W Series: 2022 Teams
The Barcelona pre-season test was also the opportunity to launch new teams, updated liveries and some drivers-pairings, as W Series approaches its third on-track season.
Here's how the all female championship started to experiment with sponsor-based teams and what you need to know about the 2022 entry list as things stand.
Launched in 2019, W Series presented itself to the world of motor racing as one of the most innovative projects in the sport's recent memory – and the fact that all the 18 drivers on the grid were women was just one of the revolutionary features that this start-up experimented with.
By selecting its drivers via on-and-off track selections, W Series opted for a unique business model, fully-funding all the seats of its selected drivers, in a significant commitment to increase female participation in single-seaters and break the glass-ceiling that is currently found at F3-level.
The aim is to provide them with an opportunity to race at F3-Regional level for no costs, maximise the media exposure and break a few stereotypes along the way. While growing the base of the pyramid will be crucial at karting level to have a bigger pool of talent to balance out the gender gap in motorsport, W Series immediately gave a platform to young talents as well as established drivers that were struggling financially.
"W Series was set up to be free to drivers", told us Catherine Bond Muir, the series' CEO.
"If we're about finding the fastest women in the world, on that basis I believe it has to be free to enter. Because we can't be about the girls who have the richest family or just a sponsor that has supported them from the get go, I really strongly believe in that."
This innovative approach meant that the 18 drivers – plus two reserves – were all fielded by a centralized team, in what is usually called a pure-spec series. Additionally, W Series went a step further in their first racing campaign, as drivers switched the whole cars – and engineers – after every weekend, always aiming for the fairest form of racing.
In the highly successful 2019 season, 5 different colorful liveries were launched: the bright yellow, pink, purple, black and white liveries were sporting the drivers' names on the side of the Tatuus T-318 cars to allow new fans to recognize the protagonists of the brand-new championship. W Series immediately worked to improve the drivers' identification for TV viewers, adding big race numbers, national flags and bigger names.
The pandemic then posed a significant challenge to W Series in its second year, as the all-female championship was forced to call off its entire season and moved towards an iRacing-based esports league. Meanwhile, Bond Muir and the W Series team worked behind the scenes to bring the cars back on track, with a "bigger and better" promise – which soon materialized: a deal with Formula 1 effectively meant that 18 women shared the paddock with the biggest motorsport platform on the planet and attracted unmatched attention.
The pandemic, though, had also forced Bond Muir to rethink the format in order to move towards a more sustainable model: teams were introduced. Nine teams shaped the grid in 2021, but cars remained operated by the series organization via Fine Moments, and drivers were allocated to mostly fictional entities that allowed a wider variety of branding opportunities, still retaining W Series' unique approach to shared data. Jamie Chadwick sealed her second title racing for Veloce Racing – the British organization that manages her career and is widely known in the world of Esports. Alongside Veloce, sponsors that were involved in the 2021 season as team branding included M.Forbes, The Bunker and sportswear giant PUMA – one of the founding partners of W Series that stepped up its involvement with a full team sponsorship. Other fictional entities included Racing X, Scuderia W, Ecurie W, Sirin Racing. The latest team, W Series Academy, was conceived as a development programme for the youngest up-and-coming talents, in order to ensure a two-year deal to two promising drivers. While it was initially hinted that W Series would consider moving towards a more traditional team format in the future, the series confirmed its structure for 2022, with cars being again operated centrally, under the banner of teams-sponsors. "W Series is still about finding the best drivers and in order to do that, I think that it has to be a centrally-run program – and that is to ensure equality of cars." – Catherine Bond Muir told us at the Barcelona pre-season test this week. "I'm not saying that it's a no forever [having traditional teams] because I do believe in evolution, and I think that in 10 years time W Series may look different from what it is now. But I don't think we're sufficiently advanced as a business and as a movement to move to that format yet", she explained. As Bond Muir said, W Series' allows drivers to compete on equal terms, eliminating the performance gap that is clearly present in most feeder series, where the better funded teams will consistently outperform smaller teams, even in spec series. A similar approach has been adopted recently by French F4 and Formula 4 South East Asia, where cars are operated by FFSA and Meritus respectively. In the past, MSV fielded all cars in Formula Palmer Audi and FIA Formula 2, prior to the rebranding of GP2. As Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, hosted three days of collective testing ahead of the 2022 season, it was the perfect occasion for the series to announce the new teams – and a few drivers – as the puzzle of the entry list started to take shape. Let's have a look at the field so far.
The first team to be announced was Jenner Racing, the return of Olympic gold medalist and media personality Caitlyn Jenner to motor racing. Jenner had in fact competed professionally in IMSA in the 80s – with a second place at the Daytona 24 Hours in 1986 as a highlight – and decided to get involved firsthand in W Series to help advancing women in sport, from grassroots to elite level.
One of the most iconic athletes in the history of decathlon and gold medalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, Jenner is now a TV personality with millions of followers and now has the potential to help bring W Series to an audience outside the niche motorsport environment – thus raising the very market value of the series itself.
Jenner Racing is also a further testament of W Series' expansion overseas, following a hugely successful 2021 season finale at COTA and, as confirmed by Bond Muir herself, a crucial market for the business of the championship.
In order to achieve these goals, Jenner Racing is aiming high: the team's first signing is in fact none other than two-time champion Jamie Chadwick – one of the biggest female stars in the world of motor racing worldwide and currently the closest to a chance on the F1 ladder.
While Chadwick never made a secret that she targeted a move to FIA F3, she couldn't secure funding for the ridiculous costs of competitive seats in the world's top F3 series. Still, joining forces with Jenner Racing makes sense for the 23-year-old Brit, who will aim to keep up the momentum and raise her status with a more mainstream audience.
No team has so far announced both its drivers and Jenner Racing will have to await W Series' decisions on the new entries following the results of the Barcelona test to finally decide Jamie Chadwick's 2022 teammate.
Click2Drive Bristol Street Motors Racing
Joining the grid in 2022 will also be Click2Drive Bristol Street Motors, which announced last year's runner-up Alice Powell – in what is set to be another exciting title fight.
Powell thus moves from Racing X to Bristol Street Motors, a long time sponsor of the British racer: the nationwide dealership has in fact been supporting Alice since 2008, the year when she made her debut in race cars in Ginettas.
Powell, a multiple champion in Formula Renault and the first woman to score points in GP3 Series, went on a forced hiatus and was able to return to single-seaters only thanks to W Series in 2019. Since then, she has re-gained the global spotlight, winning races in the all-female championship as well as signing a contract as Development Driver for Envision Racing in Formula E.
Having finished third in 2019 – after a few unlucky rounds – and second in 2021, Powell is not done with W Series yet: the title slipped away from her for the smallest of margins last year, and the 29-year-old from Chipping Norton, UK, will aim for nothing but the top step of the podium.
The electric-blue liveried Bristol Street Motors machine will also feature the interesting #TypicalWomanDriver campaign, aimed at tackling negative stereotypes by highlighting women in crucial roles to keep communities and economy moving.
With already a proven ambassador in Alice Powell, Click2Drive Bristol Street Motors will announce its second driver in due course.
Puma W Series Team
Global sportswear giant PUMA returns to the W Series field with a spectacularly-updated livery yet retaining its bright colours – and announcing one of the stars of the championship: Emma Kimilainen.
At 32, Kimilainen might be the oldest driver in the field, but make no mistakes, the Flying Finn will again be among the ones to beat. Racing for Ecurie W, Kimilainen stormed to victory in a wet Spa Francorchamps in 2021, collected four more podium finishes and was third in the drivers' standings – only missing out on a point-scoring finish once due to a contact.
Emma had already proven her speed in 2019, when she was forced out of the first half of the season due to an injury but still finished fifth in the championship with outstanding performances in the remaining races – including a victory at Assen and a second place at Brands Hatch. An elite driver, entrepreneur and mother, Emma Kimilainen is a brilliant personality and a great ambassador for Puma's 'She Moves Us' campaign, also celebrating women that achieve great things in sport and life.
In 2021, Puma W Series Team lined-up Marta Garcia and, in succession, reserve drivers Gosia Rdest, Caitlin Wood and Abbi Pulling. While Garcia had an unlucky season, she was invited back in the 2022 pre-season test at Barcelona and will hope for another chance, having already proven her talent in the W Series inaugural season.
What is certain, is that the highlight-yellow Puma car of Emma Kimilainen will be impossible to miss – and likely to run at the top-end of the field.
Quantfury W Series Team
More new entries were revealed at the Barcelona test, starting from the Quantfury W Series Team. A trading platform founded in 2017 by industry professionals, Quantfury aims at changing the trading industry globally with a cost-effective and transparent approach.
The global brokerage platform offers commission-free trading and investing at real-time spot prices of global and crypto exchanges.
At Circuit de Montmelo, Quantfury only launched its striking blue and teal livery, but no drivers have been officially announced.
CortDAO W Series Team
The fifth W Series team to launch its operation in Barcelona was CortDAO – an innovative project that stands for Community Owned Racing Team Decentralized Autonomous Organization. The team will in fact be – as the name suggests – an internet-community owned outfit, where motorsport fans will have the chance to buy tokens that will grant them voting rights for certain teams' decisions. The experiment was launched by motorsport fans and crypto pioneers and will sustain itself via crowdfunding on a blockchain – making CortDAO the second crypto-sponsored W Series team on the grid. For its debut, CortDAO partnered with a driver with both outstanding talent on track and a background in finance: Liechtenstein's Fabienne Wohlwend. Wohlwend has in fact left her day job in banking in 2019 to fully focus on her racing career: the 24-year-old racer has finished sixth in the previous two seasons and has the potential to aim for higher. Fabienne – a sparkling personality in the paddock – has caught international attention in 2018, when she became the first woman to become Ferrari Challenge World Champion after winning the Finali Mondiali in Monza. She went on to score a pole position in W Series in Misano and secured her first podium, before a superb start of the 2021 season with another podium and a near victory. Wohlwend and her to-be-announced teammate will also be easy to spot on track, thanks to the pink CordDAO livery.
Racing X and the remaining squads make their return to the grid, albeit with line-up changes. Racing X brought Alice Powell to second place in 2021, in an-all British duo with Jessica Hawkins onboard the dark-grey and orange cars.
Now, it is only fitting for Powell to move to Bristol Street Motors and leave her race-winning seat to her 18-year-old protégé Abbi Pulling: it's a story that encapsulates the amazing rise of the AP-duo.
Pulling started the 2021 season in a reserve driver role, focusing her efforts on her second campaign in British F4 with title ambitions. Unfortunately, financial struggles left her without a seat mid-way through the championship, before making her W Series debut at Silverstone in the second Puma car. Pulling scored points straight away, sharing the track for the first time with her mentor Alice Powell, with whom she has an almost sibling-like relationship.
She would return to Zandvoort and for the Austin season finale, where she qualified on pole and took her first podium – incredibly gaining automatic access to the top-8 despite contesting only half the season.
Powell has done exceptional work with Pulling, from her F4 debut up to the echelons of W Series, where they will be effectively rivals in a full-season.
Undoubtedly, Abbi Pulling is one of the brightest young talents and has the potential to score consistent podiums.
'Sirin' translates to ‘The Greatest Grace’ in some Asian cultures and represents the strive to follow one's passions and empower individuals to succeed. With the global expansion of W Series – from the US to Asia, where it will also host its first race in Japan at Suzuka – Sirin Racing is set to return to the grid with a brand-new line-up.
In 2021, Sirin Racing had a challenging season with Miki Koyama and Vicky Piria; the Japanese star – who has just been announced as part of the Toyota GR young driver programme – was coming off a very promising debut in 2019, when she was consistently in the points. Experienced Italian racer Vicky Piria was returning to racing after a long funding-imposed stop after reaching one of the most competitive feeder series in the world in 2012, but Vicky only took a few races to shrug off the rust and ended the season on a high, battling just outside the top-five.
In their second W Series campaign, it all went wrong for Miki and Vicky, who were often left with no points due to technical issues or contacts. Both of them are expected to race in different series in 2022.
At the Barcelona pre-season test, 2019 runner-up and sports car star Beitske Visser was announced as part of the Sirin Racing crew, as the Dutchwoman aims to return to the highest spheres of W Series after a slightly underwhelming 2021.
Chadwick's main rival for the title in the inaugural season, Visser would beat Marta Garcia for the 2020 W Series Esports League title, alongside making her sports car debut in the all-female Richard Mille Racing team in ELMS.
Sharing a Oreca LMP2 prototype with Tatiana Calderon and Sophia Floersch, Visser made her first Le Mans 24 Hours start, finishing within the top-ten at debut.
Visser stepped up to the World Endurance Championship in 2021 with the same outfit, adding another important experience to her already extensive motorsport resumé.
Despite a few difficult rounds – and the massive shunt at Spa Francorchamps – the Frysian racer now aims at returning to her 2019 shape in W Series.
The first driver/team pairing to be effectively confirmed is Sarah Moore at Scuderia W.
Moore was one of the 2021 stars of the season, claiming her first podium finish and clinching five more point-scoring rounds which brought her to fifth in the drivers' championship.
The British driver – part of a racing family – entered W Series with two titles under her belt, respectively in the 2009 Ginetta Junior championship and in the 2018 Britcar Endurance Championship. Effectively making her single-seater debut, Sarah was on pace from the get go and gained automatic entry to the second season with all top-10 finishes in the races she completed.
The second place at Red Bull Ring in 2021 remains her best result in the all-female series, but her consistency was ultimately her strongest point: Sarah Moore returns behind the wheel of the red Scuderia W car with clear ambition to keep momentum.
She was joined in 2021 by Belén Garcia, who also impressed at her debut but narrowly missed out on automatic entry. Garcia was invited at the Arizona selection test to set the benchmark lap times for potential new candidates and was also back on track in her home track at Barcelona for pre-season testing. Whether Belén will make her way back into W Series, though, there are no indications on which team she will be racing for.
Hopefully, the Italian-inspired Scuderia W is also going to keep increasing the growing Italian fanbase, this year without a representative on the grid.
W SERIES ACADEMY
The final team – and understandably the only one yet to be launched – is W Series Academy. The project started in 2021 with Irina Sidorkova and Nerea Marti, both graduating from Spanish Formula 4 to F3 machinery and the youngest of the championship. At 17 and 19, Sidorkova and Marti were granted a two-year deal to allow them to develop their skills and focus on the long term goals rather than on the short term pressure to keep their seats. The strategy paid off, and both the Academy members quickly showed impressive pace. Sidorkova was on the podium in only her second race, at Red Bull Ring, while Marti also stepped on the F1 rostrum a few rounds later, with a third place at Hungaroring. Nerea Marti was an outstanding fourth at the end of the championship, easily the best of the rookies and with increasing potential to win races. Sidorkova, on the other hand, had a rough second half of the season – firstly halted by a positive Covid test at Spa Francorchamps and then by a denied visa to the US for the final double-header. Nevertheless, the young Academy driver was ninth in the championship and was granted a seat for 2022. Both of them completed a FIA F3 test at Magny Cours, in the attempt to build a bridge between the two series. It is understood that the W Series Academy team will field two new entrants in 2022, with Marti and Sidorkova expected to move to other teams. The latter, though, was not part of the three-day collective test due to the situation involving her country and W Series is awaiting further information from the governing bodies to evaluate her situation. The youngest hopefuls invited to the Barcelona test were Tereza Babickova (18), Bianca Bustamante (17), Chloe Chambers (17), Emely De Heus (19) and Juju Noda (16). Both Bustamente and Babickova come from karting and had their first taste of F4 machinery at the Arizona W Series test, impressively. The 17-year-old driver from the Philippines was also part of the FIA Girls on Track selections in karting – and could represent a good asset for W Series in terms of Asian market. Babickova – the elder of three super fast Czech sisters – is no stranger to the followers of European karting. She entered and won races in several elite series and now feels ready to tackle her first season in single-seaters. Both De Heus and Chambers already have a F4 season under their belt, respectively in Spain and the US – and both already had tested F3 Regional machinery, although not the same spec as the W Series car. Noda, the youngest of the entries in Barcelona, is the daughter of former F1 and Indycar driver Hideki Noda and is widely regarded as one of the most exciting future prospects. Having started racing at 3, Juju moved her first steps in F4 at nine, and in F3 at twelve. She would start racing internationally at 14 in the Danish F4, where she remained in 2021, scoring several pole positions and podiums. A highly-anticipated driver on home soil, Noda joined the W Series field in Barcelona after missing the Arizona selections. With now approximately two months from the first round of the championship at the brand-new Miami street circuit, W Series' racing director Dave Ryan will analyze data and assess the drivers' performances, in order to decide the missing bits of the entry list. "It has been a good test", said the former McLaren F1 sporting director. "It was pretty difficult for some drivers, while other drivers just turned up and got up to speed." "Now it is a question of going through everything, but it is quite clear who has done a good job. This is a difficult circuit in terms of driver fatigue, especially with some of them having not driven for so long." "We have got just seven days once we get back to go through all the cars, get everything loaded into the containers and sent to Miami for the first race of season three which we're all looking forward to."