Top female drivers hit back against W series
Some of motorsport's key figures have spoken out in their dissatisfaction and approval of the introduction of a new female-only single-seater series.
On Wednesday it was announced a new Formula 3 level championship would be created with the sole purpose of hosting female talent on the grid in order to increase the level of women in motorsport at the top level.
Using the current Tatuus T-318 British Formula 3 chassis including a halo device, powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine. The championship plans to race in Europe initially before expanding across other continents.
The series will be free to enter and all participants will undertake a “rigorous pre-selection programme” that involves on-track testing, simulator appraisal and technical engineering tests.
Backed by ex-Formula 1 race winner David Coulthard along with former McLaren head of PR Matt Bishop, design guru Adrian Newey and experienced F1 team manager Dave Ryan, it carries some weight.
The champion of the series will receive prize money of $500,000, with financial pay-outs down to 18th position in the standings, which could go towards supporting a budget towards another series further up the junior ladder.
It is still yet to be confirmed at the time of writing if the W Series championship will contribute points towards a Formula 1 superlicence.
Many drivers, former and current, as well as other motorsport professionals,have expressed strong emotions toward the series on social media and using testimonials to open up their feelings on this decision to create an all-female championship.
Indy 500 veteran Pippa Mann vehemently voiced her displeasure at the introduction of such a championship, describing it as segregation.
"What a sad day for motorsport," she said. "Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them. I am deeply disappointed to see such a historic step backwards take place in my lifetime."
Ginetta GT5 driver, Charlie Martin concurred with Mann by adding: "This series is founded on segregation, and while it may create opportunities for some female drivers, it sends a clear message that segregation is acceptable.
"We don't discriminate in sport based on race, so it is particularly jarring that we feel it is acceptable to do so based on gender in 2018. As racers, we want to compete against the best drivers - regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or gender - and prove we are the best at what we do."
European F3 driver Sophia Floersch expressed a similar opinion, adding: “I agree with the arguments - but I totally disagree with the solution," said the German. "Women need long-term support and trustful partners. I want to compete with the best of our sport.
"Please compare it with economics: Do we need separate Women Management/Advisory Boards? No. Wrong way.”
The Grand Tour test driver Abbie Eaton pressed the fact that a lack of budget is often the biggest factor for women in motorsport not being able to progress through the ranks.
"I’ve won and been on the podium in every series I’ve raced in," she said. "So what’s stopping me reaching the very top?
“Not my ability. It’s lack of money. Why waste money on a segregation? Invest in the already successful female racers that NEED the money.”
In a contrasting opinion, British F3 driver Jamie Chadwick believes the championship gives women another platform to showcase their skills and give many the opportunity to progress further.
“W Series is giving female drivers another platform to go racing," she said. "It’s no secret that motorsport is an incredibly tough industry often dictated by financial factors.
"As a funded championship, W Series not only offers a fantastic opportunity for top female talent to race but will also encourage many more young females to enter the sport. I’m a racing driver and, if I could, I would race 365 days of the year.
"I will still race against men in other championships but W Series is the perfect supplement to help me develop and progress further through the junior motorsport ranks. I’m excited about what’s to come!”
British racer Alice Powell also feels the chance to race in equal machinery and enable more women to jump into motorsport is a good step, especially those with little to no budget.
"Fully funded, same cars," she said. "A great opportunity for female drivers to try and make a step on the ladder and a leap into the sport. No worries about funding and getting the chance to compete in a sport that we love.”
John Watson, former Formula 1 driver added: "I started 152 Grands Prix between 1973 and ’85 and won five of them.
"I raced with some of the greatest drivers of the era – Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter, Alan Jones, Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg, Alain Prost, champions all – but I also raced with Lella Lombardi, who in ’75 became the first and so far only woman to score a point in a Grand Prix, half a point actually because she finished sixth but half points were awarded owing to the race having been red-flagged after just 29 of the scheduled 75 laps.
"It was a topsy-turvy race, marred by the tragic death of five spectators who were hit by a flying car, and I finished eighth, two places behind Lella. If you’d told me then that 42 years later Lella would still be the most recent female driver to start a Grand Prix, and the only one to trouble the scorers, I’d have said you were mad. But, shockingly, it’s true.
"W Series aims to address that, and I heartily endorse that ambition. I firmly believe that, given the right opportunities, women are eminently capable of racing on level terms against men, and, once W Series has given a select group of women those right opportunities, I look forward to seeing it finally come to pass.”