Is the new W Series a 'sad day for motorsport' or a vital step towards equality?
The new W Series challenger
"Some people have misunderstood the premise behind this series: the message isn’t that women can’t compete with men," Karun Chandhok says.
"I believe it’s about creating a platform to encourage more women to race. It would be great for F1 grid to one day have a woman with Lewis [Hamilton] or Max [Verstappen] level of talent!"
That's the thing, you see.
The launch of the news female-only racing platform - W Series - is about giving women the opportunity to progress to higher levels of motorsport. It's not limiting women, it's empowering them to achieve their goals and to ensure that equality will win in the long run.
Let's get the basics out of the way. The series will go racing in 2019, with 18-20 competitors travelling to some of the "best and most famous" European circuits. The drivers will be selected on merit after a series of tests and challenges, with the entry fee covered. The winner of the series will receive $500,000 (US), with further prize money being awarded for the drivers placed from second to 18th.
The cars they'll be competing in are Tatuus T-318 Formula 3 cars, powered by identical four-cylinder 1.8-litre turbocharged engines.
Its aim? To get more people to the top of the motorsport ladder.
"At the moment, women racing drivers tend to reach a ‘glass ceiling’ at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent,” formula Formula 1 driver David Coulthard says.
“That’s why an all-new all-female single-seater motor racing series is required, to establish a competitive and constructive motorsport habitat in which our drivers will be able to equip themselves with the necessary skill-set eventually to move on up to existing high-level mainstream racing series and compete with the best male drivers on equal terms."
When I first heard the news, I had conflicting feelings.
My initial reaction was that – to the naked eye – this was inferring that women need an exclusive series in order for them to be successful. If they have shown that they can compete at top levels, why is this needed?
We have been pushing so hard for equality, and the introduction of a women-only championship seems to be undoing the hard work. If we've been combatting the sexist remarks that women – supposedly – will never compete in F1 again, starting an exclusive racing club could add fuel to that fire.
Pippa Mann has worked tirelessly to promote equality in motorsport and to push boundaries, and calls this decision a regression.
And then there's also the argument that the money going into this adventure should be spent on bursaries and scholarships instead. For what it's costing, there could be enough backing for a number of female drivers who are capable of making the next step. Would this be more worthwhile?
Then there was Carmen Jorda's comments last year that caused a huge backlash. The Spanish driver advocated that women faced a physical disadvantage and therefore wouldn't be able to compete at the top level with men. Surely, this invention is perhaps proving that she has a point?
But, then you begin to read deeper, and look at the positives that this creation can bring.
Jamie Chadwick, who's a Formula 3 winner, says that the W Series will "give women another platform to go racing" and will "encourage many more to enter the sport".
This is the factor that we should focus on. We all want to see more females racing, so if the series inspires more that is one big positive.
These women racing will hopefully provide a goal for young drivers coming through the ranks, to give them the determination to flourish.
W Series isn't stopping women from competing elsewhere, it's fundamentally giving those who wouldn't necessarily have the chance to thrive. That's awesome, right?
It's down to the individual girl or woman to decide where their racing will take them and if the opportunity comes their way, they're fully within their right to take it. IF it leads to us seeing a female F1 driver in ten year's time, bravo.
At the end of the day, we all want to see men and women represented equally in sport. We want them to be there because of merit - not because they need to be there to enforce gender equality.
So, if the W Series will eventually allow women to progress to the next level with a proven track record of success, why shouldn't it be allowed? We should encourage this idea to find new talent, not badmouth it.
Give it a chance. Let's see what it can do.
What do you think on the introduction of the W Series? Leave your comment below.