W Series - the championship that allows little girls to dream
As a little girl, I had a fascination with racing cars. As a little girl, I wondered why it was just men racing on TV. Now, that same girl gets to see a grid of talented women race on some of the best grand prix tracks in the world in front of filled grandstands. That girl and millions of other girls can see visible role models across social media, on TV and in person and they know that they can dream knowing it could become a reality. And that’s all thanks to W Series.
When W Series was first launched at the end of 2018, the prospect seemed too good to be true. A free drive, aired on TV, lots of exposure…surely not? And then there was the worry that the racing wouldn’t be good and entertaining. The talent pool of women in motorsport is small – albeit growing – and could W Series really gather enough talent to showcase great racing? The answer is yes. Season one was a huge success, topped off with a festival-style grand finale at Brands Hatch in the UK. I attended, had a blast, and that was when the penny dropped. This series is special.
The announcement of the Formula 1 deal was needed. The series had to be – and deserved to be – put in a bigger spotlight and attract more talent on and off the track. We had different winners, reserve driver podiums, and it was true to say that W Series was capturing the hearts and minds of many. Why? Because it was generating endless opportunities for drivers that otherwise wouldn’t be racing. It really is as simple as that.
Alice Powell, a plumber, stood on the top step of the podium at the British Grand Prix. She had previously been forced to stop racing because she didn’t have the budget.
Jessica Hawkins, a pro stunt driver, propelled her career forward by signing on the dotted lines for an F1 team. The Aston Martin Formula 1 team driver ambassador had never raced in single-seaters prior to W Series.
Jamie Chadwick, twice champion, also got her Williams Racing deal through her involvement with W Series.
Emma Kimilainen, a mother who thought her competitive racing career was nearly over, represented Finland at the Race of Champions alongside Mika Hakkinen.
Miki Koyama, who was quick but had a lot of bad luck in W Series, has just become the first female driver to sign onto the Toyota Young Driver programme.
This list is growing and that’s a good thing. If it wasn’t getting longer, the series wouldn’t be doing its job. It’s easy to question why its winner Chadwick hasn’t progressed into F3 or F2, and that isn’t something that W Series personnel haven’t shied away from answering. More funding is needed for Chadwick and other drivers. The job for W Series is to attract sponsors, have more races, increase the talent pool and see its drivers move up the ranks. This takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to remember that W Series is still effectively a start-up - it’s only had two seasons of racing.
Having attended the 2022 pre-season test in Barcelona, the W Series impact is clear to see. Fabienne Wohlwend was beaming from ear to ear after her first run in the car. “I’ve missed this,” she told us. We can see why!
W Series has grown exponentially since its creation and it’s by no means finished yet. CEO Catherine Bond Muir wants to tackle America and then Asia over the coming years and she’s right to do so with the enormous potential there.
We gave W Series a chance and it hasn't let us down yet. It’s given us the opportunities to interview more incredible drivers, grow our platforms and create lasting relationships.
W Series allows dreams to come true. And one day it’ll help women back into Formula 1, we’re sure of it.
Photo credit: W Series and Lou Johnson.