W Series testing, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

Younger field, longer calendar: Will 2022 be W Series’ breakout year?

W Series

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W Series will have the honour of being the first championship to race on the new Miami International Autodrome when the all-female junior series begins its third season this weekend.

In retrospect, 2019 was a very difficult year for the new championship to launch. After that first, six-race season W Series was forced to put racing on hold for a year when 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic hit.

It returned to racing last year, now elevated to the status of F1 support series. But the pandemic continued to have an effect and as the cancellations and postponements of grands prix meant the series was forced to rearrange or cancel some rounds.

But for its third season W Series will embark on its longest-ever championship. It also boasts a refreshed line-up of young talent looking to progress up the motorsport ladder.

They will have to measure themselves against Jamie Chadwick, who returns to the series to defend the two titles she has won so far. While she strives for a third crown which would underline her status as the top female single seater racer, for the others she represents a benchmark they will all want to beat.

W Series’ 2022 driver line-up

Alongside several notable additions to the driving roster from last year many of W Series most famous names are still there. Beitske Visser, Alice Powell and Emma Kimilainen – the drivers who provided the strongest opposition to Chadwick in W Series’ first two seasons – are also continuing.

Using a new selection process, including a test in Arizona this February, W Series looked to find candidates from backgrounds it has drawn few drivers from so far, and also to bring down the average age of its competitors.

W Series testing, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022
W Series testing, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022
“When we set up a series in 2019 we invited applicants from all over the world,” explained W Series CEO Catherine Bond-Muir during the Arizona test. “We had probably 100 fairly serious applicants and we took 68 of those applicants to do a four-day test in Austria.

“We feel as though we’re beyond that now and what we want to do is find the drivers who are actually doing really interesting stuff. Inevitably, people are reaching out to us the whole time and trying to sell individual drivers. So I know that there was one driver who we hadn’t initially chosen and that driver actually had a lot of very influential friends because they were calling us up saying ‘actually, you should give her a second look.'”

That driver, Bianca Bustamante, was selected after the Arizona test and will become the first Filipino to compete in W Series. Juju Noda is another newcomer and the youngest-ever competitor, having turned 16 during the Arizona test, and is already a known name being the daughter of three-time F1 race starter Hideki Noda.

Juju Noda is the series’ youngest ever competitor
The pivot towards youth is intentional, says Bond Muir. “What we’ve got to be is a series that is finding young talent, and that is why we have purposefully gone for a much younger profile because if we can get the really good ones who are naturally incredibly quick, what is happening is that people are all over the world is starting to look at W Series.

“If they can stay with us for two or three years or however long, if they are sufficiently quick, they are going to be picked up by other series, because that is what is happening already.”

The Arizona test fell before Chadwick, unable to secure an FIA Formula 3 seat, announced her return. F3 CEO Bruno Michel told RaceFans last month he believed there had been no barriers to and several teams interested in signing her, while Chadwick blamed lack of funds. By necessity of being a junior series, W Series will have to demonstrate its top drivers can move up to the higher echelons to sustain its influx of new talent.

Hawkins is also a driver ambassador for Aston Martin
Nevertheless, some returnees are keen to start afresh. Jessica Hawkins is going into her third year in W Series off the back of a win in her first weekend of UK TCR.

“Obviously a TCR car and a W Series car are absolutely nothing whatsoever,” she told RaceFans, “so I can’t really take much in the driving way. But what [the win] has done is given me a boat load of confidence going into it, which is probably exactly what I need.”

Hawkins, who is also an ambassador for the Aston Martin F1 Team, placed 11th in last year’s championship with a best finish of fifth at Zandvoort. “It’s no secret that W Series hadn’t been for me what I’d hoped it to be last year, results-wise,” she says. “But I come this year with a new me, a fresh outlook, a different attitude and we go again.”

This year’s line-up also features Abbi Pulling in a full-time race seat, after strong performances last year while standing in as a reserve driver. Pulling is an Alpine Academy associate driver, hoping to progress into a full academy role if she can show the same potential this season.

Abbie Eaton was the last drive confirmed to the grid, returning after suffering spinal injuries during the final round at COTA last year which required a long recovery. Ayla Agren, who drove during the 2021 season, will act as reserve in 2022.

10Juju NodaW Series Academy
91Bianca BustamanteW Series Academy
22Belen GarciaQuantfury
32Nerea MartiQuantfury
26Sarah MooreScuderia W
44Abbie EatonScuderia W
4Emely de HeusSirin
95Beitske VisserSirin
8Chloe ChambersJenner
55Jamie ChadwickJenner
7Emma KimilainenPuma
63Tereza BabickovaPuma
21Jessica HawkinsBristol Street Motors
27Alice PowellBristol Street Motors
5Fabienne WohlwendCortDAO
19Marta GarciaCortDAO
49Abbi PullingRacing X
7Bruna TomaselliRacing X
17Ayla AgrenReserve

2022 W Series calendar

W Series testing, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022
W Series will compete for track time with F2 and 3 in Barcelona
The 2022 season opens and closes on double-header weekends, after the success of the season-closing weekend at the 2021 US Grand Prix.

Beginning in Miami, there are three races in May, three in July and then a very sizeable gap in the calendar to reach the four races in a hectic November finale. While, arguably, it gives drivers the opportunity to take up racing in other series, other junior series have seen their drivers struggle with unfamiliarity after long gaps and especially with W Series’ relatively short running per race weekend drivers will need to find ways to keep their skills sharp.

W Series’ calendar follows Formula 1’s, in the sense of being a support race to grands prix and so competes for space with Formula 2 and F3. At both Barcelona and Silverstone all three series will be running, creating serious risk of missed or delayed sessions if there are any issues.

However, W Series has also worked out a way to manage its fly-aways without the cost of air freight, meaning it can accompany F1 further afield. In order to accommodate the logistics of the calendar it will borrow the identical chassis used by New Zealand’s Toyota Racing Series, meaning a switch from Alfa Romeo to Toyota power at the Barcelona and Suzuka rounds.

1Miami International Autodrome7th May
2Miami International Autodrome8th May
3Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya21st May
4Silverstone3rd July
5Paul Ricard24th July
6Hungaroring31st July
7Suzuka9th October
8Circuit of the Americas23rd October
9Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez29th October
10Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez30th October

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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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36 comments on “Younger field, longer calendar: Will 2022 be W Series’ breakout year?”

  1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    4th May 2022, 8:29

    It’s often debated who is the best racing driver ever, but have we ever debated who is the best female circuit racer ever?

    1. Define circuit. The fastest is Anita Mäkelä, multi-time, multi-class Drag Race Champion

      1. LOL. Drag strips are about the furthest you could get from any definition of circuit.

        1. @cairnsfella yes dear, hence the qualifier “define”
          By the dictionary definition: A dragstrip is a straight, purpose-built racetrack

          but that’s not the discussion, it was I believe about female racers
          She checks all the boxes:
          Drives a specially built openwheeler, check
          A Singleseater, check
          Has aerodynamics, check
          Insane amount of power, check
          Superhuman reflexes, above even her peers in her field of motorsport, check

          She’s a badass, and not once in her more than 30-odd years on the top of her field has she come across as anything but positive, humble and always supported and venerated by her peers as not just “one of us” but the best of us

          1. Biskit Boy did state ‘circuit racer’. A drag strip isn’t a ‘circuit’. A circuit is defined as

            “a roughly circular line, route, or movement that starts and finishes at the same place.”

            and a drag trip does not start and finish in the same place. As good as Anita Mäkelä, she wouldn’t count as a circuit racer. :)

          2. @uneedafinn2win

            You seem to take an implication that I may not consider Anita Mäkelä worthy of consideration as one of the best female racers. I suggest you re-read as no such implication was made.

            You can pull apart the term ‘define’ until the cows come home, but there really is no possible definition that would see a drag strip classified as a circuit.

            If you are suggesting that the original definition should be opened up to include non circuit female racing drivers, then by all means make that suggestion, but your original premise remains flawed, and I am unsure why you have deflected by suggesting that the issue of being a circuit or not “is not the discussion” given that it is that very point you went on to discuss and that I specifically referred to.

    2. Susanna Raganelli is the only woman to win an FIA World Championship, so by definition she is. Lotta Helberg is probably a close second. Amazingly quick in one of the most competitive race classes of all time – Formula Super A. Lorraine Peck had the potential to be great but she was unfortunately killed in 1975.

      The fact these drivers aren’t household names is very disappointing.

      1. Kart racers usually don’t become household names, no matter how good they are in their disciplines. Probably because karting is seen as step up to single seaters, which all build to one specific goal which is F1.
        Most people don’t know about F4, F3 or even F2 racers. So let alone kart racers becoming household names.

        1. Which is a shame because it’s not the reality of the sport, though a perception which has increasingly entrenched itself in the sport over the last 2 to 3 decades. It’s caused huge damage in my view. Karting should always have worked hard to remove itself from F1 influence and its got worse in recent years with the decimation of the single-gear categories to in effect be ‘junior formulas’ (it wasn’t always this way).

          However in 2020 the average age of the top 3 drivers at the KZ (gearbox category) world championship was HIGHER than F1. Top level KZ is more competitive than F3 and F2 (in some ways F1 too) and I say that with a tremendous amount of confidence as someone who’s been fortunate to study this subject. Travisnuttu, Kremers, Pex, Inglesias, Puhakka… the lists goes on and on. but they really don’t get the exposure they deserve.

          1. That’s just the reality of things, Karting is the stepping stone to F1, the south american football league to the top european leagues, if we lived in a world in which Karting was the top single seater category then for sure the KZ world championship would be filled with the same top F1 drivers we have today.

          2. Gimi, the talent in KZ is equal to what we see in F1 bar maybe Verstappen. Getting to F1 isn’t a measure of talent and skill in the same way as football. We do SEE top level talent in karts. Bas Lammers is one of the most remarkable drivers I’ve ever witnessed. I am happy to say that with confidence. The single-speed karting categories have certainly been demoted and no longer hold the same reverence as the Formula Super A days, but the gearbox stuff is different ball game.

          3. Gimi, the talent in KZ is equal to what we see in F1 bar maybe Verstappen.

            I’m sorry, I am fully in agreement if you say there is a lot of talent in karting, but a statement like this is simply impossible to make, and quite questionable. Lots of F1 drivers were karting prodigees. Look at Max’s, his karting CV is stunning. See Lerclerc’s. There’s more.

            Of course it’s a more tedious work to go through karting results, but e.g. take the 2013 CIK-FIA World KZ.
            Max, series rookie, #1.
            Charles, series rookie, #2.
            Bas Lammers, #6.

            Now see their ages in 2013.

            That’s the big difference, isn’t it? These F1 talents, they come into series like that at young age, they are immediately at the front, then they storm off to the next one and keep winning. Then they graduate into single seaters and they just keep winning.

            Getting to F1 isn’t a measure of talent and skill in the same way as football.

            Not entirely, but it’s not far off. Talents are spotted at a very young age and are propelled further up. They lose sponsorships when they stop performing. Not having enough sponsors to go further up often is not a sign of just not having enough sponsorship, but of not being good enough to attract them.

          4. @MattDS If you just look at one google search, get told one story, but you don’t know the whole thing. You might not know that Bas is deaf. So that’s one extra hurdle you won’t find on DriverDB (also Max wasn’t a season rookie, he had a year of KZ2 under his belt which is the same karts).

            Alas, a google search when you don’t know the full context of the sport will yield this kind of thing. You don’t the situation with engines and that kind of thing. You’ll note that in my original comment I cited Max as an exception. But lets take Max. He lost the World Karting Championship in 2013 to…. Tom Joyner. Another astoundingly talented driver. However on the F1 grid only Max can be considered a karting prodigy really in the truest sense. The others didn’t really do what he did. Karting politics and the movement of the pro drivers to the gearbox categories changes the value of various ]championships some F1 drivers won in terms of historical lineage.

            I watched with my own eyes Bas make Schumacher, Buemi and Piquet Jnr look pretty average in Las Vegas in 2009 – https://www.superkartsusa.com/national/skusa-supernationals/results/855-supernationals-xiii-mylaps-results.html?mylaps=type,run,runid,1372883 . I was one of several people who was literally inside the circuit confines. Bas is an absolute beast especially in the 2009-2011 era. You really had to be there.

            Drivers do come and go from karting, but the underlying talent there is monumental. Jack Doohan finished 16th in KZ at my local club race – https://www.apex-timing.com/goracing/results.php?path=/hkrc/2021/141121&group=4 Great driver, but it demonstrates the depth there.

            What I find interesting, and maybe its rooted in sexism, but I find it very interesting how quickly people are willing to put down the achievements of women like Raganelli, Peck, and Helberg (there’s loads more) because it’s ‘karting’. Helberg raced Formula Super A (the peak era for karting really) going up against the likes of Beggio, Orsini, Rossi, Gianniburti etc… Absolute giants of the sport and stupendously talented and Helberg was in that circle. The fact she isn’t spoken about more is atrocious tbh.

          5. But lets take Max. He lost the World Karting Championship in 2013 to…. Tom Joyner.

            Max was 16, Joyner was 21, Max is still a kid, the other one is already a grown man.

            I watched with my own eyes Bas make Schumacher, Buemi and Piquet Jnr look pretty average in Las Vegas in 2009

            Schumacher was 40, a retired F1 driver at the time who last time he raced for real was in 2006 and last time did Karting seriously was in 1987, Bas was 24 and a current Karting driver.

            You are comparing people who dedicate their entire career to Karting to guys who moved on and are just karting for fun, it’s no different from putting current Alonso in Karting see him not reaching the top 10 and then talk about all the karting talent who would be great in F1 now.

            Or a real example Alonso not winning the indy 500, does that make Indycar a far stronger single seater series? Sato won the 500, twice, was he secretly far better than Alonso?

            What I find interesting, and maybe its rooted in sexism, but I find it very interesting how quickly people are willing to put down the achievements of women like Raganelli, Peck, and Helberg (there’s loads more) because it’s ‘karting’.

            Because karting is pretty much the EFL of single seaters, if you get stuck there is because you couldn’t go up anymore, be it because of money or talent, that’s how it has been for like 30 years.

          6. @Alan Dove that wasn’t just “one Google search”, I am quite familier with driverdb and spent quite some time in it to try and get to the bottom of it and form an opinion. I am sorry my attempt to actually educate myself fall short of your vast experience, but at least I did a serieus attempt and it’s a shame you discard it like that.

            I think the gist of what I was saying, though, holds some good and valid points. We are talking about youngsters that rush through the series against, often, established veterans of the sport. Them being so highly competitive, even at such young age and little experience, should speak volumes for how good they actually are.

            I have full respect for your opinion, I do believe there are far better drivers in there than most would believe, but the statement that talent is equal to F1, that’s just taking things too far. It’s your opinion and I respect it, but I don’t see any actual argument that would prove it, and given the fact that the best drivers from young age are identified, groomed to steam through karting into single seaters, and are dropped if they don’t perform at the highest level (except the real pay drivers, of which there are actually very few that reach F1 these days), I still fully believe the level of talent in F1 is extremely high, and on average the highest in the world.

  2. The lack of a proper steaming option seems a weird choice to me in these days. The younger generations are moving away from flow-TV, and the only other option to watch W Series where I live (Denmark) is to pay €60/month for Viaplay Sport – which for me personally has 98% content I have absolutely no interest in. With this in mind I don’t see any chance of a breakout year. But who knows – maybe I’m alone on this.

    1. I have no idea how W Series isn’t streamed via F1TV. It should be a no-brainer. I know it’s not a FIA organized series, but at least it’s affiliated to some extent. Porsche SC also isn’t a FIA organized series (as far as I know), and they’re streamed via F1TV too.

      If they really want to promote women racing, then put them on F1TV.

      1. The W series is not owned by Liberty. It is effectively a competitor series.
        Also remember that Liberty Media is an entertainment company not a sports company, true they own two (or maybe more) sports series, but they do so to have tv content.

        Perhaps a good marketing pitch could convince Liberty that the W series viewer adds another demographic audience to the normal F1 audience and that the very little extra cost would be disproportionally beneficial to the tv viewing figures.

        1. But that is why I also mentioned the Porsche Supercup. They are also not owned by Liberty. They are on F1TV though. As the W Series are already on the support programme, a deal like with the Porsche SC could be struck pretty easily.

  3. How is anyone supposed to break out of a series that got won twice by someone who couldn’t even get a seat in Formula 3?

    And how is a series supposed to break out that has a field that contains drivers several seconds a lap of the pace of said Champion?

    1. @proesterchen she could get a seat in F3, she had offers, but decided to continue in FE.

      As for the quality of the series, well, it’s quite understandable. They have to field an entire grid from a much smaller pool of drivers. They have to go and find them literally everywhere in all kinds of series, in some cases series that would never feed into the classic single seater series. Some come straight from karts. Others have been in single seaters an age ago but ultimately couldn’t make it a step higher up and dropped out (Visser and Powell – and it’s quite shocking they’re still competitive for the title).

  4. With the teams being a W series franchise with sponsor names; no apparent connection or co-operation to serious motorsports teams in other fields such as F2, F3 or even F1 teams I think it is quite difficult to break out of it. Every top tier young potential driver is a junior driver of a big team from an early age. Somehow W Series doesn’t provide this opportunity. I like the exposure it gives to the female drivers however it feels as compartmentalised as, if not less than Formula E to me. An example of it is Jamie Chadwick, I feel for her because despite winning it twice she still has no better option but to continue in this series for the 3rd time.

    1. Well, the main problem is that the grid is fielded mostly by drivers that the big teams were never interested in, by having those drivers racing against each other you don’t suddenly change that fact. Chadwick did get offers to drive in F3, but decided not to. Probably there was no top team giving her a seat and she declined for that reason.

      But if you look at it, she has won two titles on the bounce, but before those years her achievements weren’t that worthy of a top drive in F3? Looking at the single seaters she was midfield in British F3 (which usually does not get you a top F3 drive), she won the MRF Challenge against a pretty low-quality field, fourth behind Mazepin in F3 Asia and then ninth in FREC driving for Prema with her teammates placing first to third in the championship.

      It’s not a bad resumé, but not one that would get you top seats either, so the fact that she got some offers in F3 by not-top-teams sounds fair and reasonable, and is not a snub on the W Series per sé but rather a testament to the fact that performances outside of the W Series count for more, as the competition can be gauged much better and the grid is formed in a natural manner instead of purposely constituting a grid starting from a very limited pool of drivers that in turn often do not have the best CV’s to begin with.

  5. It’s a shame that following the Miami slot supporting F1, W series couldn’t have managed a deal with Indy Car to support the Grand Prix of Indianapolis a week later. I think doing that would have been good exposure in the American market, especially with paddock access being infinitely better at Indy Car events.

  6. While i agree with the fundamental concept and idea to provide a place where female racers can showcase their talent, the W Series needs a better / faster car. Somewhere in the region of 500 – 600 hp, in the same ballpark with Japanese Super Formula, Indy Lights and such and maybe just a tad below F2.

    This then might attract some of the more established female drivers around, the likes of Catherine Legge, Simona De Silvestro, Pippa Mann etc which are a known quality and would be a good yardstick to compare the up-and-comers with. And it might then actually turn some heads in the F1 paddock too, so that some of these ladies get a proper shot at least in F2 and so prove their merit. Or the lack of.

    1. None of those women you mentioned are quality and also they’re very old for what it’s supposed to be a Junior series, no F1 team is gonna take interest in some 30+ year old except for some PR test.

      Chadwick is probably a far better yardstick too.

      1. I’m not saying Legge, Mann, De Silvestro have a future in F1, but they have been around for quite a while and have been tested against competition in some pretty high profile categories. Their abilities (such as they are) are well known. I also agree that J. Chadwick is the best among the current W Series crop, but who are we actually comparing her to and how would she measure up against stronger opposition? Currently the W Series doesn’t give us this answer.

        So if we could get some of these more experienced female drivers who already raced previously against some quality competition (IndyCars, sportscars) into the series we might get an idea how the current field of youngsters compares.

        And i do actually expect Chadwick would come out on top again. But maybe then someone would actually notice her.

        1. I’m sure people have noticed Jamie Chadwick. It’s just that there’s no single-seater future in a driver in his/her mid-twenties who hasn’t even made it to Formula 3.

        2. Chadwick is going to be noticed from the moment she is consistently among the best of her peers. Which is pretty much how it works for most male drivers too.
          Driving in a field of women drivers that are either unproven or have shown no good results in feeder series, or have gone through the ranks and before but were simply not good enough to make it to the higher up series… That is not going to help Chadwick up any further.

        3. But the drivers you mention are too old, the youngest one is Simona and she is 33, Chadwick is 23, that’s a ten year difference, Legge is 41 almost 18 years older.

          Nobody is suprised when people easily beat Nissany in F2 and he’s only 27, he’s not a measuring stick not even to Poruchaire who is 9 years younger, no one in F1 would be impressed when Chadwick beats competition almost 20 years older.

          If Chadwick wants to be in F1 she should go to F2 or F3 even if it’s on a backmarker team and there show her talents, against the other drivers who are actually noticed by F1.

  7. Those cars look so disgusting that I wouldn’t want to look at them even if they ressurected Senna to race them.

  8. Neil (@neilosjames)
    4th May 2022, 19:49

    I fully appreciate what W Series is trying to do, but… there’s no way Jamie Chadwick ‘couldn’t get’ an F3 seat. Of course she could. But why would she want one?

    Unless you make it to the big leagues, the junior formulae are money pits and no one has a clue who most of the competitors are. They exist for the handful of talents who might make it to F1 and for wealthy kids who decide to have an expensive hobby before they have to enter adulthood. There’s no prestige in being an also-ran F3 driver, and from what I’ve seen also-ran F3 driver is as far as Chadwick could go on her actual ability.

    W Series, on the other hand… free. There’s prestige and recognition for the winners. Press coverage, fans, income for the drivers (instead of paying to have a job), a boost to their personal brand, sponsorship. $500,000 for the winner, which I imagine puts the W Series champion above a few F1 drivers on income per race weekend. It’s like a mid-tier racing series but right at the foot of the ladder.

    From a purely rational viewpoint, if you’re not good enough to get to F1 and you know it, you might as well stay in W Series. So unless a genuine, huge talent is unearthed at some point, I can’t see any ‘progression’ into F3 any time soon.

  9. No.

    If they wanted people to watch it they would make it more accessible. Practice on Youtube, Qualy on Fakebook and races on some other platform beinsports i’ve never heard of?

    I watched the final races of 2022 at Austin last year and hardly anyone stayed to watch. One of the races was somewhat dramatic with interesting battles at the front if I remember correctly and we enjoyed them immensely, but it’s just another F3 series but with very limited talent. Think bottom half of F3 Asia level talent.

    If you are interested in open wheel single seaters you probably follow F1 and/or Indycar, then maybe super formula (second fastest series) or F2, maybe FIA F3 if you really have a lot of free time. What good reason to watch W series, especially if it is hard to follow? No. 2022 isn’t go to be a breakout year.

  10. Simona tested very well for Sauber F1. A Swiss woman in a Swiss team, what could be better publicity and talent, but no we were denied again…

    1. @dutchtreat as with Susie Wolff, way too much is being made of some random testing or free practice outing. As far as I know no times were ever released (but I will gladly be proven wrong!) and a team member said she was “solid”. Make of it what you will, but it seems flimsy to conclude she tested “very well” based on that.

      Simona went up against Robin Frijns in FE and was vastly outperformed by him. She didn’t do well in Indycar, she didn’t do well in Supercars. We weren’t denied much.

  11. Yes, she should. But is there any interest from F3 / F2 teams to pick her up, unless she brings a crapload of money – which she doesn’t have?

    This is the problem here. She needs to be noticed so that a team is willing to offer her a paid ride. Or to pick up a good sponsor willing to fund one. Competing against known racers, even if they’re 10 or more years older than her, would help raise Chadwick profile much more than competing against a bunch of unknowns. That’s what I’ve been saying.

    And then maybe someone gives her a chance in F3 or F2 so that she can show what she really can do.

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