Motor racing: the W Series will become a team championship from 2022
By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – The all-female W Series, which backs Formula 1 at eight grand prix this year, will become a team championship from 2022 due to strong sponsor interest, organizers said on Thursday.
However, the drivers will continue to race with identical machines, with cars prepared and maintained by W Series Engineering.
The series, whose second season kicks off this weekend on the Austrian Red Bull Ring and which has the ultimate goal of helping a woman race in Formula 1 for the first time since 1976, currently provides cars for individual drivers.
The runners, selected on merit, pay nothing for their seats and compete for a total prize of $ 1.5 million.
The new team structure will see pairs of drivers representing a number of new sponsors, including German sportswear company Puma.
“It transforms the business, it makes money to build a sustainable business,” W Series founder and CEO Catherine Bond Muir told Reuters.
She said it cost tens of millions of dollars to set up the series, but the Formula 1 connection provided a world stage and a “quality stamp” for the sponsors.
“In the future, we will be supported by the arrival of our partners. We can have long term planning and grow the business much better. For me, this is perhaps our most important announcement, ”she added.
“It is well documented that women’s sport has been more affected than men’s sport during the pandemic. I think one of the great things about what we’re announcing is that it shows we’re going against that trend. “
Bond Muir said there will be a team championship in the future but not a constructors’ championship because the W series wanted to ensure a level playing field.
Teams would not be allowed to charge drivers money or force them to provide sponsorship in order to secure the ride, as happens in other junior series.
Bond Muir envisioned a scenario where teams could compete for the services of a pilot, and this would be encouraged.
“We want the drivers to make money, so if there was competition and they got the better driver because they were paying more money, from my point of view it’s fine,” she declared.
“What we’re helping do is empower the drivers and get money for them. We still have our prize money this year… but in the future, if the teams wanted to come and pay a lot of money for a particular driver, I personally would be happy.
The first British W-Series champion Jamie Chadwick will represent the Veloce team, with whom they already have a relationship.
The series did not run last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic after debuting in 2019 alongside the German Touring Car Championship (DTM).
Bond Muir said the first year focused on explaining why the series exists, and the second year on survival and getting a deal with Formula 1.
“This year has been about financial security and must now be about growing audiences and spreading the W Series brand around the world,” she said.
(Report by Alan Baldwin, edited by Ed Osmond)