After spending a season on the substitutes bench, the W Series may well have lucked out for 2021. The W Series drivers had to resort to using iRacing for the 2020 calendar. Though digital racing certainly requires skill, it still lacks the speed and danger that appeals to many. 2021 seems likely to fix that.
W Series and Formula One will share eight race weekends in 2021, but F1’s schedule is already under threat. Australia is penned in to be the season opener for F1 but is already under threat, two and a half months out. This week the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai is reportedly seeking a postponement, too. Thankfully the second season of W Series looks likely to avoid the worst of any Covid-forced changes.
The W Series late-season start could be its saviour. Round One of the calendar is almost halfway through 2021. France, which cancelled its F1 event in 2020, is to be the curtain-raising race for W.
Although the 2020 F1 Grand Prix was an early casualty of Covid, France held its two tentpole events later in the year. The French Open had a delay from May until September, but the tennis tournament did go ahead. The biggest French racing event, the Tour de France, had its start delayed from June until late August, too. Long story, short, France re-opened for sport in 2020’s summer.
Of course, there is a second wave of the pandemic affecting Europe currently, but vaccinations are being rolled out. The EU and the UK have approved vaccines with the most vulnerable being treated first. By the time June is here, those most at risk of a Covid fatality will be vaccinated.
It would therefore be unlikely that the French race at Paul Ricard would be stopped. At worst, a fan-free weekend is possible, as most the F1 races in 2020 were. Formula One proved its ability to restrict Covid spread last year and W Series would benefit from the established procedures of the sport it is supporting in its 2021 schedule.
The subsequent four W Series events all held an F1 race in 2020, too. Spielberg, Silverstone, and Budapest represented the opening F1 rounds last season. Spa kept its usual late August slot as it does in 2021, too. With a vaccination roll-out, we can presume that all the European rounds are a safe bet for W Series to race.
This bet includes the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort that didn’t go ahead in F1 last year. For 2021, it occupies a September weekend. That gives The Netherlands a further two months of Covid vaccinating time by the time the W Series arrives for its sixth round.
The final two events of the year are the first trips W will take outside of Europe. A North American double-header sees a trip to the USA ahead of the Mexican finale at the end of October. NASCAR and Indy 500 were held in the States in 2020, albeit with the latter having no fans. Owing to the late dates of both the Austin and Mexico City events, W Series looks likely to have its grandstand finale in the Americas ten months from now.
So although waiting for the season to begin so late was an initial disappointment for W Series fans, it may be a silver lining. No Australia or China, which are question-marks for F1, looks to be a benefit. Roll on June 26th.
The 2021 W Series Calendar