A Female F1 Driver is Coming Soon - W Series CEO
W Series' Catherine Bond Muir believes F1's wait for a female driver will end within the next 10 years.
Formula 1's wait for a female racing driver to be on the grid will end within the next ten years, believes W Series CEO, Catherine Bond Muir.
F1's last female driver to compete in a Grand Prix weekend was Susie Wolff in 2015, where she took part in Free Practice 1 sessions with Williams Racing. Since then, the last female driver to start a race was Lella Lombardi in 1976.
The closest a female driver has got to Formula 1 was Tatiana Calderon, Alfa Romeo's Test driver as she competed in F1's support series, FIA Formula 2 in 2019.
The W Series, formed in 2018, aims to increase the interest of Motorsport to females. Despite the controversy the series has created, the championship was praised for its racing, selection of talent and its increase of attention to female drivers.
Questions have been asked when the next female F1 driver will come, with the W Series hoping to help the drivers reach their goals, as well as train them with fitness programmes and media training.
When asked during an interview with Autosport's #ThinkingForward, Bond Muir believes there are two routes a female driver can break the boundary and reach into F1.
"It could either happen one of one of two ways: a good quick driver will get enough sponsorship and support and money to bulldoze her way in through FIA F3 and F2," said the W Series CEO.
"Or, what is more likely to happen is that some 10 to 13 year olds race an awful lot and get thousands of hours of experience behind the wheel so that they are driving as much as that the boys at that same age.
"And because people want a woman to get back into Formula 1 so much that driver will get a lot of commercial support at an early age, hopefully they'll come through W Series, but in the end to go up into international Formula 3 and Formula 2. Then she will get that groundswell of support that will take her through. So I don't know, maybe 10 years?
"Emotionally it's going to happen more quickly than that because I believe that someone is going to support a woman to get there. But from a practical point of view, I think it's a 10-year haul."
The attraction of the W Series has seen drivers in the programme gain drives in other championships. 2019 champion Jamie Chadwick currently holds a development driver role at Williams and competes in the Formula Regional Championship with PREMA Racing.
W Series' champion Jamie Chadwick currently competes in Formula Regional // Image Credit: W Series
The 2020 Season originally saw the series continue to support the DTM series, and make two support visits with Formula 1 for the United States, and Mexico City Grand Prix. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the W Series has cancelled their 2020 season.
The series however, responded to the pandemic and hosted a 10-week Esports championships with the 2020 drivers who intended to compete in the championship in real-life. 2019 runner-up Beitske Visser won the Esports series.
Bond Muir said the reasoning behind the cancellation of the 2020 Season was down to logistics and the challenges it presented with the pandemic ongoing, but persists that 2021 will be a 'bigger and better' season than 2019.
"Just the logistics of getting drivers from 15 different countries into Europe and keeping them there for a long period is something that was just impossible to do and probably unfair for the drivers that couldn't get here," commened Bond Muir.
"How could we have had W Series that we say is 'open for all' and have 10 or 12 drivers, but some drivers just because of where they lived, couldn't drive?
"And we are set up fundamentally differently from all other race series, we are a free to enter series and we pay for all of the expenses for all of the drivers. And we wanted unashamedly to be a global sport. And I think limiting ourselves to maybe one or two European countries is just not what we are about.
W Series are looking to expand with a possible partnership with F1, as well as DTM // Image Credit: W Series
"We're looking forward to next year, we're obviously in talks. Now, I'm not going to be able to tell you we're going to race apart from Austin and Mexico, because we haven't agreed anything yet. We want next year to be bigger and better and I think we were too young as a sport, to go into something that wasn't very good, because that's what we would be remembered for."
Formula 1 is looking to change the format of its feeder series, Formula 2 and Formula 3 for 2021 with one of the championships appearing at every other Grand Prix. The opening of track time could open an opportunity for the W Series to be more involved with F1.