity to work in an F1 team if there is one that pushes the women in motorsport message.
W Series winner Jamie Chadwick is a development driver for Williams but this seems to be as far as women get within Formula 1.
Back in 2018 some prominent names in motorsport criticised the decision to form the W Series.
Former Formula E and ex-Sauber F1 Test Driver Simona de Silvestro has suggested that the $1.5 million prize fund would be better invested in a scholarship system to support the development of talent across a wider range of motorsport disciplines.
“If there’s really that much money going into the series, there are a few girls that have been pretty competitive in junior series. It seems like everyone is just struggling to get the shot. If you look at a Red Bull affiliation or a Mercedes affiliation, somehow these kids always get into the best teams and then they’re winning. I think, personally, it would have been better to do something like the Red Bull programme and make sure some girls get an opportunity on a really good team.”
British IndyCar Series driver Pippa Mann responded to the series’ announcement on Twitter, saying “What a sad day for motorsport. Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them. I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backwards take place in my life time.”
Charlie Martin also agreed with the sentiment stating “This series is founded on segregation, and while it may create opportunities for some female drivers, it sends a clear message that segregation is acceptable. We don’t discriminate in sport based on race, so it is particularly jarring that we feel it is acceptable to do so based on gender in 2018. As racers, we want to compete against the best drivers – regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or gender – and prove we are the best at what we do.”
Probably the highest level of criticism came from Claire Williams, at that time deputy team principal of the Williams Formula One team, who was initially highly critical of the series, and felt it was analogous to segregation; however she later retracted this statement, and praised the series for promoting women in motorsports.
Some will say that starting a women’s team gives an easy path into the F1 series however in a series where money talks more than talent, are they really getting an easy path? They still need to show they have the talent to be competitive, heck even the pay drivers in Formula 1 still need to show they’re competitive as the driver money vs potential sponorship & F1 points money outweighs each other.
So what’s your thoughts? Should the W Series become a W Team and start a program similar to the Red Bull driver academy to find the talent and put all their money and effort into running a team in Formula 1?
I think they should.
One last thought .. I am also not saying that any woman should get a position just because they are a woman. But they should be afforded the same chances that a man gets that they are often not able to achieve unless there is some kind of gimmick or sex appeal in them being included.