Last week, Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali had some choice words about women in motorsport. While he wasn’t totally wrong in his sentiment that it’ll be a few years before we see a woman in F1, I was particularly struck by the fact that he kept referring to W Series — the all-woman open-wheel series that serves as a support event during multiple F1 weekends a year — as “Formula W.” But in a chat earlier this week, I learned that W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir actually doesn’t mind the misconception.
Now, as an Elizabeth who absolutely refuses to be called by any other name, hearing someone call something by anything but its given name is frustrating. To me, it connotes a lack of respect. But Bond Muir comes from a totally different background, so she sees things differently.
“I used to be an intellectual property lawyer, and I am delighted that people are using the term Formula W,” Bond Muir said. “That means there’s confusion in the marketplace as to what W Series is, which means no one else can ever call themselves Formula W.”
See, to warrant the “Formula” term in your series name, Bond Muir says, your sport must be owned by the FIA. It’s similar to the way a series can’t crown a “World Champion” unless it’s an FIA-sanctioned sport. So, because W Series is privately owned, it can’t be Formula W.
“The fact is that there’s so much confusion, if anyone applied for the trademark Formula W, we would have a very robust defense to say, you can’t call yourselves that, because people already think that’s what we are called,” Bond Muir elaborated.
It’s a fascinating approach to the conundrum — and a frankly positive one at that. As Bond Muir noted with a laugh, “Let’s face it, if the CEO of F1 thinks we are called Formula W, I think we’re in a pretty good position.”
The next round of the W Series will be the sport’s first in Asia, when it hits the track as part of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend between September 30 and October 2. Here in America, you can check it out on ESPNU.