Mouton Justified in Criticism of W Series

By  //  September 28, 2021

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Achieving equality in motorsports has historically been viewed as the impossible dream, but there have recently been moves to address the situation.

A research study by Betway highlighted that some of the initiatives have already delivered results, but others have come under fire for completely missing the point about the issue.

For example, the ‘FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars’ scheme launched in 2020 has already produced a talented teenager who became the first female driver to join Ferrari.

By contrast, the W Series which was first staged the previous year has come under fire for segregating female racers away from their male counterparts.

With the best drivers already in professional teams refusing to join the competition, the standard of the racing has been fairly pedestrian.

That point was recently highlighted during qualifying for a recent race at Spa-Francorchamps when six of the drivers were involved in an embarrassing crash.

Michele Mouton, the President of the FIA Commission for Women in Motorsport, has been an extremely vocal critic of the W Series since its formation.

Mouton competed on a level playing field with male drivers in the World Rally Championship during the 1980s, winning four races and finishing on the podium nine times.

She finished second in the Drivers’ Championship, leaving rally legends such as Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist and Per Eklund trailing in her wake.

Mouton now campaigns for greater access for women to compete in motorsport, but believes that the W Series is counterproductive to those aims.

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“Motorsport is one of the few sports, along with horse riding and sailing, where men and women can compete without distinction,” she told Le Figaro.

“This is a particularity of which we should be proud. There are no barriers to women’s progress in our sport, so there is no reason to limit ourselves by leaving them to themselves.

“We need to be more ambitious. The goal is not to be the best woman but the best driver, which means competing against men.”

Mouton’s comments inevitably drew an angry response, with current W Series driver Alice Powell amongst the people who hit back on social media.

Powell, who finished second in the series in 2019 and is joint leader of the championship this time around, believes the series will help women progress in motorsports.

“I feel [Mouton] may need to check her facts,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Getting out driving will help create opportunities! Some of these drivers, who are in professional drives, wanted to do W Series but couldn’t due to clashes.”

As a current competitor in the W Series it was no surprise to see Powell speak out, but it is tough to find any merit in her comments.

The 28-year-old’s biggest achievement to date is her second-place finish in a gender specific series that does not feature the best female drivers in the world.

While some people have argued that the W Series can provide a pathway to Formula 1, Mouton is unequivocal in her view that this will not be the case.

“F1 teams look at performance first and you only have to follow the times to see the level of this Series,” she added.

“I believe that as long as they will not be confronted with the competition of the boys of their generation, it will be difficult to emerge in Formula 1 where it is no longer a question of being one of the best women, but one of the best drivers in the world, and for that the road is still long.

“I therefore encourage the best of this series to perfect their training in F4 or F3 and to challenge the men in our ‘single-seater pyramid’ which is mixed.”