When the W Series was first announced, The Powers That Be in the sport assured fans that the all-female open-wheel series would proudly stand on its own without becoming the dedicated opening act for the much bigger Formula One. But the 2022 W Series schedule shows just that: All eight rounds of the series’ championship will be hosted during F1 weekends.
The W Series is visiting five new venues this year, but they all have one thing in common: Those events take place during the F1 weekend. Here’s how the schedule shakes down:
- May 6-8: Miami, USA
- May 20-22: Barcelona, Spain
- July 1-3: Silverstone UK
- July 22-24: Le Castellet, France
- July 29-21: Budapest, Hungary
- October 7-9: Suzuka, Japan
- October 21-23: Austin, USA
- October 28-30: Mexico City, Mexico
CEO Catherine Bond Muir was optimistic in the press release, saying, “Last year, we began a landmark partnership with Formula 1 and our talented grid of female racing drivers proved that they belong on motor racing’s greatest stage.
“I would like to thank Formula 1 for their continued support and commitment to creating more opportunities for girls and women in the highest categories of our sport.”
But as we’ve written on Jalopnik before, the W Series drivers aren’t actually competing on motor racing’s greatest stage. I’ll let Alanis King sum it up, because I think she said it best:
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.
“Bittersweet” is the perfect word. On one hand, pairing the W Series with a series like F1 undoubtedly raises the W Series’ profile and puts those drivers in front of more eyes than would happen if W Series just turned up to a circuit on its own. It’s a guaranteed way to put these highly-capable drivers in front of the right people in the paddock, as well — the ones who can sign them to other lower-division Formula series or even to Formula One itself.
And yet at this point in time, the W Series is the woman’s series where F1 — and many other open-wheel categories — could be seen as a man’s series, since few women have recently had the opportunity to compete with the male drivers on equal terms. Having the all-female series serve as the opening act for the all-male series does leave a bad taste in my mouth.
That said, I’ve been genuinely impressed by the W Series overall. The racing has been great, and I’m still trying to articulate just how wonderful it feels to look at a podium and see it filled with capable women who have just kicked some ass. I love that the series is free to enter, which gives women a chance to race competitively in the absence of sponsorship. I love that women are monetarily rewarded for their performance in the overall championship.
But the day I really consider the W Series success is the day one of its drivers finally gets to start her first F1 race.