WORDS BY IAN PAGE | IMAGES BY W SERIES
With the recent announcement of the 2022 W Series driver line-up, it’s time to take a quick look at the series as it enters its third year, and assess whether the all-female series is hitting the goals it set out back in 2019.
Reigning champion Jamie Chadwick is back for a third time to defend her crown. There is no question that the 23-year-old has benefitted off the back of the series, since it has raised her profile, as well as her racing funds. She has entered the sphere of Formula 1 with Williams and is very much an icon of equality and diversity, as well a role model for young girls who want to enter into a racing career.
However, with no other driver making the inroads that Chadwick has, or indeed making her hot under the collar on the racetrack, is the series at risk of stalling?
There is, of course, a grid full of very talented drivers, who all in their own way would argue W series has given them a platform they would have never had. Jessica Hawkins, arguably the next best export from W Series, is such a driver. She currently works as an ambassador for Aston Martin and is an icon and role model for the LBGTQ+ community.
Many of the other drivers up and down the grid enjoy a career more fruitful than they would have probably been expecting, but one of the series’ main aims is to propel women into higher echelons of motorsport, and there is a danger that the series could miss the mark if Chadwick once again canters home to championship glory.
Another title for Chadwick that is won without any major championship battle could prevent other drivers from having their full potential discovered. And there are drivers in the field who have it in abundance. You only have to look across at Emma Kimilainen, Beitske Visser and Alice Powell, to name a few, to see that.
The series made a huge gain when it announced it would be part of the Formula 1 race weekend. It was a great coup for the championship and it was a clear sign of the series’ intent and direction. And now, for 2022 the structure of the competition will become more team focused.
Although still centrally run, teams are more for identification purposes. But that doesn’t mean it comes without benefit. Jenner Racing, owned by media personality Caitlyn Jenner has brought real star quality to championship and will no doubt bring W Series more exposure.
That in turn will provide more exposure for the women participating in the series and in turn, it will create more career opportunities. It’s a win-win situation, and could pan out to be a commercial masterstroke if executed well.
It’s undoubtedly impossible to both grow the series as a business and grow the careers of the drivers who race in it at the same time. I know those who run W Series are passionate about the messages it sends out.
It will view coming away from driver development and securing the business as a whole as very necessary and all part of delivering the bigger picture.
But after the great success it has had in propelling Jamie Chadwick’s career, the series now needs to find its next star in order to not fall into the same traps as Formula 1 and just become a business that is guilty of style over substance.
It has all the right ingredients to make sure it avoids that trap, but now it needs to go an execute it to the highest order.
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