New ladies' W series aims to find next F1 star
A new motorsport series is set to be launched in an attempt to find female Formula 1 stars.
W Series will start in 2019 and has been backed by major names in F1, including 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard and Red Bull design engineer Adrian Newey.
It will offer a prize fund of $1.5million and free entry for 18-20 competitors, who will be selected purely on merit following tests and appraisals. The overall winner will collect $500,000, with prize money down to 18th place.
Organisers aim to stage six 30-minute races at top circuits in Europe and future plans could see the series expand to America, Asia and Australia.
"At the heart of W Series' DNA is the firm belief that women can compete equally with men in motorsport. However, an all-female series is essential in order to force greater female participation," organisers said in a statement.
The last woman to start an F1 Grand Prix was Italy's Lella Lombardi in 1976, but Coulthard says female drivers can compete.
"To be a successful racing driver, you have to be skilled, determined, competitive, brave and physically fit, but you don't have to possess the kind of super-powerful strength levels that some sports require. You also don't have to be a man," Coulthard said.
"That's why we at W Series firmly believe that female and male racing drivers can compete with one another on equal terms given the same opportunity.
"At the moment, however, women racing drivers tend to reach a 'glass ceiling' at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent.
"That's why an all-new all-female single-seater motor racing series is required - W Series."