When the provisional calendar for the 2021 F1 season was announced, so too was the calendar for the F2 and F3 categories. Since these categories are linked to a selection of F1 Grand Prix weekends, the events have inevitably grown in popularity. Now, today, it has been announced that the W Series, the international single-seater motor racing championship for female drivers, will also be on the support bill for F1 in 2021. The W Series will be placed on the schedule at eight different Grand Prix in 2021 following an exciting new partnership with Formula 1.
Today’s announcement is still in the very early stages because unlike the F2 and F3 categories, we are yet to learn exactly when and where the W Series events on F1 Grand Prix weekends will be.
When the W Series broke onto the scene in 2019, it did so with much hype and fanfare. Jamie Chadwick was the inaugural W Series champion in 2019 - and is a member of Williams' Driver Academy which shows the talent in the category.
Like so many other motorsports though, W Series fell victim to the chaos caused by COVID-19 and the pandemic resulted in the 2020 W Series season being called off. In its place came the first ever W Series Esports League which was won by the runner-up of the real world 2019 W Series - Beitske Visser.
W Series’ Chief Executive Officer Catherine Bond Muir is ready for the series to bounce back in 2021 and the overall intention of this new partnership is clear to see, as her statement shows:
"After such a successful inaugural season [in 2019], we at W Series are absolutely delighted to be partnering with Formula 1 for 2021 and beyond,” she said.
"Formula 1 is by some margin the world’s premier motor racing series, and, when we promised that W Series would be bigger and better in the future, partnering with Formula 1 was always our ultimate objective. There is no doubt that, now that W Series will be run alongside and in collaboration with Formula 1, our global reach, impact and influence will be increased significantly.”
"Everything that made W Series so popular and successful in 2019 will remain. The cars will be identical, the racing will be close and competitive, and our mission will always be to further the interests and prospects of female racing drivers. We want W Series to entertain, and entertain it will.
"But we also want it to become a crucial default-option stepping stone for any female racing driver who wants to carve out a professional racing career, and our proximity to Formula 1 will help and enhance that process. The fact that W Series is now eligible for FIA Super Licence points will also be an important factor in that regard.
This addition of being eligible for Super Licence points is a huge moment for the sport. The W Series of course wants to succeed in its own right…but it also showing it is a viable stepping stone for drivers hoping to reach the pinnacle of motorsport – Formula One.
"We are very grateful to Chase Carey, Ross Brawn and their colleagues for having faith in W Series, and for prioritising diversity and inclusion in this way, and we intend to help them drive forwards their excellent #WeRaceAsOne programme this year and in years to come."
The excitement shown by the W Series camp is also reciprocated by those involved with F1.
"We are excited to announce our 2021 season this week and look forward to a thrilling season with an exciting mix of new races and established circuits that we missed during our unprecedented 2020 season,” said Ross Brawn, Managing Director of Motorsport at Formula 1.
"It is a really important moment for us to welcome W Series as partners for eight races this season. They have been a beacon to many since they began racing in 2019. We believe it is incredibly important to give everyone the chance to reach the highest levels of our sport and their partnership with Formula 1 next season shows our determination and commitment to showcase their exciting series and the importance of building greater diversity across the sport."
Formula One’s We Race As One initiative is certainly one of the lasting themes of the 2019 season. However, it is encouraging to see that this attitude is much more than just a soundbite and we all look forward to the fantastic wheel to wheel battles certain to be seen on track next year..
With an expected increase in ratings and an increase in awareness in 2021, maybe in time we will also see an increase in F1 - of female drivers.