Viewpoint: Will we will have to wait to generation to see a female F1 driver?
When the W Series was launched last spring, it was seen to be the start of a new era for female racing drivers. So one year on, has the series changed the game?
W Series gave up and coming female racers the change to not only hone their race craft, but to win $500,000 to spend on their racing careers as well as providing them with a huge amount of exposure and help and training from people such as David Coulthard and Dave Ryan.
But the true litmus test was always going to be whether a W Series Champion really cut the mustard against her male counterparts?
During the 2019 W Series, Jamie Chadwick was the class of the field, taking three poles, two wins and five podiums in the six race calendar.
The 22-year old was awarded with her role as the Williams F1 Test and Development driver and was given a chance to shine in the European Formula Regional Championship with F3 pace-setters Prema Powerteam.
Chadwick was named one of four drivers alongside 20-year-old Oliver Rasmussen, 18-year-old Gianluca Petecof and 20-year-old Arthur Leclerc.
She had no excuse as the cars were effectively the same single-seater Formula 3 cars that she had been using in W Series and while racing in the BRDC British F3 Championships.
While it was a positive start with a third-place finish at the season-opener in Misano, she only secured one other top five finish all season. So while her team-mates battled in out for the title that ultimately went the way of Petecof, she ended the season ninth in the standings and 279 points behind the Brazilian at the end of the year.
That may seem unfair as it was only her first season in the championship and it was only to be expected that Chadwick would struggle this year and we should expect her to do better next season. Maybe?
But her team-mates were all rookies and had the same chances and same opportunities to perform and deliver in the same equipment. So not to hold her to the same high standards as Petecof, Leclerc and Rasmussen would be unfair.
Chadwick spent two seasons in British F3 before W Series so I really do not think that a lack of familiarity with the car is the problem. So if she is truly the crem de la crem of female motorsport right now, how realistic is it to have a female Grand Prix driver in the next ten years?
While it maybe too early to judge W Series and possibly even the 2019 champion Chadwick, it seems that we may have to wait a little longer and to spend more effort develop emerging talent from karting in order to have woman who can become a successful Grand Prix driver.
Recently, Ferrari launched the FIA girls on track programme which presents the opportunity for one up and coming female racer to become part of the prestigious Ferrari Young Drivers Academy.
The final four drivers are Julia Ayoub, Antonella Bassani, Doriane Pin and Maya Weug; all of whom are aged between 14 and 16 years old.
These four drivers will now attend a final training and assessment programme, due to be held at the Ferrari Driver Academy headquarters in Maranello, Italy, after which one of the racers could be offered a contract for a fully-funded season of FIA Formula 4 racing.
It is a step in the right direction and I think it is will important to monitor how these girls get on in lower formulae in the years to come against their male counterparts. It is one thing beating your female colleagues, but how you cope against the men is the crucial question.
Clearly, W Series has been a positive step in creating opportunities for young female racers. But after a year back playing with the sharks, so far the fish have struggled to swim in the sea…