W Series graduates won’t reach F1 without talent to succeed – Coulthard

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W Series can provide a platform to promote female racers but they will have to demonstrate the talent to succeed in the sport’s top flight, says David Coulthard

New driver Abbi Pulling joins the all-female series for this weekend’s British round. At 18, she will be one of the youngest drivers in the championship, replacing 28-year-old Gosia Rdest.

Speaking ahead of W Series’ Silverstone round, series spokesperson and advisory board member Coulthard said he is convinced by Pulling’s potential. “I think she’s a fantastic talent, got a great history, grassroots right through to where she has now,” he said.

“It’s brilliant that we’ve been able to give her that opportunity, so that’s a huge moment. And it’s in her hands that her future lies, we can only provide the championship structure and the car to the grid and in the end, the drivers have to drive them.”

Pulling will not be the only teenager in the championship, with Ira Sidorkova and Nerea Marti having received backing as part of the series’ academy programme. Coulthard said age is not a concern for drivers’ quality level.

“If she is good enough, then she’s old enough. Let’s remember Max Verstappen, when he jumped in the Red Bull at 18 and he won the grand prix in Barcelona.

Pulling joins W Series for this weekend’s race
“Really top talent finds a way of delivering. The list of excuses for drivers who need more time and need time to fit and all that sort of stuff, it doesn’t tend to fit with any of the really exceptional drivers. So what she has to be, to compete in Formula 1, is exceptional.

“That’s in her hands, we will create a platform, we will give the opportunity. And if she is exceptional, she’ll have a brilliant result at the weekend and that will lead to other opportunities.”

Coulthard said W Series could offer an opportunity to showcase talent but that it was down to the drivers to prove themselves good enough. “[F1] teams are very straightforward. They want the best drivers in the cars and that will dictate her future.

“What we are doing at W Series is creating the development platform, the training, the simulator preparation, the racing championship on a platform where people are watching.

“And in the end, we can’t drive the car. They have to drive the car. So I have a long list of racing drivers, including myself, that have an excuse book that would go on for several volumes and very rarely do the real exceptional talents have a big excuse book.”

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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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24 comments on “W Series graduates won’t reach F1 without talent to succeed – Coulthard”

  1. I’m probably wrong, but I feel like Coulthard is talking here like it’s the Red Bull young driver program: a bit all-or-nothing. Loads of F1 drivers have had chance after chance. I hope the women don’t get written off straight away just because they don’t start spinning the world the wrong way with their superhuman speed. I hope I’m wrong, but I’d rather this series lean more towards nurturing talent and removing automatic bias, rather than a survival of the fittest F2/F3 scenario.

    1. 100% Agree.

      That’s the other step that needs to happen to progress the sport. The people in the position to make the decision on the drivers need to look at their own biases when evaluating drivers and considering folks who are not men; and they have to be truly honest with themselves.

      On the practical side of things, the sport might need to look into how much of an impact the young driver’s programs are having on the sport. The big teams have the money to finance a driver from Karting all the way through to F1. These development pipelines simplify things for the teams that can afford it but makes it increasingly difficult for someone outside the pipeline to break into the sport. I’d wager there’s more than a few drivers who more than had the talent for the sport but didn’t get a fair shot because someone else had the blessing of a powerful billionaire.

    2. Have to agree with the both of you @treize131 and @splittimes

  2. So what she has to be, to compete in Formula 1, is exceptional.

    or a father like Stroll or Mazepin

    But he is correct.. real talents have a way of showing themselves and find the right spot.
    Sexe, Color, preferences etc.. does not really matter then.

  3. Let’s remember Max Verstappen had 23 races with Toro Rosso.

    Why is there no mention of F2 for the best W Series drivers? F1 doesn’t have any space, with all the dinosaurs and daddy’s boys stinking up the grid at the moment…

    1. I guess they need to go to F3 first?

    2. F2 with similar machinery would be harder to win than F1. Imagine two quality female drivers in a dominating Mercedes from 2014-16,20. They would have won the drivers and constructors and all the misandric feminists would then be saying nonsense such as ‘see women were and are better than men they just face discrimination and systematic sexism’.

  4. All do respect to the racers from W series, it should be steeping stone for F2 not F1.

    1. W Series doesn’t have enough super licence points allocations to be a stepping stone straight into F1. So any driver would most probably have to do F2 anyway.

      Super Licence points have been regressive ever since they were introduced.

  5. This isn’t a criticism of W Series (which I’m a fan of) please don’t get me wrong. I was under the impression Coulthard had a financial stake in the series. Does anyone know if that’s true? Or have I just imagined it? Not that it changes the article, either way. I’d just like to know when listening to his thoughts.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      15th July 2021, 13:08

      @bernasaurus I’m not sure if he has a financial stake in the ownership of the W Series, but he (and Adrian Newey come to think of it) are both backers of the project. Whether that means financial backers or promotional backers I don’t know. Coulthard is also an advisory board member and works as commentator for the W Series broadcast on C4.

      1. @randommallard He commentates on the broadcast because his company, Whisper films, is responsible for the broadcast. So he does have a financial stake in the series, from a certain point of view.

        1. @geemac Whisper films only produce the commentary & all the pre/post race content & analysis (Same as they do for Channel 4’s F1 coverage).

          The actual world feed/track coverage is produced by FOM just like all the other F1 support events.

        2. RandomMallard (@)
          15th July 2021, 14:47

          @geemac Yeah I guessed Whisper were involved. But then again Whisper has the “production” (in quotes so I don’t summon gt-racer ;-) ) for Channel 4 F1, so you could equally argue he has a financial stake in F1 in a way as well. But thanks for clarifying that.

  6. Something i’m not sure can really be seen as a positive sign is that Jamie Chadwick who was the series champion & probably the standout driver of the first season is having to do another year in W Series having seemingly had no opportunities in F3/F2.

    If the W series wants to work to elevate drivers up the ladder to F1 then the worst thing that can happen is for the drivers who do show real ability to just end up stuck there as that is not only making it harder for others to come in but also makes it seem like more of it’s own thing rather than a part of the junior series ladder where you win & move up.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      15th July 2021, 14:41

      @roger-ayles She raced in the Formula Regional last season. She finished 9th of the 17, behind 2 part time drivers (admittedly those were Juri Vips, who as of writing has won both of the last 2 F2 races, and Dennis Hauger, who is currently leading F3). However, she scored 1 podium and scored points in every race she competed in, and was announced as an almost last minute entry with very little (if any?) testing time. It’s nothing mind-boggling, but neither is it embarrassing. I mean she’s won mixed championships before so she must have a fair amount of talent.

      1. so the top talent from the series is a mid-pack F3 driver….

        maybe the W-series is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in the first place and missing the mark on how to get women into top level motorsports.

      2. and i accidentally clicked “report” instead of “reply” so whoever looks at that please disregard, it was just a fat-finger mistake and i can’t undo it.

        1. I just did the same trying to close some irritating pop-up!

    2. This is my thinking. If Chadwick is in the top 3 again this year and competes in Formula W for a third year, then the Formula W experiment is a failure, albeit one that deservedly raised the profiles of some good drivers.

      1. The goal is to increase female participation in the sport and provide a pathway…just because a pathway does not open up after 3 years does not mean it is a failure. This might take years to get traction but giving more female drivers something to aspire to is absolutely not a failure.

  7. pastaman (@)
    15th July 2021, 14:14

    Wasn’t the championship prize in the first year something ridiculous like a drive in Asian Formula 4?

  8. The best thing might be a billionaire putting the winner of this year’s W Series championship in an F1 car for 2 or 3 years without to much pressure and see if she can deliver.

    It’s not like F1 has only had brilliant drivers until now. There have been the Esteban Tueros, the Rio Haryantos and the Enrique Bernoldis.

    Just give a woman a chance and see how she does…

  9. Chadwick seems pretty darn good overall but I’d guess she will end up in WEC eventually as I don’t think she has the raw pace to quite make it in F1, but I’d be quite happy if Williams put her in a few FP1 sessions – why not? Instead its Nissany due to funding, and in a straight fight I’d put my money on Chadwick between them.

    But really what W Series needs is someone like Juju Noda, who is clearly a “phenom” at a young age and has the potential to dominate the series. Let’s hope it happens, cause let’s face it -with this current driver line-up, an F1 entrant should and needs to win every race basically.

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