It didn’t take long for talk to surface about the W Series becoming a World Championship in its own right and part of the undercard on a Grand Prix weekend.
It might be better if such rampant expectation was restrained in the same way the 18 women dealt so commendably with tricky conditions throughout their debut weekend at Hockenheim. Since this was the first race, let’s see if this ground-breaking series has legs before deciding how fast it can run.
Initial signs were promising. The overall presentation of the identical Formula 3 cars was as immaculate as you would expect when the operation is run by Dave Ryan, the no-nonsense Kiwi with a firm but fair manner shaped by more decades than he cares to remember at the sharp end of Formula 1.
That equable ethic had clearly been instilled in the lucky 18 selected from 61 candidates vying for a place in a championship that costs them nothing except time and application. Ryan will have been quietly impressed when his cars were returned more or less unscathed from a qualifying session run in wet conditions totally unfamiliar to the drivers.
It was the same after a race noted for just one collision even though the competitors had recognised the significance of such a historic event and were not pussy-footing around.
That said, apart from the opening lap (and restart after a safety car), it was hardly an epic race. These things happen (albeit far too frequently in F1). But the narrative was not helped by TV cameras failing to catch most of Mika Koyama’s charge from 17th to an eventual seventh. The overall race coverage on the UK’s Channel 4 was less than riveting as a result of this, coupled with what we can only hope to be temporary teething problems.
Since the accent is on shining a light on the part women can play, this is a good opportunity to emphasise the role of female engineers in W Series and their increasing significance in F1. Given the limited airtime last weekend, it’s understandable that this aspect had to take a back seat to the story of qualifying and how the series came into being. That needs to be put right in future, along with taking the opportunity to interview Desire Wilson (present at Hockenheim), one of the best woman drivers to have made it to Formula 1.
But these are early days, both for the series itself and a commentary team that, as ever, takes time to gel. Once she had overcome the sense of occasion, Claire Cottingham did a decent job identifying drivers in similar-looking cars, a tricky challenge that was clearly beyond David Coulthard, despite his commendable role as a driving force behind the series.
DC brought his experience into play with revealing thoughts on what the drivers might be going through, but his F1-style insistence on technical talk (‘under-rotating’ instead of ‘locked up’ being an irritating favourite) will have been beyond many in the wider audience W Series needs to attract.
One or two websites obsessed with F1 have been quick to loftily dismiss W Series after just one race. There have been claims that the series is segregating women rather than following the desired aim of integrating them into the sport’s upper echelons.
On the evidence of Hockenheim, Jamie Chadwick is a potential candidate even though the British driver is being measured against competition of an unknown standard. Whether this will be good enough to merit, at the very least, a test in F2 remains to be seen. But given that it’s 39 years since Desire Wilson won a round of the Aurora AFX F1 Championship, a series as professionally presented as this is overdue and deserves a chance to show it can get up and running.