W Series boss says it will not become a “billionaire girls’ club”

2021 Styrian Grand Prix

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W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir says the championship has taken steps to ensure its new teams do not offer seats to so-called ‘pay drivers’.

Before the inaugural round of the all-female junior championship last weekend, W Series announced it would move to a teams-based format, in line with other lower categories, to provide future financial stability for the project.

The championship used a rigorous selection process to determine its original drivers. Bond Muir told RaceFans the series’ commitment to choosing competitors on ability rather than backing will remain.

“Two things are central to the DNA of W Series,” she said. “One, that it’s a free to enter competition and that is going to stay the same.

“So in our contracts with the teams we have told them that they aren’t allowed to either charge for their seats or ask their drivers for sponsorship. And that’s really, really important because we don’t want it in future years to become a billionaire girls’ club.

“Also it’s going to become a team championship and not a constructors’ championship. So it will be a one-make car in order to demonstrate to the world who the fastest drivers are.”

As a further commitment to supporting young female drivers’ careers, W Series has announced an academy programme within its structure for its youngest drivers. Irina Sidorkova, 18, and Nerea Marti, 19, will be the first drivers to join the programme, with their places in W Series guaranteed for the next two years in order to develop their racing skills.

The pair will also receive mentoring and driver coaching, as well as fitness and training support and PR coaching to help them develop their careers. W Series has provided trackside trainers and media support for all its drivers since the 2019 season.

W Series had a long break during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and returned to racing 98 weeks after its 2019 title-deciding finale. Bond Muir says the future is bright for the series now it is back on track.

“We’re racing with Formula 1 we’ve got 18 female drivers. We’ve got now the opportunity to plan long-term into the future, we’re here and we’re here to stay.”

W Series’ second 2021 round will take place this Saturday, following qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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10 comments on “W Series boss says it will not become a “billionaire girls’ club””

  1. Doesn’t change a thing when you still have to pay 250k a year to go karting at a competitive level, to build up the required skill to even be able to be allowed to participate in the W series.

    Reply moderated
    1. True that but it’s still better than what pay driver effectively means, as in worse drivers replacing medium drivers like hulkenberg cause they can afford to pay 20 mil a year.

      1. Is it?
        All the “pay”drivers have proven that they have the skills required at the lower levels to be able to be allowed to partake in F1, and that they are capable of concentrating funds around their persona.
        There is no difference between Mazepin who brings a big bag of his own money, or Mick Schumacher, that brings a big bag of sponsorship money.
        Hulkenberg has had that chance and wasted every opportunity he got to get on the podium. At a certain time enough is enough, and its time to let others have a chance.

        In the end motorsport is extremely expensive, and someone with money will have to pay.

        Reply moderated
  2. Teams may not be allowed to ask drivers to bring money or sponsors, but drivers presumably can still gain priority status if they can supply those, right?
    If the teams are now franchised and sponsored, they need income. Where can they get that income from, I wonder…?

    Don’t worry – there are still people who think that F1 has the best drivers in the world too…. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with money…

    1. Coventry Climax
      1st July 2021, 12:21

      The other, referenced article says: “To ensure a level playing field, all 18 cars will remain mechanically identical and all will continue to be prepared and run by the championship.”
      So if that is the case, team-ownership is in fact nothing but a two car exclusive sponsor deal, and the source of income is through having your brand name advertised.
      So, while I’m sceptical too, I’m willing to give this the benefit of the doubt – for now.
      The positive thing is that Mrs. Bond Muir is actually giving thought to this and seems to take a stand.

      1. That’s an extra reason to get a pay driver.

        Fact is that there are few exceptional drivers that can get exposure through a lot of wins, so it makes sense for lots of teams to get a ‘cashback’ by getting pay drivers.

  3. The ‘don’t ask their drivers for sponsorship’ is not enforceable. Unless the teams has no saying on which driver they prefer and dumped.

    1. My thinking also, @ruliemaulana

      In addition:

      1. W Series CEO mentions it, reported today
      2. Teams think “oh haven’t thought of that before”
      3. Teams look for loopholes/workarounds to make it happen
      4. One team gets “found out” and regulations have to be changed

  4. I was sceptical of having a segregated all-female series, but the thing they really got right in 2019 and made we really engage with it was how accessible it was, and how every driver was treated the same. No one was there because they had money—they were there on merit—providing a lifeline to drivers whose careers had stalled because of lack of cash. That drivers rotated between teams also meant that there was no benefit to being in a more experienced, better financed team which is something you see even in one-make series. It meant the best drivers would win for once.

    I am worried the shift to a teams format will start to erode something that made the W Series great, and an exemplar of what a junior series should be like.

  5. Because it is already a millionaire’s one?

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