Coulthard: Existing racing structures not working for women
Former grand prix driver David Coulthard says motor racing's structure needs a "fundamental" change like the new W Series if women are going to make a breakthrough in Formula 1.
Coulthard is one of the backers of the new all-female W Series that will launch next year, and offers the world's leading female talent the chance to battle it out in F3-spec cars for a $1.5 million prize fund.
With F1 not having had a female take part in a race since Lella Lombardi in 1976, Coulthard suggests that a different approach like an all-female category is needed if the situation is going to change.
"To quote former McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh, if you want a fundamental change in the outcome then you need a fundamental change in the process," Coulthard told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview.
"W Series is a fundamental change in what has clearly not worked as an opportunity to bring through female talent to the highest level you can.
"What we will establish with W, is we will find out who the best woman is over the course of this championship. It undoubtedly will give her a higher level of profile and recognition."
While Coulthard is aware that the idea of a female-only championship is not supported by everyone, he is clear that without the kind of change that W Series will bring then the situation for women trying to progress will not get any better.
"There will be those that are negative, but show me what anyone else is doing to try to create positive change and try to create positive opportunity? This is a change in the process and it will create opportunity.
"Will this allow them to grow? Absolutely. Because it is a more structured approach to their development – and an inspiration for girls growing up seeing someone winning and thinking 'I want to do that.'"
Coulthard is clear that while the long-term aim is to encourage more young girls in to the sport because they have something to aspire to, the W Series will also help those currently with F1 ambitions.
"It helps those that are ready and committed to cars right now, like Tatiana [Calderon] and people like that.
"I have had this conversation with Susie Wolff, and they have this big support from the FIA bringing through grass roots. But how long will that take? Five years? Ten years? A generation it will take in racing terms.
"Our view is we don't want to wait a generation, but we welcome that generation of women racers coming through. This is providing a solution right now, and the timing is absolutely right."
Asked if he believed a woman could be successful in F1, he said: "Yes. I just don't know at what level. The current baseline is Lewis [Hamilton]. Can they be as good as Lewis? I don't know.
"But I do know there are a lot of men who are not as good as Lewis. But if we don't create a platform that may give an opportunity to accelerate that access, then nothing is going to change."