Lack of funds mean an early end to the season for W Series as Jamie Chadwick retains title
British driver Jamie Chadwick, who has won both previous trophies, held a 50-point lead heading into the next scheduled race at Circuit of the Americas and will again be crowned champion.
However, that race, plus the double-header scheduled for Mexico City from October 28-30 have been cancelled.
Organisers revealed in a statement the decision was made largely because “the required funding due to the business from a recent contracted investment was not received” when it was expected in mid-September.
It resulted in a serious cash-flow issue familiar to what drivers in the all-female grid had experienced in their careers outside W Series.
Yorkshire pair Sarah Moore and Abbie Eaton, both racing for Scuderia W, have finished the curtailed season in 11th and 13th in the drivers' standings.
W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir believes the situation reflects wider fiscal challenges across women’s sport and for female drivers in particular.
She said: “I had a Zoom call with the drivers and it was incredibly similar to the conversation I had with them about cancelling 2020 because of Covid.
“They are drivers in their blood and all they want to do is race and they were incredibly upset. At the same time they were understanding, but really the feeling that came out of it was ‘yeah, this is rubbish, but Catherine, this is what we’ve dealt with for 20 years.
“We’ve had promises of money, we’ve had contractual commitments for money and they haven’t come through, we’ve had lots of people saying they are going to support us and it doesn’t happen’.
“It was more of a feeling of ‘welcome to our world.’ I think they are concerned about the structure of the business going forward, and whether they’ll be asked to supply money next year, and I’ve said as far as we’re concerned at the moment we want to keep the DNA of W Series going, and that it is our intention to still be providing all of the expenses for the drivers.”
While W Series covers most drivers’ expenses, many hold other jobs and some, including British driver Alice Powell, have credited resources available to them through W Series as career-saving.
Bond Muir remains “extremely confident” that there will still be a fourth incarnation of W Series next year, though she is unsure if it will still exist as an F1 support series.
She explained that the challenge this year was the timing of the latest funding blow, which meant even prospective investors could not come up with the cash quickly enough to save the season.
Bond Muir said: “We were speaking to a number of people and we have continued those discussions. We’ve had offers from a number of people but the problem is getting money in doesn’t sort of happen at the shake of a money tree, and people have got to go through due diligence.”
A double-header in Mexico, part of W Series’ second season as an F1 support series, was due to conclude the 2022 calendar. Instead, said Bond Muir, cancelling those races will “enable cost cutting” and allow her team to focus on fundraising for the future.
Other factors have compounded the situation. The global financial downturn has created a chasm between projected and actual costs for the final races. Guest limitations during W Series’ pandemic-affected second season meant they were less able to invite potential investors to the paddock, and those that did visit did not get the full experience organisers could only offer this season.
With the win, Chadwick should be entitled to a $500,000 (£452,426) cheque, with additional money owed to drivers down the table, including second-placed Beitske Visser and Powell, who placed third.
Bond Muir added: “Where I sit at the moment, I expect that to be paid out. I can’t say 100 per cent…but where I stand at the moment, I don’t see any reason why that won’t be the case.”