W Series is a new, women-only race series

Jamie Chadwick

Organizers said they aimed to stage six 30-minute races at top circuits in Europe, most of which were past Formula One venues, with identical 1.8-liter Formula Three cars.

Many young female racers have praised the initiative, with British F3 victor Jamie Chadwick believing the scheme will open up opportunities for young women who aspire to move up the motorsport ladder.

Until now, motor racing has been the only sport in which there were no separate series for women.

No woman has competed in Formula One since 1976, but organizers of the "W Series" hope to provide a platform for them to develop skills before taking on the men further up the motorsport ladder.

The series starts in 2019 and will be free-of-charge to enter, but the series victor takes home a US$500,000 piece of the league's $1.5-million prize fund, and bolsters her hopes of moving up in the racing world to compete in Formula 1.

The judges will include Coulthard, former F1 team manager Dave Ryan who is the series' racing director and F1 technical designer Adrian Newey, who is an advisory board member. "However, an all-female series is essential in order to force greater female participation".

This was reinforced by Coulthard.

A new all-female single-seater championship, W Series, will launch next year with the aim of helping women reach Formula 1.

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"In order to be a successful racing driver, you have to be skilled, determined, competitive, courageous and physically fit", he said. He went on to say most female racers hit the "glass ceiling" around the GP3 / Formula 3 level often as a result of a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent. 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.

British racer Pippa Mann, a victor in the U.S. Indy Lights series and who has competed six times in the Indianapolis 500, declared the latest move "a sad day for motorsport".

However, 13-time grand prix victor Coulthard says strength is not a barrier to women making it to the upper echelons of motorsport, and hopes that the series can provide the funding that is often lacking when females try to rise through the ranks.

"Those with funding to help female racers are choosing to segregate them as opposed to supporting them", she said on Twitter on Wednesday.

European F3 driver Sophia Floersch expressed a similar opinion, adding: "I agree with the arguments - but I totally disagree with the solution", said the German. Sadly the #HandmaidsRacingSeries now lives.

"When I was karting as a boy, I raced a few girls who were talented and quick". If you'd told me then that 42 years later Lella would still be the most recent female driver to start a Grand Prix, and the only one to trouble the scorers, I'd have said you were mad.

The victor of the category will earn $500,000 to help fund her next step up the racing ladder to F1. I want to compete with the best of our sport.

Female drivers have earned some degree of visibility - and a considerable amount of success - in the US, however only two women have ever lined up on a Formula 1 grid.

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