The limelight can be a bit of a conflicting thing at times. As the years have gone by, some recall it as the demonic influence that yanked them down from the very top and pinpointed every single one of their mistakes at the top of the board. It can be frustrating, infuriating and for some, potentially catastrophic.
That said, the ancient Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang excellently describes that for all the bad things in life, there are just as many good things too and nothing can describe the double-edged sword that is having the spotlight on you better. While some may crack under the immense pressure of the attention, there are a select few who thrive under spotlight, with their successes and victories elevated to a brand new level.
Think of the English Premier League back in the mid-1990s. While it was an immensely popular and prestigious championship back in the day, the advent of the ‘Premier League’ along with the spotlight of international television beaming bright over it saw the league and its competitors reach new and frankly, unimaginable heights of popularity.
This is especially true in the case of a support championship with rising stars and a noble aim of promoting women in a sport where their involvement has unfortunately been largely tertiary over the years. For the W Series, it was essential to tie up with the DTM in its first season and sign national television deals – racing at circuits such as Hockenheim, Brands Hatch, Assen and Misano along with a championship like the DTM added a great deal of credibility to the series and while only a ‘support series’, it did an excellent job at bringing the eyeballs towards this exciting championship with new stars waiting to break out.
The broader impact
And then, just look at the impact it has had! In the last twelve months, names such as Jamie Chadwick, Bietske Visser, Alice Powell, Marta Garcia and Emma Kimilainen have gone from being whispered about in the domestic scene to becoming niche superstars! After her W Series title win last season, every move that Jamie Chadwick has made, from which championship she will compete in the future to where she finished in each race has been surrounded with a fresh feeling of curiosity and intrigue.
Fans genuinely are interested to know what she does next and are keen on putting her name in the discussion when ‘the next upcoming superstar driver’ is discussed. Wasn’t that exactly why the W Series was created in the first place?
The W Series and Formula One calendar
Indeed, what you have here is a proven way of elevating your championship and more importantly, your drivers to a level where they are focused on and spoken about. Yes, some may crumble under the pressure but for the very best, this will be the biggest chance to show what they are made of – by partnering with Formula One and becoming a support series for 8 Formula One rounds in 2021, the W Series have well and truly lit the touchpaper.
Now, the focus on them will be greater than it ever was, not just from the fans, but also from the big Formula One teams. It is Formula One’s worst kept secret that teams often only focus on younger drivers competing on the same weekend as they do in support championships like Formula 3 or Formula 2. It may not directly help a W Series driver land a seat in Formula One, but the chance to raise some eyebrows in the Formula One paddock, create a positive impression and add your name to the conversation for a race seat is too big for anyone to pass on. For the W Series drivers, this is it – the big one.
Moreover, the exposure to all the fans in attendance to watch the Formula One races could potentially be huge too. Last season, the passionate DTM fans at the circuits took to the series very positively and were very well invested in it; the female drivers who were long in obscurity now had fans at the track speaking about their performances to other fans who couldn’t watch them and those fans eventually tuned in to watch what the excitement was all about. This is just the kind of a positive loop that can elevate a championship and its drivers.
The stakes will be higher than ever
Yes, mistakes will now be highlighted to an even greater extent but if there is anything that the W Series showed us last season, it was that the championship was not an exhibition of struggling female drivers who were barely quick enough. Instead, what we got was an excellent mix of young and experienced drivers putting on a cracker of a show each time and while the gulf in performance initially was very wide, towards the end, you could see drivers evolving and improving.
In spite of having a concept that has sadly divided a fair few people in the motorsport community, the W Series has clearly had a positive impact in terms of shaping up their drivers to be recognised and respectable names, if not superstars. The new Formula One deal will surely act as a catalyst to greater attention and recognition for the next generation of female racing drivers and that just makes it the W Series’ biggest W till date!
Media Credits: W Series (Twitter), Formula1.com