Formula One has not had a woman race since 1976 and the esports series has yet to have a female finalist in three editions. That is all about to change, following the launch of the W- Series Esports League for women drivers only, in the absence of any on-track action due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Virtual racing has become a crowded marketplace since pandemic swept the world, with most championships streaming their own online races but with only a few that involved women. All 18 drivers who qualified for the regular W series season, which was scheduled to start in St Petersburg, Russia, on May 29, are expected to race from their homes on identical simulators.
W Series said it would use 10 virtual layouts: Monza, Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, Brands Hatch, Interlagos, Spa-Francorchamps, Watkins Glen, Suzuka, Bathurst, the Nuerburgring Nordschleife and Silverstone. Drivers will race simulated 2.0 litre Tatuus Formula Renault cars with points awarded and up to three races per circuit. No decision has been made on prize money.
British-based Women in Games estimated in 2018 that the number of women working in any role in esports or playing esports was around 5% or 1 in 20. Market research firm Interpret said last year,30% of esports viewership and 35% of esport gamers were women and numbers were growing.
British W Series champion, Jamie Chadwick is active with Veloce esports and has competed against Formula One drivers like Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc. The 21-year-old said attitudes needed to change. “I think maybe the esports world is a bit slower even than motorsports in coming around to the idea of women being a part of it,” said Chadwick.
The date for the start of the League has not been set yet but said they will use the iRacing platform in partnership with Logitech G and tournament hosts Beyond Entertainment. According to David Coulthard, Advisory Board Chair, “We intend to stage on-track W Series races once the global Covid-19 crisis has subsided, whenever that will be, but in the meantime, we’re delighted to have created the next best thing”.
Organizers of the league hope to maintain the series’ profile and encourage more women to compete in the male-dominated virtual world as well as the real one.