Most of you have seen the bad news by now: W Series is done for the season. The good news can be found in the last three words in that sentence. While many feared that the series was folding forever, CEO Catherine Bond Muir today remained “extremely confident” that there would be a fourth edition of the championship in 2023.
By Rachel Steinberg
What that could look like was also up for discussion in a wide-ranging conversation following the announcement that the upcoming race at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) and the double-header season finale in Mexico City had been cancelled, with Jamie Chadwick declared champion for a third straight season.
For those of you still catching up, let’s rewind and take a look at how we got here.
Rumours have circulated about W Series’ financial situation for the past few weeks, but today’s statement shed light on what has really happened.
It read: “The required funding due to the business from a recent contracted investment was not received, forcing the remaining three races of the 2022 calendar into doubt.”
In a media conference Monday afternoon attended by F1 Feeder Series, Bond Muir said the absence of that payment, due mid-September ahead of what was now the final race in Singapore on October 2, was the sole reason organisers decided they would not stage the remaining three meetings.
“We were speaking to a number of people. And we have continued those discussions. We’ve had offers from a number of people, but the problem is getting money in doesn’t happen at the shake of a money tree and people have got to go through due diligence,” Bond Muir said.
“We believed up until this weekend there was a possibility for us to get to Austin, and we’ve just had to call it because obviously there are deadlines and payments and things that need to be done. We could have kept it on for a couple of weeks, but we just had to make a pragmatic call today.
“Going forward, the big message is that I am extremely confident W Series will be here next year.”
I am extremely confident W Series will be here next yearCatherine Bond Muir
While other factors, including the global economic downturn, did affect W Series’ bottom line this season, Bond Muir was ultimately adamant that the non-payment issue was specifically what caused the decision to curtail the season.
She said: “What I would say is what was extraordinary about the budgeting for the US and Singapore was how much more expensive it looks now than when we budgeted this nine months, a year ago, so [global markets] unquestionably [have] a wider impact.
“But we could have made it there had our plans gone according to plan. What’s happening in the wider world has some impact but doesn’t seem to have deterred the interest of the investors and people wanting to put money into W Series.”
Chadwick is owed $500,000 for her third title, a cheque Bond Muir hopes her champion will still receive. Smaller amounts are also owed to drivers further down the table, including second-placed Beitske Visser and third-placed Alice Powell.
Bond Muir said, “Where I sit at the moment, I expect that to be paid out. I can’t say 100 per cent … but where I stand at the moment, I don’t see any reason why that won’t be the case.”
Where I stand at the moment, I don’t see any reason why that won’t be the caseCatherine Bond Muir on Jamie Chadwick’s pending winner’s cheque
Bond Muir confessed she’d had a “bad night’s sleep last night” and had a similarly restless experience in Singapore “not for the right reasons”.
“I wasn’t stuck in a party. I was working all night. I was dealing with the UK at the first half of the night, and then I was dealing with the US and speaking to potential investors from there.
“It was really tough on one hand, but on the other I just couldn’t believe the support that we received from people in the F1 paddock. I had people coming up to me who didn’t know me expressing support, especially a lot of women saying how important they believe W Series is and wishing me luck for the future. Generally, the support that we have received has been pretty, pretty stunning.”
Should Bond Muir succeed in parlaying that support into investment, she will need to determine what is feasible for a potential fourth season. Whether that includes remaining on the F1 calendar as a support series or supporting something more geographically condensed could be one of the items up for discussion, with the CEO admitting that the drivers “are concerned about the structure of the business going forward and whether they’ll be asked to supply money next year.”
She remained hopeful that W Series could maintain its ‘DNA’ as a free-to-enter championship.
“It is our intention to still be providing all of the expenses for the drivers,” Bond Muir said. “Certainly we do still want to be on F1’s support bill, but obviously going forward, we need to be mindful of our costs. Sitting where I am now, it would be prudent to have more European races than we have, and European races are somewhat of a scarcity with Formula 1.
“We haven’t been told yet what races we have been offered. [F1] come back to us and offer us certain races, and then we go from there.”
It would be prudent to have more European races than we haveCatherine Bond Muir
Expansion into America is also still on Bond Muir’s agenda. Part of the devastating news today was losing out on COTA, an opportunity that could have tantalised potential investors stateside.
“It’s got to be [on the agenda],” she said. “For growing the business, it is still the number one destination for us. We’ve got to have a long, hard look at budgets next year, and whether next year is a holding year [for more American races] is yet to be decided.
“And I think obviously those decisions need to be taken in conjunction with any new person coming into the business with money.”
Future funders may well also determine whether or not W Series gets to celebrate poster-woman Chadwick, the most recognisable face of the championship. Today’s press release essentially confirmed what most already knew: she is moving on after three seasons and, hopefully, receiving $1.5 million in prize money.
It read, “[W Series] has shown her to be the class of the field since the debut of the series in 2019, and the perfect springboard to the next step in her motorsport career, to be announced in due course.”
Whether or not Chadwick will get a lavish send-off also comes back to where we started: the bank.
Bond Muir added, “I think having glamorous dinners will depend on the nature of the investor coming in and their appetite to be spending extra cash.
“I certainly would like a gathering of the drivers, and I think it would be great if we could have some sort of celebration at the end of the year.”
Header photo credit: W Series
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