The women-only W Series racing division, which ran its inaugural season last year with Williams Formula One development driver Jamie Chadwick taking the championship, will be back for a longer second season in 2020. Not only will the second season be longer, but it’ll also pair up with F1 for two race weekends.
F1 announced on Thursday that the W Series would be a support race for two of its grand prix weekends this year, which will be the U.S. Grand Prix and Mexican Grand Prix. The W Series will run eight events this year compared to a six-race inaugural 2019 season, with the U.S. and Mexico events in October marking the final two races of the season. F1, comparatively, will run 22 races this year and will still have two events left after the W Series season ends.
Ross Brawn, the managing director of motorsport for F1, said in a statement that F1 is “convinced that [its] sport must offer equal opportunities for men and women to compete together,” and that supporting and promoting drivers from underrepresented backgrounds is “one of [its] strategic objectives.” That’s one way to phrase it, even if not the best.
The W Series’ eight events this year will happen in eight different countries, the announcement said, and Brawn mentioned that putting the W Series in front of the crowds at the U.S. Grand Prix and Mexican Grand Prix will “further raise the awareness of the importance of inclusion and diversity in motorsport.”
It’s bittersweet to imagine the W Series, which says the heart of its operation is “the firm belief that women can compete equally with men in motorsport,” as a support race for F1. The setup benefits the women driving by pairing them with such major racing events, but it also places the women’s division as a support race for what’s often considered the peak of open-wheel racing, and what is currently a men’s series by default.
But the W Series, which is free to enter for the women who qualify, has done some good despite our initial (and existing) reservations. While it would have been more admirable to see the series’ money go toward funding women in existing racing divisions rather than creating a separate one for only women, it’s still provided a way to get women’s names and talents out there.
And even if the W Series will stand on a lower step to F1 this year, perhaps the move will at least get some more names out there.