W Series secures eight F1 support slots for 2021
The W Series will join the undercard at eight Formula 1 events in 2021.
Talks between Formula 1 and W Series have been in progress for some time, the move to split F2 and F3 opening the door for another support category at grands prix.
An agreement for W Series to support F1 eight times next season has now been reached, although the final schedule has not been finalised.
“After such a successful inaugural season [in 2019], we at W Series are absolutely delighted to be partnering with Formula 1 for 2021 and beyond," said W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir.
“Formula 1 is by some margin the world’s premier motor racing series, and, when we promised that W Series would be bigger and better in the future, partnering with Formula 1 was always our ultimate objective.
"There is no doubt that, now that W Series will be run alongside and in collaboration with Formula 1, our global reach, impact and influence will be increased significantly.
“Everything that made W Series so popular and successful in 2019 will remain. The cars will be identical, the racing will be close and competitive, and our mission will always be to further the interests and prospects of female racing drivers. We want W Series to entertain, and entertain it will.
"But we also want it to become a crucial default-option stepping stone for any female racing driver who wants to carve out a professional racing career, and our proximity to Formula 1 will help and enhance that process."
Bond Muir said that W Series was weighing up a number of alternatives about its 2021 calendar, but suggested the finale would be in Mexico.
"I have got a list of 10 different possibilities of permutations of races," she said. "I think it is likely that we will have a later start than Australia, and that is with my COVID hat on.
"Obviously the later that we leave it in the year, the better it will be. And whilst I don't know what the date of the last race is, our season may well end in in Mexico. That hasn't been confirmed."
Asked about if it was possible W Series would consider racing in Saudi Arabia, she replied: "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."
F1's managing director of motorsport Brawn added: “We are excited to announce our 2021 season this week and look forward to a thrilling season with an exciting mix of new races and established circuits that we missed during our unprecedented 2020 season.
“It is a really important moment for us to welcome W Series as partners for eight races this season. 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 1 next season shows our determination and commitment to showcase their exciting series and the importance of building greater diversity across the sport.”
W Series played a supporting role to the DTM in its inaugural 2019 season, while the 2020 season was meant to feature two F1 events, the Circuit of the Americas and Mexico, before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While W Series is moving on to the F1 support bill, Bond Muir said the category would not be part of grand prix racing's media package, so would not be turning its back on fans who had followed its racing on free-to-air television.
"We're remaining completely independent," she added. "So our strategy in our first year will be exactly the same as our strategy for TV rights this year. And that is we will always go to the broadcaster with the greatest reach. We are not looking for big bucks for TV deals. What we're looking for is reach."
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