Esports-F1 announces Women's Wildcard to counter 'systemic biases'

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LONDON (Reuters) -Formula One announced a 'Women's Wildcard' on Monday to help female gamers break into its esports world championship after four years of all-male teams.

It said in a statement one woman would be given a wildcard to the Pro Exhibition, an event used by the 10 F1 teams to add to their esports rosters for the Pro Series held later in the year.

There is no guarantee, however, that a woman will be selected by a team.

The winner of the wildcard will be whoever sets the fastest lap in an all-female qualifying competition from May 3-9 on Codemasters' F1 2020 game.

Formula One esports teams have yet to sign a woman racer, although some female gamers have competed by invitation in individual virtual grands prix held during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Four seasons into #F1Esports & we've never had a female qualifier. This isn't due to lack of ability but systemic biases that drive a lack of participation," said Formula One's esports head Julian Tan on Twitter.

"This is for our future female sim racers picking up the gaming wheel because they saw someone like them making it."

In the real world, Formula One has not had a female driver start a grand prix since 1976.

The sport has a 'We Race As One' initiative aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)