A new all-women championship named ‘W Series’ has been launched, to start from the 2019 season in order to create a smoother path for female racers into Formula 1.

The series will be free-to-enter single-seater championship for women racers only with a prize fund of US$1.5 million. The W Series will start in 2019 and will be staged on several of the F1 circuits in Europe.

An expansion to the markets in America, Asia and Australia is already set in place for the future. There will be 18-20 identical Tatuus T-318 Formula 3-level cars which will powered by identical Autotecnica Motori inline four-cylinder 1.8-litre turbocharged engines.

It will have Sadev six-speed sequential gearboxes and will be fitted with the Halo safety device. The drivers selected will have to undertake a ‘rigorous pre-selection programme/examination’ to earn a seat.

The test will involve on-track testing, simulator appraisal, technical engineering tests, fitness trials and more. They will be tested by ex-F1 driver David Coulthard, Red Bull’s chief designer Adrian Newey, former McLaren & Manor team personnel Dave Ryan and former McLaren’s lead PR Matt Bishop.

Coulthard said: “In order to be a successful racing driver, you have to be skilled, determined, competitive, brave and physically fit, but you don’t have to possess the kind of super-powerful strength levels that some sports require. You also don’t have to be a man.

“That’s why we at W Series firmly believe that female and male racing drivers can compete with one another on equal terms given the same opportunity. At the moment, however, women racing drivers tend to reach a ‘glass ceiling’ at around the GP3/Formula 3 level on their learning curve, often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent.

“That’s why an all-new all-female single-seater motor racing series is required – W Series – to establish a competitive and constructive motorsport habitat in which our drivers will be able to equip themselves with the necessary skill-set eventually to move on up to existing high-level mainstream racing series and compete with the best male drivers on equal terms.”

Newey commented: “Having worked in international motorsport for more than 30 years, and having watched at very close quarters some of the greatest racing drivers of all time – including a number of Formula 1 world champions – I have a reasonable understanding of the constituents of a top-class driver’s necessary skill-set.

“With proper training women are physically strong enough to tick that constituent. The reason why so few women have so far raced successfully at the highest levels against men may, however, be a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of capability.

“And that’s why I’m so pleased to be involved in W Series, to contribute to creating a platform on which women drivers can improve by racing one another and from which they may then springboard their careers forward and, yes, ultimately race successfully in F1.”

Ryan said: “W Series will give more women racing drivers crucial experience in relevant cars on relevant circuits, so that they may learn not only how to be quick but also how to win, to help them progress their careers beyond the levels that have traditionally been attainable by them.

“More than that, though, we want W Series to be a catalyst for positive change for all women in motorsport. We want W Series to encourage more girls and young women to study STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects at schools, colleges and universities, so as to build rewarding careers as race mechanics, technicians, engineers, aerodynamicists and so on.”

Catherine Bond Muir added: “Having been a busy sports lawyer and corporate financier for the first 25 years of my career, I had my first baby at 45 and, while taking an extended period of maternity leave, began to develop the concept of W Series while at home.”

“Almost three years later, it’s enormously exciting finally to be able publicly to announce the inauguration of W Series. There are just too few women competing in single-seaters series at the moment. W Series will increase that number very significantly in 2019, thereby powerfully unleashing the potential of many more female racing drivers.

“W Series drivers will become global superstars – inspirational role models for women everywhere – and every organisation, every company, every sponsor and indeed every single person who helps W Series’ winners and champions achieve those ground-breaking successes will be able to celebrate their part in it, publicly, to lasting worldwide acclaim. W Series is an inspiring innovation whose time is now.”

Even before the series has kick-started, the reception has been mixed with several agreeing and many disagreeing as well. The W Series insists that women can still compete with men in motorsport but all-female series is for greater participation in the sport.

It is platform designed for female racers to hone their skills – both on and off track to become better racers whether in F1 and or professionally. From the $1,500,000 prize fund, the winner will get $500,000 with money to be awarded down to 18th position.

Several including Pedro de la Rosa, Kevin Magnussen, Tatiana Calderon, Alice Powell, Natalie Pinkham, John Watson, Gerhard Berger, Stephane Kox, Vicky Piria, Jamie Chadwick, Courtney Crone, Nick Bitel and Richard Burden are in support of it. The British Racing & Sports Car Club (BRSCC) will be the organisers of the series.