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W Series returns for 2021 season

After its 2020 season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the all-female W Series returns in 2021. This year, W Series supports Formula 1 at eight race weekends. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of W Series’ 2021 season!

Images: Matt Buck, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

What is W Series?

W Series was launched in 2018 as a racing series exclusively for female competitors. The mission of the series is to diversify motorsport and give women a better opportunity to compete equally against men at the sport’s pinnacle.

Though the series was met with some criticism when it was first announced, the first season was deemed as a success in highlighting up and coming women in motorsport. The inaugural season was free to enter, with prize money handed out to all competitors at the season’s conclusion – from $500,000 for the champion to $7,500 to the drivers who scored the fewest points.

The 2021 Calendar

W Series will enjoy a much bigger profile in 2021. Having been on the DTM support bill in 2019, the series will be a support race to Formula 1 at eight rounds in 2021.

The season was scheduled to begin at the French Grand Prix on June 27, but – as a result of a recent Formula 1 calendar re-shuffle – the series will now begin at the Styrian Grand Prix on the same date. W Series will also be racing at the Austrian Grand Prix weekend before heading to Silverstone and the Hungaroring.

After the summer break, there are a further two European rounds, at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and Zandvoort, before W Series heads to the Americas for the first time, supporting the United States Grand Prix and Mexican Grand Prix.

RoundDateEventCircuit
1June 25-262021 Styrian Grand PrixSpielberg
2July 2-32021 Austrian Grand PrixSpielberg
3July 16-172021 British Grand PrixSilverstone
4July 30-312021 Hungarian Grand PrixBudapest
5August 27-282021 Belgian Grand PrixSpa
6September 3-42021 Dutch Grand PrixZandvoort
7October 22-232021 United States Grand PrixAustin
8October 29-302021 Mexico City Grand PrixMexico City

Chadwick defends her title

The inaugural W Series title was won by Jamie Chadwick, who secured the championship with a ten point margin. The British driver finished in the top four at all six of 2019’s races, finishing on the podium five times. Chadwick took two wins and three pole positions over the course of the season. She has since joined the Williams F1 team as a development driver and recently took part in the first ever Extreme E race weekend.

Chadwick will be the only W Series champion eligible to defend her title, with organisers announcing in late 2019 that the next season’s champion will not be able to return to the series. This is in a similar vein to F1’s other support series F2 and F3.

The contenders

The eighteen drivers who were expected to race in W Series in 2020 will fill the grid for 2021. All of the top twelve drivers from the 2019 season will race again in 2021, and they will be joined by six new faces who were selected to join the series during a qualifying programme in September 2019.

Who is most likely to challenge Jamie Chadwick for the title this year? Emma Kimiläinen sat out two races of the 2019 season due to a neck injury, but still finished fifth in the standings, is one to watch. The Finnish driver won at the TT Circuit Assen and ended the season with another podium trip at Brands Hatch.

In 2019, Beitske Visser finished as runner-up to Chadwick. Amassing only ten points less than the inaugural champion – and finishing in the top four in all six races – Visser won in Zolder and enjoyed three further podium visits.

Alice Powell and Marta García were 2019’s other winners. Powell finished on the podium in every race which she finished, including winning the final round at Brands Hatch. If not for two retirements, the British driver likely would have been in the mix for the championship. Meanwhile, Garcia won from pole position at the Norisring and scored points in every race.

As for the outside chances, Liechtenstein’s Fabienne Wohlwend recorded a podium finish having started on pole at Misano in 2019, while Jessica Hawkins, who scored in the final two races of the first season, was recently announced as a driver ambassador for the Aston Martin F1 team. Since the 2019 season, Hawkins performed stunt driving duties in the yet to be released James Bond film No Time To Die.

Pre Season Testing

W Series conducted a five-day pre-season test at the Anglesey Circuit in North West Wales in May. Over the five days, the 20 drivers completed over 4,000 laps of the track and were tested with a range of weather conditions.

How the Format Works

W Series cars are of F3 specification, similar to the machinery used in Formula Regional events. The W Series weekend format is relatively simple. Following a practice session and qualifying on Friday, the 30 minute race takes place after Formula 1 qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Just like in F1, 25 points are awarded for a victory, with points being awarded down to the 10th place finisher.

A non-championship reverse grid format was trialled at Assen in 2019. The drivers lined up in the reverse order of their position in the championship. The event was won by Megan Gilkes. There are no plans for this format to return in 2021.

A short history of women in Formula 1

Since Formula 1’s inception, only two women have started a World Championship Grand Prix: Maria Teresa de Filippis and Lella Lombardi. Lombardi is the only female competitor to score in Formula 1. She scored half a point at the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix; but W Series is hoping to change that particular fact.

The last woman to compete in Formula 1 was Giovanna Amati. She raced with Brabham at the start of the 1992 season, but failed to qualify on any of her three appearances. Other notable women who attempted to qualify for F1 races include Divina Galica, an Olympic skier, and Desiré Wilson. Wilson is the only woman to have won a race in Formula 1 machinery, doing so at Brands Hatch in 1980 at a round of the British F1 championship.

Formula 1’s feeder series are also male-dominated. In recent years, Tatiana Calderon has competed in Formula 2, while Sophia Flörsch raced in Formula 3 in 2020.

Will you be watching W Series in 2021? Leave a comment below!

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