The W Series has arrived in the United States and the highly anticipated 2022 season is nearly underway.
In conjunction with the Formula 1 calendar, the Championship will get underway with a double-header Grand Prix weekend in Miami.
As fans wait for the first lights out the year, W Series founder and CEO Catherine Bond Muir has already predicted a scintillating competition.
Last year’s title race went down to the wire after a thrilling campaign had everyone on the edge of their seats right up to the finale weekend. Reigning champion Jamie Chadwick and fellow British driver Alice Powell entered the Austin double-header level on points, something the Championship had never seen before.
Thanks to back-to-back wins at the Circuit of the Americas, Chadwick snubbed Powell of the title and retained her crown.
But despite the two-horse race from last year and Chadwick extending her title reign, Bond Muir believes this year is going to be even more competitive, with several drivers up at the top challenging for the number one spot.
Drivers to watch out for
Bond Muir revealed two young talents who she thinks will be putting the pressure on the more experienced drivers.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the Alice and Jamie show because I think that Abbi [Pulling] and Nerea [Martí] are going to be right up there too. And there may be others but I think those are the two who are going to be genuine challengers for the title,” she admitted, before joking that she hopes her predictions haven’t cursed the two youngsters.
Spanish driver Martí enjoyed a strong run last season, finishing fourth in the overall standings. The 20-year-old won her first podium position in Hungary when she finished third behind Chadwick and Powell respectively.
Pulling placed seventh overall despite only competing in four of the eight races. The Brit was initially a reserve driver but made her W Series debut at Silverstone before going on to start in the final three races.
The 19-year-old earned a P2 finish after the final race of the season, joining champion Chadwick and Emma Kimiläinen on the podium.
Both Pulling and Martí automatically qualified for the 2022 season thanks to their impressive performances. Despite last year being their W Series debuts, they are already considered two of the most exciting drivers on the grid.
Growth of W Series
Since its maiden season in 2019, the W Series has already skyrocketed in popularity.
Bond Muir admitted not many people had eyes on the Championship during the first campaign but after the 2020 season was called off due to Covid, the all-female racing series returned bigger and better than ever.
The W Series is partnered with Formula 1, which means the drivers have the opportunity to race on some of the world’s most famous circuits.
This season, five new tracks have been added to the calendar and the Championship with open and close with a double-header weekend.
The F1 and W Series drivers all arrived in Miami ahead of this weekend’s first ever Grand Prix in the city and Bond Muir reflected on what has been an electric build up to the new season.
“It feels like the W Series’ coming of age. A couple of nights ago, our drivers shared the stage with all the Formula 1 drivers. It really feels as though we are starting to get some parity and that people are getting excited about W Series.
“There really does seem to be a shift in support and attention and it’s been absolutely stunning.”
Bond Muir said the plan was always to start the 2022 season off “with a bang” and it seems Miami has been the perfect choice to get the tournament underway.
The drivers had an incredible reception upon their arrival and spent a day with NFL team the Miami Dolphins for some pre-season fun before they take to the Miami International Autodrome this evening.
“This feels like the biggest party going on this weekend in the States. We knew that this was going to be a massive event with a lot of noise in America,” Bond Muir said.
“I make no bones about it that I have the same ambitions for America that F1 has, and in the future, we want America to be our largest audience because I think it’s going to be a much easier audience.
“They’re very engaged in sport, they’re incredibly engaged in Formula 1 because of Drive to Survive, but also, they love women’s sport.”
Bond Muir referenced the recent women’s football fixture between NWSL sides Angel City and North Carolina Courage, which brought in a 22,000 strong sell-out crowd to Los Angeles.
“They are absolutely embracing it [women’s sport] and when I’ve been speaking to some people about it, they’re saying they believe it was the most exciting and best soccer match that has ever happened in the States, and it was all women. So we believe this is a key market for us.”
Lights out for the first race of the W Series Miami Grand Prix double-header will be this evening, Saturday May 7th, at 14.30 local time, 19.30 GMT. The second race will take place on Sunday May 8th 10.35 local time, 15.35 GMT. You can watch all W Series races live on Sky Sports F1.