W Series launches all-female Esports League
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London - The all-female W Series is launching an Esports League for women drivers only in the absence of any on-track action due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With its second season on hold and no start date set, organisers hope to maintain the series' profile and encourage more women to compete in the male-dominated virtual world as well as the real one.
"We intend to stage on-track W Series races once the global Covid-19 crisis has subsided, whenever that will be, but in the meantime we're delighted to have created the next best thing," said advisory board chairman David Coulthard in a statement on Thursday.
German Formula Three driver Sophia Floersch, who is representing Mercedes in Formula E's esports 'Race at Home Challenge' this weekend and is not a part of W Series, was sceptical however.
"Come on, that's a joke?," she said on Twitter in response to a story about the W Series plans, calling it "segregation behind a computer".
"Girls, eSports is 100 points gender neutral. So many esports events where girls & boys can participate. For FREE. What a marketing stuff. Bitter truth," added the 19-year-old.
All 18 drivers who qualified for the regular W series season, which was scheduled to start in St Petersburg, Russia, on May 29, are expected to race from their homes on identical simulators.
W Series did not set a date for the start of the League but said they will use the iRacing platform in partnership with Logitech G and tournament hosts Beyond Entertainment.
Virtual racing has become a crowded marketplace since the pandemic swept the world, with most championships streaming their own online races but with few women involved.
British-based Women in Games estimated in 2018 that the number of women working in any role in esports or playing esports was around 5% or 1 in 20.
Market research firm Interpret said last year, however, that 30% of esports viewership and 35% of esport gamers were women and numbers were growing.
Britain's Jamie Chadwick, the W Series champion, is active with Veloce esports and has competed against Formula One drivers like Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc.
The 21-year-old told Reuters in December that attitudes needed to change.
"I think maybe the esports world is a bit slower even than motorsports in coming around to the idea of women being a part of it," she said then.
Formula One has not had a woman race since 1976 and its esports series has yet to have a female finalist in three editions.
W Series said it would use 10 virtual layouts: Monza, Austin's Circuit of the Americas, Brands Hatch, Interlagos, Spa-Francorchamps, Watkins Glen, Suzuka, Bathurst, the Nuerburgring Nordschleife and Silverstone.
Drivers will race simulated 2-litre Tatuus Formula Renault cars with points awarded and up to three races per circuit. No decision has been made on prize money.