W Series chief Catherine Bond Muir says Ferrari’s aim to recruit its first female driver into its junior programme isn’t “just a marketing plan” and believes the Italian team is helping the cause to bring more women into F1.

During Ferrari’s confirmation of its 2020 Driver Academy line-up, including star names Mick Schumacher, Giuliano Alesi, Enzo Fittipaldi and newest recruit Arthur Leclerc, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto made it clear it was looking to add female drivers to its development programme.

The news was hit by a mixed reaction from fans on social media which led to W Series CEO Bond Muir dismissing the scepticism and putting faith into Ferrari’s plans.

“Obviously I would hope that driver would come from W Series,” Bond Muir told Crash.net. “I know that Ferrari have come under some flack on social media here but what we all have to remember is that if we cast our minds back to a year ago, there weren’t very many women involved in motorsport at a high level.

“If you look back to the amount of times that you were writing about women in motorsport, it was much, much less than it is now. I think that is what we have to applaud.

“The tide is rising for all women in motorsport and I think what Ferrari are trying to do is to help that tide to rise. I don’t think it is just a marketing plan, I think that they really genuinely want to see if they can get a women into F1.

“And if they can attract a young superstar and take them through their academy and be the first team to get a driver into F1 then frankly, hats off to them.”

With the W Series launching an expanded eight-round 2020 race calendar, including two rounds as part of the F1 support programme in the United States and Mexico, defending champion Jamie Chadwick remains part of the Williams junior driver programme this year.

The winner of the 2020 W Series will gain 15 points towards an F1 super licence, which puts it in line with other single-seater championships including Indy Lights, Formula Renault Eurocup, Euroformula Open and Japan’s Super Formula Lights. Any driver must have at least 40 FIA super licence points to reach F1.