W Series and Formula 1 link up for 2021 and beyond

The women-only W Series will link up with Formula 1 next season and beyond with eight support races at grand prix weekends, organisers said on Thursday.

The series started up in 2019 but cancelled racing this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

No details were given about where the women would race, although they had been supposed to support grands prix in Mexico and the United States this year.

“When we promised that W Series would be bigger and better in the future, partnering with Formula One was always our ultimate objective,” said founder and chief executive Catherine Bond Muir in a statement.

“There is no doubt that, now that W Series will be run alongside and in collaboration with Formula One, our global reach, impact and influence will be increased significantly.”

Britain’s Jamie Chadwick was the inaugural champion of the series, which featured six rounds supporting the German Touring Car Championship (DTM).

The series, which uses identical 1.8 litre Formula Three cars, will be eligible for points towards an FIA super licence needed to race in Formula One.

Formula One, which this week published a draft 2021 calendar with a record 23 races running from Australia in March to Abu Dhabi in December, has not had a female driver compete in a grand prix since Italian Lella Lombardi in 1976.

“It is a really important moment for us to welcome W Series as partners for eight races this season,” said Formula One’s managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn. “They have been a beacon to many since they began racing in 2019.

“We believe it is incredibly important to give everyone the chance to reach the highest levels of our sport and their partnership with Formula One next season shows our determination and commitment to showcase their exciting series and the importance of building greater diversity across the sport.”