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F1 vs W Series – The 7 Key Differences

The W Series is relatively new to the motorsport scene. The series has played a support role for several Formula 1 races now, and, although the cars might look similar, there are some key differences between Formula 1 and the W Series.

The 7 key differences between Formula 1 and the W Series are:

  1. Cars
  2. Drivers
  3. Teams
  4. Popularity
  5. Season duration
  6. Weekend format
  7. History

The W Series has been a controversial topic ever since its inception a few years ago. However, ever since becoming a Formula 1 support series, it has gained a lot of traction and attracted some big names to the series. Below, we take a closer look at the differences between F1 and the W Series.

What Is The W Series?

The W Series is a junior, female-only, single seater racing series that had its inaugural season in 2019. The W Series aims to provide equal opportunities for women in motorsport, and ideally make it possible for a female to once again race in F1.

The inaugural W Series season consisted of six races, all run in Europe, as the DTM support races. This was a great start for the series and a good way to boost its exposure. Unfortunately, in 2020 the series was cancelled due to the Covi-19 pandemic, but it returned for the 2021 season, this time as a support series for Formula 1.

Opportunity For Female Drivers

The ultimate goal of the W series is to provide opportunities for women in motorsport, and potentially create future F1 drivers. Even though Formula 1 is not against having female drivers in the sport, there have only been two female Formula 1 drivers out of 770 that have started a Grand Prix. In other words, just 0.25% of Formula 1’s drivers have been females in the entire history of the sport.

This incredibly low statistic sparked the W Series into life in 2019 as a way to forge a path for young female drivers into the sport. Having a junior series dedicated to female drivers could make it more likely for a female driver to make their way into the pinnacle of motorsport in the future.

The W series also has a massive $1.5 million prize fund. This is the kind of boost that any driver could use to make their way into Formula 1, or any other branch of motorsport, given the competitive – and expensive – nature of the upper echelons of racing.  

The idea was to have a series where the best female driver can stand out above the rest, giving Formula 1 teams the opportunity to spot talent among a whole grid of female drivers. However, the W Series was not created without some controversy.

Not Without Its Controversy

Even though the W Series was brought in with great intentions and with the aim of promoting female racing drivers, it has received a lot of criticism not only from the motorsport community, but also from prominent female figures in motorsport.

The main criticism is that the female drivers are being segregated from male drivers, which isn’t how things would happen if they made it to Formula 1. This prevents the female drivers from directly competing against male drivers that are also trying to get to F1, which takes away from the W series’ effectiveness and almost works against its main goal.

Racing drivers want to compete against the best drivers they possibly can in order to build their skills and improve their abilities regardless of age, gender, or race. It’s clear that the W Series has created opportunities for female racing drivers, but separating the women from the men is perceived by many to do the opposite. However, only time will tell how successful the W Series will be.

The 7 Key Differences Between F1 & W Series

1. Cars

The first difference between Formula 1 and the W Series is of course the cars they use. The W Series uses smaller, much less powerful cars than Formula 1. The W Series cars can be compared to the 2018 Formula 3 cars in terms of their power and lap times.

Currently, W Series cars are around 26 seconds a lap slower than Formula 1 cars around the Red Bull Ring, the shortest lap on the Formula 1 calendar. To compare to other junior series around the same circuit, Formula 2 is about 10 seconds slower than F1, and Formula 3 is around 16 seconds slower.

The W Series uses a Tatuus F3 T318 chassis with a 4 cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 270 horsepower. Formula 1 on the other hand uses a V6 turbo hybrid engine that can produce over 1000 horsepower.

The W Series also has equal cars across the entire grid, making it a spec series. This is to allow each driver to have a fair opportunity to prove their skills in the car. Formula 1 on the other hand doesn’t have equal cars, and it thrives on team competing against one another and developing their cars to get the upper hand over their opponents.

No DRS

Another key difference between Formula 1 and the W Series is that the W Series doesn’t use DRS on their cars. The drag reduction system was introduced into Formula 1 in order to promote overtaking by reducing the drag on the cars through a moveable rear wing.

Initially, there were plans to introduce DRS to the W Series cars. But the inaugural W Series race in 2019 saw plenty of overtaking, so it was decided that DRS would not become a part of the W Series cars, at least for now.

Different Tires

The W Series uses different tires compared to Formula 1 too. You won’t be seeing the brightly colored Pirelli tires on the W Series cars, as their main partner is Hankook.

In addition, Hankook does not offer different tire compounds for the drivers to choose form. They simply supply dry and wet tires. There are also no intermediate tires available. The dry tires are slick racing tires which provide the cars with more grip, while the wet tires have grooves that displace water from underneath the tires.

The lack of choice in tires might take away a strategic element to the races, but it does allow the series be more simplified and allows the W Series drivers to be more focused on their driving skills. The argument against this is that they don’t gain experience using different tire compounds, as Formula 3 and Formula 2 drivers would.

2. Drivers

Another key difference between Formula 1 and the W Series is the drivers. Of course, the W Series only allows female racing drivers to participate, whereas Formula 1 will allow anyone, regardless of their gender, to race in the series, as long as they fulfil the super license requirements and are picked up by a team.

The W Series consists of a grid of 18 female racing drivers, with two reserve drivers available to stand in for any drivers who are unable to race on a particular weekend. This grid of drivers varies significantly in their level of skill and experience.

The W Series is a free-to-enter series, and drivers are selected from a pool of entrants based on their skills. However, drivers must be invited to register for the series, which means that not any female racing driver can enter to race in the series. F1 is often more about how much money you can bring to a team via sponsors, as sad as that may be.

3. Teams

Just like Formula 1 and other junior categories, the W Series has different teams that drivers are able to join. The teams do not alter their cars in terms of development, as a Formula 1 team would. The W Series cars must remain mechanically identical across the entire grid.

W Series teams are usually bought by individuals or companies. This allows the company to have extra exposure in the sport, even though they might not have an influence in how the team is run. This is how the W Series is able to allow their drivers to race for free.

Having different companies “sponsor” a team brings money into the series, and it brings exposure to both the W Series and the sponsor, in much the same way that sponsorships work in F1. It’s a great way to keep up the sustainability of the series, even if the teams technically don’t make a difference to the sport aside from branding.

However, this structure is planned to change for 2022 and onward, to create a proper teams’ championship, much like the constructors’ championship in F1.

4. Popularity

Popularity is another key difference between Formula 1 and the W Series. As mentioned earlier, there has been a lot of debate and controversy surrounding the W Series and how it helps or hinders female racing drivers. However, the popularity of the W Series has been given a boost by becoming an official Formula 1 support race series and being broadcast around the world.

Despite this, the W Series is still not nearly as popular as Formula 1 is (no other motorsport is). With millions of viewers for each race weekend, F1 simply outshines all other forms of motorsport in terms of popularity.

5. Season Duration

Another important difference between Formula 1 and the W Series is the length of the season. The W Series calendar is much shorter than a Formula 1 season, with just 8 rounds at 6 tracks taking place in 2021. That’s a long way off of Formula 1’s 22 races that year! While this may increase in future, the W Series will only hold 8 races in 2022, while F1 holds 23.

6. Weekend Format

The W Series also takes on a different race weekend format compared to Formula 1. This is one of the key elements that may confuse new viewers who are used to the setup of a Formula 1 race weekend.

For each round of W Series racing there is one practice and one qualifying session. Both of these sessions are a maximum of 30 minutes, with qualifying setting the grid as you might expect. The race itself is not determined by the number of laps, but rather by time. Each W Series race is 30 minutes plus one lap.

Since the W Series is the support race to Formula 1, their sessions are often held in between Formula 1 sessions. The W Series events normally take place on Fridays (practice and qualifying) and Saturdays (the race).

No Pit Stops

One major difference between the W Series and Formula 1 is the lack of pit stops in the W Series. The W Series does not have big crews that are able to change tires or refuel the cars, and nor are they required, given the races only last around half an hour.

This means that the W Series drivers will not be able to gain experience in pit stops unless they also race in another series such as Formula 2. However, it also means that the W Series drivers must learn to take care of their tires to ensure that they make it to the end of the race.

This is still beneficial to the development of their skills as a racing driver. Tire management is an important skill for any racing driver to have, and having no pit stops during a race will help the drivers to develop this skill more thoroughly. This is in stark contrast to F1, where pit stops are mandatory as long as there is no rain, as drivers must use at least two different tire compounds.

7. History

Finally, one of the biggest differences between F1 and the W Series is the history of each series. Formula 1 has rightfully earned its place as the pinnacle of motorsport as it has spent decades being developed and perfected to become the sport that it is today.

The W Series on the other hand is still very young, having only completed two seasons in three years. This means that the series has a long way to go in terms of developing and making a name for itself in the world of motorsport.

The W Series has taken some big steps already, however there is still a long way to go if they are to become known as the perfect place for female racing drivers to build their careers. There are some pitfalls and issues that the W Series needs to iron out, and this can only be done through experience and time – both of which F1 has plenty of, with the first world championship being held in 1950!

Final Thoughts

The W Series might be a Formula 1 support race, and it might look like smaller versions of Formula 1 cars going around the track, but there are some big differences between the two series. The main differences are in the cars used, the team structures, and the weekend and season formats, but both are still very entertaining to watch, and highly competitive!