In a meeting with journalists in December, Binotto said that the team would like to support a female driver, noting that "women should be part of the Ferrari Academy. That's something on which we are working right now to make sure that it may happen very soon".

The comments received some criticism on social media, with some suggesting that a woman driver would not be good enough, or that it would be a PR stunt.

Bond Muir says that Ferrari's interest in women drivers is genuine and can only be a positive, and has no qualms about the successful candidate potentially by-passing the W Series by hooking up with the Italian team.

"Obviously I would hope that that driver would come from W Series," she said. "I know that Ferrari have come into some flak in social media, but what we all have to remember is if we cast our minds back to a year ago, there weren't very many women involved in motor sport at a high level.

"If you all look back to the amount of time 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. What is happening is that the tide is rising for all women in motorsport. 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 they really, genuinely want to see if they can get a woman 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."

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Bond Muir says that the extra races supporting the US and Mexican GPs will be a big boost to attempts to get a female driver into F1.

Ross Brawn made it clear in today's announcement that the organisation wants to promote diversity and help to fast track a woman to the top level of the sport.

"Progressing within motorsport requires people to have access to a lot of money, because you need the support and the sponsorship as well as the talent to progress," said Bond Muir.

"And I think what this will give our drivers is a much bigger and better platform in which to promote themselves. So hopefully as their careers progress they will be able to attract more sponsorship.

"So I do think that this is of crucial importance. And certainly F1, as in Ross Brawn's quote today, he says that their ambition is to get women into F1.

"But I think W Series, as well as a whole variety of other efforts that are undertaking around the world at the moment, we're still sort of nascent in our ambitions of promoting women into F1."

Bond Muir says that the awarding of FIA superlicence points to the top W Series contenders will be a significant step.

"What we did in the first season is give 20 drivers more experience, and a lot of coaching to help improve their motor racing skills. And hopefully in the second year we can do more of that.

"But also what is starting to happen is a whole variety of other brands and series are looking very carefully at our drivers. So I think we are already starting to achieve our ambitions.

"We are closer to getting women into F1, and obviously at the end of our second season our champion will have 15 superlicence points that will help them on their way.

"But then that champion will have to go on into another championship, and hopefully get superlicence points in that next championship."