F1 introduce ‘Women’s wildcard’ to Esports qualifying

F1 Esports

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F1 Esports will feature a new, female-only route into the Pro competition, as part of the We Race As One initiative.

F1 Esports’ 2021 Pro Championship will begin next month, with a new Women’s Wildcard route added. The conventional qualifiers, run in late 2020 for the 2021 season, ask sim racers to set the fastest times over a single lap and are open to competitors of any gender.

The Women’s Wildcard route will be run from 3rd to 9th of May, only open to female competitors. Entrants will try to set the fastest lap, as usual and the woman who goes fastest will be invited to the Pro Exhibition trials, where teams can assess drivers for their Pro Championship draft.

Women have competed in F1 Esports previously, including aerodynamics student Katherine Ormerod who reached the 2019 Pro Draft playoffs races. However, no woman has reached the draft stage of the competition, when teams select their drivers.

In a release, F1 said “This is the
first female-only competition the sport has run, which Formula 1 hope will encourage more drivers from the passionate and talented female sim-racing community to engage with the F1 Esports Series at a grassroots level, in the hope of becoming the first ever female driver to be signed by an Official F1 Esports
Series Team.”

They confirmed that the move is part of F1’s overall diversity drive, “The introduction of the F1 Esports Series Women’s Wildcard follows the reaffirmed commitment to improving diversity and inclusion Formula 1 has made as part of the WeRaceAsOne initiative for 2021 and beyond.”

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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  • 60 comments on “F1 introduce ‘Women’s wildcard’ to Esports qualifying”

    1. So, they want to force some genders into the competition and then what? Let others know that it was a really bad idea in the first place when they take last position in the competition? Doesn’t it serve other way around when it happens?

      1. while they are at it, why don’t they add some “incompetent” male drivers to female only W Series?

      2. it will be a competition for “the best of the best e-racers, and a woman” . I don’t know if that is the best slogan for the series that they want to persuit but it will be true. I’d rather see them coaching females so they can progress, get better and BE the best of the best, competing in a mixed gender field.

    2. While I would love to see more (or rather: for the first time ever) female racing drivers in e.g. Formula one, I do think it shouldn’t be done in such a way, not even for e-sports. I mean, I get what they are trying to do here: Get more women involved in to F1 in general. But the way they are “forcing” them to compete in such a competition in not the right way forwards.
      It will only be degrading for these women if they can’t even match the pace of any of the other e-sports drivers, simply because they got “pushed” in the pool. I’m not saying women shouldn’t get a possible extra chance to compete, but this way is just not it.
      However, it’s a good thing that F1 is looking into ways to attract a more diverse audience as the pool of drivers has been quite monotonous (in both real and e-sports F1).
      It should still be a competition of who is the best current driver, no matter what. No matter their gender, not because of their gender.
      I furthermore think the reason for the lack of female drivers in F1 and so on, has a way deeper structural reason, which can’t be fixed by simply allowing some extra (possibly slower) female drivers to just compete because of their gender.

    3. Seems hypocritical when a group is shoe horned into something based on sex, race, religion etc. The best thing is to work hard to make sure discrimination does not occur in selection other than by talent then the make up of the competition is purely defined by the best candidates.

    4. Now THIS is embarrassing. I can buy the argument that there are barriers to women reaching the upper levels of motorsport, but what on earth is preventing them from participating them in simracing?!

      They’d be better off providing sim rigs to those who can’t afford them. MONEY is the biggest barrier, not gender. This is a shameless, transparent political gesture that ingratiates F1 with people who don’t care about it.

      1. I think I agree. I’m all in favour of giving women a leg up in actual motorsport because they are clearly at a disadvantage with no “trail blazers” and it’s difficult to get parents/sponsors to spend hard earned cash on helping a young girl achieve something that seems unachievable.

        Granted, my knowledge of “eSports” is poor and I have absolutely no interest in it, but this seems blatantly unfair. Gaming is accessible to everyone who has enough money for the console, game and set up. It should be a meritocracy. If you are one of the 20 fastest competitors you should win a place. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, fat, thin, white, black, straight, LGBTQ+ etc… it makes no difference. If I placed 20th and didn’t get a spot in favour of someone who placed 80th just because of their biology, that feels a little unfair to me.

      2. Magnus Rubensson (@)
        13th April 2021, 10:42

        There is a second hand Logitech Momo simracing wheel + pedals on Ebay UK at £60 at this very moment.
        That Momo wheel is sufficient to get started in simracing… I would argue that money is not THAT much of a barrier.

      3. There are boundaries for ANYONE to reach formula1.

        Do you guys think we will see any Samoans in formula1 anytime soon? Does that mean we need a formula for Samoan drivers?

        This is stupid. Put the winner from w-series in an f1 car, watch her suck in comparison to the field, and get it over with already… OR… have some transgender guy infiltrate and annihilate the field as a matter of fact. Easy.

        Get woke, go broke.

    5. Totally unfair. It will lead to ill will among guys and a sense of entitlement in women. People generally will also question if women are there because of quotas which will harm the girls who made it on merit.

      Look at women in F1 now. Everyone respects for example Red Bull strategist Hannah Schmitz for her work, but too much of this ‘diversity’ push and there will be doubt about all of them.

      1. @balue
        I don’t know if this is strictly legal because they are already discriminating people who are willing to get that entry based on gender. Don’t get me wrong but someone who probably have worked very hard and deserve that entry will be prevented from it because it has been booked in advance. This whole diversity crap is getting ridiculous these days and not only in Motorsport.

        1. @tifoso1989

          It’s ‘legal’ because laws and constitutions are ultimately merely way for one part of the elite to win a fight with another part of the elite. If almost all of the elite disagrees with the clear meaning of the law, but the majority of the populace is against changing the law, then the law is simply ‘reinterpreted’ to mean what they want it to mean.

          The most clear example of this is the US, where the constitution clearly was intended to favor a relatively weak federal government, but once most of the elite favored a strong federal government, they simply reinterpreted laws like the commerce clause. So if an American grows marijuana on her private property for her own medical use, that is deemed to be interstate commerce and thus something the federal government can jail her for. No sane person would interpret it that way, but these interpretations are the result of reasoning back from the desired outcome to what the law has to be to get that outcome. That the law doesn’t actually say that, is no objection.

          Of course, the proper way to get a desired outcome is to change the law, but the elite is not truly democratic, they just pretend to be.

    6. How patronising for the women ha nobody can seem to make a sensible decision these days.

    7. So is this “We race as one”. or is it “W race as one, plus another, that doesn’t include you”.
      This initiative is not going to provide any benefit to those they are trying to help. More likely to hurt.

    8. For anyone who wished WeRaceAsOne would actually take action – here it is.

      1. As someone who supports the push for equality, this is in my opinion one of the worst ways to go about achieving that. I see no reason why women can’t compete with men in esports, so there should be no reason they can’t participate on equal terms and allow the competition to be a meritocracy. If that means that the final stages of an event turn out to be male only then that’s too bad, but that is preferable to shoehorning in a ‘token woman’ who didn’t earn her place on merit. In that case, they should be looking at how they can encourage more women to take part in esports which would lead to much better long-term solutions.

        So no, I’m not satisfied. It’s disappointing that they chose to go this way and I hope it isn’t indicative of the direction they will take with future initiatives where they try to force the end result, rather than identifying and addressing the route causes.

      2. We Seriously Still Cannot Race As One.

    9. Precisely. The response on twitter is filled with the usual “there’s no representation” drivel, insinuating women are such idiots they require another woman to show them they can participate. There is literally no reason why a woman can’t buy a copy of F1 2020 and put in the work to compete. All the men competing did.

    10. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      12th April 2021, 17:46

      Ooh I better break out my weekend frock, I finally have an opportunity.

    11. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
      12th April 2021, 18:22

      I think it’s a pretty good idea actually: You get the best possible woman overall and place them in a competition with the best overall regardless of gender. If the ‘best female’ then gets absolutely left behind, it will serve as a perfect example as to why forcing diversity in such a way is not only pointless, but also quite embarassing. So please Hazel, for the sake of my amusement, do keep a close eye on the competition and post about its results!

    12. This is pretty ridiculous. A better approach might be to not ask what sex the players are and assign racing numbers….

    13. Holy tokenism

    14. This isn’t the right way to go about this, seems like positive discrimination to me and I’m usually in favour of these types of things. Unfortunately it also just gives more ammunition to those slightly right of centre. Not cool.

      1. Positive discrimination doesn’t exist. It’s a term invented to pretend that there are no victims, just like the woke constantly invent terms to deceive people.

        1. Oh give it a rest will you @aapje

    15. Like everything in life I am in two minds about this. On the one hand there is this whole need to balance groups of people with the correct ratio of sexes and races. Hopefully we can one day get over the need for this.

      On the other hand if you want to do something don’t half ass it. Just including one female is the worst thing. It is like the south park character called Token. Imagine the pressure if you are that one person on whom the judgment of your whole sex rests? Why don’t they just force all the teams to run as many females as males in their teams? If they can’t figure out how to do that find someone that can.

    16. Maybe they should go one step further and give women faster sim cars compared to men ? More power, more downforce. That would just continue current trend -equal opportunities turning into forced equal results for both genders no matter what
      Irony OFF – this is just totally unfair.

    17. What if someone who is clearly not female identifies as one in order to compete? Then there would be discrimination against trans and open a whole other can of worms.

      A lot worse is happening in other industries. Techniques employed to reach diversity quotas suck, but it is unfortunately the consequence of trying to force a representative workplace.

      1. Its all very confusing since, at the same time, we’re being told that there is no such thing as a man or woman.

        Great to be in the roaring 20s eh?

    18. There seems to be a lot of outrage about this. I can see why. The biggest thing though is visibility and representation. If we agree that we want to see more female participation in motorsport, girls need to see women participating to spark some interest and not simply write off motorsport as something boys do. Esports can effectively be seen as a form of motorsport participation from that perspective.

      1. Women are not simpletons who require a “monkey see monkey do” approach to participate in something. It’s utterly insulting to suggest that the mere appearance of a female will convince them to join, nevermind a female that isn’t there on merit.

      2. @tommy-c

        The idea that a lack of role models keeps women out conflicts with the basic observation that some formerly male-only professions got a huge influx of women, to the point where in some, women are the majority of new entrants, or even already the majority of workers.

        The consistent pattern is that women are not held back by such (imaginary) barriers when the professions are people-oriented, while they avoid thing-oriented professions, which is consistent with one of the strongest findings in sociology: that men and women differ very significantly in how people/thing-oriented they are. This also matches a ton of other scientific findings.

        Yet this is constantly ignored due to dogma, making people refuse to believe the science.

        1. I would love to know what utter garbage you are citing with that thinly-veiled claim women care about ~~feelings~~~ while men are ~~~technical~~~.

          There is absolutely no difference whatsoever in the interests of men and women other than what they have been socialised into developing expertise on.

          1. @hazelsouthwell

            It’s not ‘veiled’. When I say, people-oriented, I actually do mean a greater interest in dealing with and getting information about people, rather than things. It’s a term that scientists came up with. Here is a good paper about it which offers an overview of other research:


            The paper shows that not only is the difference large in all studies that examine the difference, but they exist across cultures and don’t correlate with the level of gender equality, which you’d expect to matter if it was socialized.

            If your theory was correct that these differences are purely due to what people have been socialized into, you’d expect to see substantial differences in countries where women are (forced) more into tech to get ahead, like Iran and Russia. After all, women in those countries actually do more often develop expertise into more thing-oriented professions. You’d also expect the differences to decline substantially when women are more free to make choices, which is not what you see in Western nations.

            There is absolutely no difference whatsoever in the interests of men and women other than what they have been socialised into developing expertise on.

            Do you have any scientific evidence for that claim?

            And how do you think that nerds are socialized into having the interests they have, despite an immense level of disapproval and outright bullying? Is there some even greater hidden social force that encourages them despite the observable disapproval and bullying? Do you really think that there is no inherent natural interest that drives people rather strongly?

            1. Oh I see you’re aware of Sci-Hub, the brilliant gateway to knowledge developed by a woman. So people oriented though aren’t we, just can’t think about things. My fluffy little brain couldn’t understand it, I’m sure.

              You seem to think female nerds don’t exist so I won’t be needing to have any further discussion with you.

            2. Getting the last word in by removing comments…

            3. I never claimed that women are less capable (interest and capability are clearly not the same thing), nor that there is no overlap between the bell curves.

              It’s similar to how there is a clear height difference between men and women, but there are still quite tall women and short men. However, with partially overlapping bell curves, you tend to get great disparities at the extremes. For example, the people who are 1.60 meter or shorter are overwhelmingly women, while the people taller than 1.80 are overwhelmingly men.

              You seem to think female nerds don’t exist so I won’t be needing to have any further discussion with you.

              I never said that, but you constantly seem to ignore what I actually say and try to find hidden meanings in my words. The result is that you keep debating straw man arguments, rather than the arguments I actually make.

          2. @hazelsouthwell

            There is absolutely no difference whatsoever in the interests of men and women other than what they have been socialised into developing expertise on.

            What utter garbage are you citing here?

            1. @balue I literally cannot believe that you two are explaining to me that I am not interested in my actual career that I have spent years and years fighting to have. You’re right, I’m such a fluffy little child I don’t know what a car even is hahahahaha.

              Good grief get over yourselves.

            2. Getting the last word by removing comments. Classy.

            3. I was talking about statistical differences. Statistics is about probabilities.

              It’s unfortunately quite common for people who lack understanding of statistics to make the mistake you did, equating a claim of low(er) probabilities to a claim of non-existence.

              So you may think that your existence disproves my claims, but it’s actually your belief that it does, that shows that your understanding of statistics is lacking.

            4. @hazelsouthwell Wow censoring comments well within the comment rules only because you are involved in the argument and want to win it.

              Talk about outing yourself..

            5. @aapje @balue

              No other woman on this site is obligate to read your off-topic gender politics. If you have a huge problem with women it’s not relevant to racing. I deleted the segments at which you became absolutely detached from the topic at hand and merely talked about deranged gender politics, which I’m sure you both think is a bad thing so perhaps should engage with less of.

            6. @hazelsouthwell

              Firstly, it is entirely on-topic when the article is about gender discrimination against men, based on the kind of unscientific beliefs that you espouse as well (and that you seem perfectly willing to talk about in the comment section, but don’t seem want to be argued against).

              Secondly, your opinion that I “have a huge problem with women” is based on you:
              – Apparently not reading or not understanding what I actually write, like your insistence that talking about group-level differences must mean that I’m making a claim that this group-level difference exists for every individual woman. Do you consistently interpret statistical differences in this black and white manner, also for your own beliefs about group differences? For example, presumably you agree that black Americans are poorer on average than white Americans, so do you think that this makes Obama poorer than every white person?
              – Apparently having implicitly misogynist beliefs where you think that the choices that women make more often, are worse than the choices than men make more often, which makes you interpret claims that some of those differences are due gender differences, as an attack on women. It is rather ironic that people who don’t have that belief, and see a substantial benefits in the choices that women more often make, are so commonly accused of misogyny.

              deranged gender politics, which I’m sure you both think is a bad thing so perhaps should engage with less of.

              I want less of it, but that doesn’t happen if I let the discriminatory policies and propaganda go unchallenged. People with your ideology will then just feel more emboldened to discriminate, trying to force people into the outcomes that you desired, rather than give people the freedom to make their own choices. This will impact me and mine, as they have already done in the past (my family has experienced gender discrimination in hiring).

              It’s frankly rather absurd to argue that people who oppose a certain ideology should disengage with the topic and judging by the editorial choices of this site and your choice to comment so often on this topic in the comments section, your suggestion is not something you yourself believe in. You apparently simply want me to shut up…

            7. @hazelsouthwell Talking about gender politics in a gender politics thread is entirely on topic, which is why you yourself engaged in it.

              What’s not on topic and outside the commenting rules is calling other people’s viewpoint “garbage” , “deranged” declaring that people have “a huge problem with women” and to “get over yourself”, and what’s completely out of bounds is power tripping and censoring others for no other reason that you are losing the argument.

              Completely pathetic.

      3. A problem with this poorly thought out tactic which I haven’t seen mentioned in this thread is that presumably the female who becomes the ‘chosen one’ will already have attempted to make the ESports elite before and failed.. and with nothing to impede their succeeding. Not a very inspiring back story for other females. Add to that the fact that there’s no reason why they would suddenly improve massively and given how close the field is they will be left far behind the rest of the field. What does that achieve?

    19. Coventry Climax
      13th April 2021, 0:44

      I think the Inuit are at a huge disadvantage too. No funding, no training facility; they’re probably off worse than the average woman. Can’t we just allow the best Inuit driver as well? Man or woman, ofcourse.

    20. Still don’t understand this philosophy of stopping the discrimination of a gender, by discriminating another gender. Such a gimmicky way of achieving equality which isn’t really an issue in racing, as the biggest barrier for male and females is funding. Oh well…sign of the times right?

      1. It’s pretty ironic that the modern left have repudiated their old beliefs, to the extent where they are trying to institutionalize discrimination and are trying to get rid of the anti-discrimination laws that they fought for.

    21. Why not just accept there is an inherent difference between men and women and move on?

      Not accepting this can be just as harmful to the ’cause’ as there would for example be hardly any women in chess or even motor racing now. Even this site was hard against Formula W initially as that was admitting women were not on men’s level, but without that series there’d be nothing. I doubt it’s still viewed the same way today. If it’s so important that women get to do something which they’re not really interested in like simracing, then just set up a dedicated women series like FW, end of.

      Like someone already pointed out, the real unfair difference is surely between the haves and have nots and not between the sexes but you obviously don’t get many likes with initiatives for the poor.

      1. @balue

        George Orwell already noted the stark difference between leftists that love the poor and those that hate the rich. In modern times, almost all leftists are the latter type: people from the middle class and up who hate those that are richer than they, while having contempt at best for the less educated, which is what the actually poor mostly consist off. A good way to make them angry is to point out that a lot of discrimination that is perceived as racism is actually classism, because they see the idea of helping poor white men as offensive. In fact, even their claims to care about poor women and poor people of non-whiteness are clearly a lie if you look at the policies they favor, which tend to favor middle class and up women and people of some non-whiteness.

        The entire focus on more women in F1 is just another example of this, because this is way more likely to help women of privilege than actually downtrodden women.

        1. Veering off-course here, but agree the class distinction is underlying almost every issue from every side, also here.

    22. I’m really struggling to see any positives from this as to me it’ll probably do more harm than good.
      My guess is that any E Racers that are good at their craft and happen to be classified as women (probably a whole heap don’t even mention that in their profiles) will enter the competition with the rest of the drivers and ignore this programme completely to demonstrate that they’re competing on merit.

    23. Why is it that a woman can win the Grand National, but when it comes to gaming, they need a leg up? Rachael Blackmore has proven that women can compete with men on equal terms and win, despite the obvious physical fitness and strength requirements which are clearly absent from gaming. Would it not make more sense to try to understand exactly why the vast majority of sim racers are male rather than creating and artificial environment?

      1. It would, but truth is not welcome

    24. Shayna Texter-Bauman. I raced motorcycles for years, and never have a seen a woman who can manhandle a motorcycle as well as a guy. This girl does. These guys are no joke. Flattrack is all about manhandling and Shayna is leading the points standing by winning the first 2 races of the year. Very inspiring.


      1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
        15th April 2021, 9:16

        That is a great example.
        A few more honourable mentions if I may:
        Maria Teresa de Filippis (first woman to race in F1), Lella Lombardi (only woman so far to score points in F1), Taru Rinne, Katja Poensgen, Michele Mouton, Janet Guthrie, Lyn St James, Danica Patrick – and never forget the awesome Sabine Schmitz.

    25. Sara Bradley
      26th May 2021, 1:56

      A few things about these posts. Esports are a way to expand the fan base of F1, not a substitute for actual competition. The ethics of sports fairness do not apply to sports marketing because the underlying goal is not pure competition but to expand viewership by diversifying the fan base. If you were to A l B test different strategies the only outcome you are interested in is increased viewership. F1 is already struggling to increase diversity across the board (not just drivers but crew, management) so the dominance of men in Esports is only exacerbating these perceptions at the sport level. It was likely hoped that Esports would level the playing field, but there may be things about the culture that are off-putting to women and would be barriers to them fully engaging. If these posts are any indication there is clearly an openly misogynistic tone that at best suggests women will of course be beaten badly if given the chance to develop further in the context of a team. Guys, you need to finally grow up and realize these issues are far more complex and systemic and the knee-jerk and juvenile responses are what are holding the sport back.

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