W Series added to Formula 1 support bill for 2021 season

W Series' global reach, impact and influence will be increased significantly with F1 tie-in

Credit: Reuters

W Series chief executive Catherine Bond Muir believes the coronavirus pandemic, which has set many women’s sports back significantly, may actually have benefited her championship.

The all-female single-seater series announced an agreement with Formula 1 on Thursday, which will see it added to the support bill of motorsport’s premier motorsport series at eight events in 2021. 

It is yet to be determined at which F1 grands prix W Series will be present, but the development represents a significant coup for Bond Muir. 

“Looking at the end of 2020 I’m almost thinking the pause that Covid caused will actually in the long term benefit the business,” she admitted in a conference call. “It gave us a period of time where we could reflect on what W Series is and what we want it to be in the future. 

“I think if we’d been racing this year we’d have been running at a million miles an hour and really not had the time to think about where we want our business to be.”

💬 #WSeries CEO, Catherine Bond Muir on today’s @F1 announcement.

Full quote ➡️ https://t.co/0RRAXVfUJV pic.twitter.com/szv5aX8eMU

— W Series (@WSeriesRacing) November 12, 2020

Talks between F1 and W Series had been going for some time. W Series played a supporting role to the DTM German Touring Car championship in its inaugural 2019 season but the 2020 season was due to feature at two F1 events, the Circuit of the Americas and Mexico, before Covid-19 hit.

Bond Muir said the presence of international media at the event should help to amplify coverage, with W Series races taking place on Saturdays rather than on Sundays. 

“Obviously it helps enormously if the journalists are right there on hand,” Bond Muir said. “In our first year we tried as much as possible not to race on the same weekends as F1, we tried as much as possible to get motorsport journalists along to tell our story. But one of the big advantages of this deal is we won’t have to do that juggling exercise. The world’s media is there already. “We are still going to be racing on Saturday so hopefully we will get a good amount of coverage and we won’t be overshadowed by the [F1 race].”

On the subject of which eight F1 race weekends W Series will be present at, Bond Muir said talks were still ongoing. She suggested, however, that the season opened in Australia would come too soon, and she added that W Series was unlikely to race in the Middle East at the end of the F1 season.

“F1 only recently finalised all the dates in their calendar,” she said. “We can only start planning our calendar once they gave us their final calendar. At the moment it’s a massive logistical exercise to see where we can go and where we can afford to go. I have got a list of 10 different possible permutations. I genuinely have no idea what we will end up with. But I think it’s likely we will have a later start than Australia, speaking with our Covid hat on.”

Asked about the possibility of racing at the end of November in Saudi Arabia, where women were forbidden from driving motor vehicles until 2018, Bond Muir added: “I have no objection about going to Saudi Arabia provided we can establish a meaningful relationship. And I think that would take some time to put together.

“I don’t know what the date of our last race is, our season may well end in Mexico [Oct 31]. We’d prefer our races to be closer together to create a momentum for the season.”

Bond Muir said she was still negotiating with potential broadcasters, but stressed they would not be part of F1’s broadcast package on subscription channels. 

“We’re remaining completely independent. We will always go with the broadcaster with the greatest reach. We’re not looking for big bucks from TV deals. What we’re looking for is reach. The most important thing for us at the moment is to build the brand of W Series. We want to be in as many households as possible. 

“We are speaking to lots of different broadcasters. C4 were the broadcast company who supported us when we hadn’t even raced. We’re certainly speaking to them. But you’ll understand that no broadcaster is going to commit to W Series until their commissioning editor knows they’ll be able to broadcast on the day. Until we know what dates we know we’re racing we can’t do any broadcast deals. 

“We want to announce dates as soon as possible for sponsors, for broadcasters, but also there’s an FIA meeting at the beginning of December and we have to get our dates in before that.”

Next year’s driver line-up is also yet to be announced. Britain’s Jamie Chadwick won the inaugural W Series championship in 2019 and joined the Williams Driver Academy as a development driver in the same year.