W Series secures partnership with F1, will race in 8 GP weekends in 2021
The all-female championship W Series delivered on the "bigger and better" promise and announced a partnership with Formula 1 that includes eight rounds as a support series in 2021.
The rumour was in the air, but now it's finally official: the all-female F3 championship W Series has reached a deal with Formula 1 to race alongside the pinnacle of motorsport in 2021. The news follows last week's announcement that FIA F2 and FIA F3 will split and will have an alternate calendar.
It is not clear yet if W Series will race alongside F2 or F3 - thus taking the freed slot - or if it will share the F1 paddock in the remaining races. What is known, though, is that the calendar of the second edition of W Series will feature eight F1 support races and precise locations and dates of the rounds will be announced in due course.
The cancelled 2020 W Series season was expected to race at two F1 races, the US Grand Prix in Austin and the Mexican Grand Prix at Circuito Hermanos Rodriguez, and it is believed that those venues will indeed be included in the 2021 calendar.
After the disappointment of the 2020 cancellation, the series CEO Catherine Bond-Muir promised a "better and bigger" season in 2021 and the Formula 1 partnership is indeed a very exciting development for such a young championship.
“After such a successful inaugural season , we at W Series are absolutely delighted to be partnering with Formula 1 for 2021 and beyond." - she said.
“Formula 1 is by some margin the world’s premier motor racing series, and, when we promised that W Series would be bigger and better in the future, partnering with Formula 1 was always our ultimate objective."
As early W Series critics suggested that a separation of male and female drivers was a detrimental development for women in the sport, W Series was also often referred as "women's F1". While sharing the track with the top formula championship, W Series confirms itself as a stepping stone and feeder series - just as F3 or F2 - with the ultimate goal of facilitating female upcoming talents in their pursue of the highest step of the ladder.
Certainly, Formula 1's huge visibility - both in TV audience and on track attendance in normal circumstances - will be beneficial to W Series' goals.
"There is no doubt that, now that W Series will be run alongside and in collaboration with Formula 1, our global reach, impact and influence will be increased significantly." - added Bond-Muir.
“It is a really important moment for us to welcome W Series as partners for eight races this season." - said Ross Brawn, Managing Director of Motorsport at Formula 1.
"They have been a beacon to many since they began racing in 2019. We believe it is incredibly important to give everyone the chance to reach the highest levels of our sport and their partnership with Formula 1 next season shows our determination and commitment to showcase their exciting series and the importance of building greater diversity across the sport.”
But, of course, it won't be all about visibility: what made W Series stand out in the crowd of the countless junior categories will remain, crucially confirming the series as the only fully-spec and free-of charge championship in today's motorsport.
“Everything that made W Series so popular and successful in 2019 will remain." - confirmed Bond-Muir. "The cars will be identical, the racing will be close and competitive, and our mission will always be to further the interests and prospects of female racing drivers."
"We want W Series to entertain, and entertain it will. But we also want it to become a crucial default-option stepping stone for any female racing driver who wants to carve out a professional racing career, and our proximity to Formula 1 will help and enhance that process. The fact that W Series is now eligible for FIA Super Licence points will also be an important factor in that regard."
“We are very grateful to Chase Carey, Ross Brawn and their colleagues for having faith in W Series, and for prioritising diversity and inclusion in this way, and we intend to help them drive forwards their excellent #WeRaceAsOne programme this year and in years to come.”
The news has been welcomed with enthusiasm by all the drivers set to compete in the series.
"Obviously I was very disappointed when I learned about the 2020 season cancellation." - told us Beitske Visser, runner up in 2019. "But it was a situation that was out of their hands and we all had the feeling that it was going to happen. It's a difficult situation and with drivers coming from all over the world it was always going to be difficult."
"I think it's a great thing to be racing with Formula 1 now, you learn the right tracks and that's always a good thing. When you're in there, everybody sees you."
Visser, who has been one of the most active drivers at the simulator during the long break and was crowned W Series Esports League champion in 2020, had found a good rival in Spaniard Marta Garcia, a race winner in 2019 and Vice-Champion of the iRacing-based competition.
“I am super happy with the news that some of our events are going to coincide with Formula 1. It is incredible news!" - said Marta.
"This has been a very special year due to the pandemic situation, and my thoughts are with thousands of victims that Covid-19 is leaving around the world. We young people should never forget this situation, I am convinced that, on my return, I will return stronger and with the best version of myself!"
“I am looking forward to starting the training program scheduled for December." added 20-year old Garcia. "Fitness training has never stopped, if I'm honest. Thanks to initiatives such as the W Esports League, the simulation support that I am getting from Sirio or my recent addition to the Dux Gaming team, I keep my reflexes ready.
"I hope to take advantage from the shared time with Formula 1 so that my compatriots Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz can give me good tips and tricks on the tracks that we are going to visit. I really can't wait to start!"
“I am happy to announce that the we will be back next year" - wrote Fabienne Wohwlend via her social media feeds. "Formula 1 is the leading motorsport series in the world and I am delighted to be part of this great racing program. I can't thank everyone from W Series enough for making this possible."
The same sentiment was shared by all the participants, who took to their instagram profiles to share their joy after such a long wait - that for some of them coincided with a forced year-off.
"Excited to announce that I will be suiting up again in 2021 with W Series" - wrote Tasmin Pepper, one of the 2019 revelations.
"Our calendar includes 8 Formula 1 support races!! Beyond excited for what the 2021 season has in store for us, really blessed to be given this amazing opportunity once again.
Huge thank you to the W Series family whose been working so hard behind the scenes to make this happen!!"
"I am super happy to announce that next year I will be part of the W Series team and we will race 8 races alongside F1!" - echoed newcomer Nerea Marti.
"It has been an uncertainty year but finally the good news arrived!!! We have not stopped working during all these months and we will do our best for the next season."
For Vicky Piria, the news came as a welcomed birthday present.
"It was a special birthday for me when W Series announced that we are going to race together F1 in a 8 race weekend calendar. Absolutely thrilled to hit the tracks straight after F1 and extremely excited for what this step means for women in motorsport."
"Still over the moon. I’ll let you know when I float back down to earth" - tweeted Sabré Cook, the only American in the 2021 field.
Selected among the new entrants and only South-American, Bruna Tomaselli also celebrated the news: "It was the news that we were all waiting for, when they said that 2021 would be better and bigger."
"For me, it will be a great achievement to be able to race together with Formula 1 and I hope this will bring even more opportunities for all of us," - added the Brazilian, who is currently contesting the national endurance championship to keep herself in shape.
"It's been a year of a lot of preparation and focus on the next season."
Just like the 18 selected drivers, we can't wait to see W Series back on track and we eagerly await for the announcement of the full 2021 calendar.