Two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick announced a surprise return to the series in 2022. During pre-season testing in Barcelona, one question was on everyone’s minds: “Why?”. F1 Feeder Series attended the W Series press conference in early March, and inquired on Chadwick’s hopes for this season, future aspirations, and her opinions on accessibility in elite motorsport.
By Aisha Sembhi
Since W Series’ inaugural season in 2019, it has had one champion – Jamie Chadwick. The 23-year-old Briton is aiming for her third title in the series, preparing well after a tightly contested 2021 season. “Last season was very up and down throughout the year and, obviously, I didn’t have the best start.” Chadwick explains, “But the main thing is making the most of it. You’ve got so few races so you have to get the points wherever you can. It’s not easy to do that.
The current season
Chadwick’s primary objective for the 2022 season is simple: “The goal for this year is the same – to win the championship.” However, she’s seeking opportunities for personal and professional growth alongside a third title: “There’s a lot more I want to achieve in the process. I want to continue learning as much as I can. It’s all about learning – I’ve not really been in the car since Austin, so I definitely feel a bit rusty! But I’m just excited to get back into it, and I’m really trying to prepare as best as possible.”
On the grid this year, Chadwick acknowledges the potential for another hotly contested season: “From what I’ve seen so far in testing, it’s going to be a really competitive year.”There are some new faces that are coming on pretty strong, which is exciting. It’s going to be a really competitive year.”
With some of the younger ones, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a several-car battle for the championship this yearJamie Chadwick
2021 saw Chadwick in an air-tight battle with eventual runner-up Alice Powell for the title – the two-time champion has made clear she expects a similar fight in 2022: “It was neck and neck with Alice until the very last round. I’m anticipating the same this year.” Whilst there is a clear expectation of Powell to perform, Chadwick also acknowledges the fresh talent on the grid, and the potential threat they pose to her title defence: “I think there’ll be more drivers in the mix. With some of the younger ones, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a several-car battle for the championship this year.”
“The more I’m pushed, the better it is for me. It’ll be interesting to see how things go this year. We know what it takes to achieve the result, and now it’s just about executing that.”
Chadwick will be racing with the newly-established Jenner Racing in 2022, under the management of Olympian and television star, Caitlyn Jenner. “She’s a big name and has a big presence in the paddock,” Chadwick says, “Caitlyn’s got a motor racing background and understands the sport well, so she’ll be a good team boss for us. I’ve had a couple of conversations, both before and after signing the contract. I think she’s going to be pretty hands-on with the running of the team.”
I’ve made no secret that America is a place I want to explore more in my racing career, whether it’s IndyCar or something elseJamie Chadwick
To Chadwick, competing with Jenner Racing comes with the additional advantage of exposure to a growing American audience. “It’s exciting to have that American ownership and go to American races this year,” Chadwick says, “I’ve made no secret that America is a place I want to explore more in my racing career, whether it’s IndyCar or something else.”
On the evolution of the team’s structure in W Series, Chadwick is in favour of the establishment of a traditional team structure in future: “I’d love to see a constructors championship. It would reward the teams a bit more, and it’s a nice way to get different people involved.”
W Series: a success?
As a two-time W Series champion and Williams Academy driver, Chadwick is one of the most well-known active female racers in the world. She attributes her notoriety as a pioneer of women in motorsport directly to W Series: “I definitely think the series has been successful so far. We’re seeing more women get involved in the sport, and W Series helps there.”
“I definitely wouldn’t be racing without it”, Chadwick says, “They’ve invested a huge amount into my career, and I wouldn’t be racing without them. I’ve had two years of racing fully funded, and prize money to support that, so they’ve invested a huge amount into me and the other drivers as well. There are a lot of young drivers here who are in the same position. We’ve been given a huge platform to be able to achieve professional careers in the sport as a result.
They’ve invested a huge amount into my career, and I wouldn’t be racing without themJamie Chadwick on W Series
With her third return to the series, some have begun to question W Series’ success in its original mission of promoting gender diversity in elite motorsport. Despite Chadwick’s failure to secure a budget for FIA Formula 3 and beyond, she praises the series as a success, highlighting the alternative opportunities it has presented to herself and other drivers: “If you strip it back and take away me, and my situation, the series has been successful. We’ve got many drivers, female drivers, racing who wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise.”
“There are so many other drivers in the series that have gone on to achieve professional careers, outside of W Series as well. Alice [Powell] had a Formula E reserve drive that she wouldn’t have had without the series.”
“To progress in the sport, you need multiple people to support you, or ideally, someone with slightly deeper pockets. I wasn’t able to achieve that, but I don’t place any blame on W Series for that. For the series to be successful, that’s not something that should rely on just me.
With her third return to W Series, fans are asking why Chadwick has been unable to secure a seat in FIA Formula 3 as expected. When asked, her reasoning is candid: “The reason I’m not racing in Formula 3 is quite simple – I didn’t secure the budget.”
“It’s just one of those things, it hasn’t worked out this time, but I’m not seeing it as a missed opportunity, because I think there’s still an opportunity with W Series and a lot to achieve here.” Chadwick says. “Hopefully, I’ll go again next year and see what happens. Competitive seats in those series cost an extortionate amount of money – if I have kids one day, I hope they don’t want to get into motorsport!”
There are only 30 seats in F3 and 20 in F2 – 50 seats total. Without the budget, it’s very, very tricky to get thoseJamie Chadwick
Budget issues are common for young drivers seeking to ascend the feeder series ladder. “It’s not an issue just for me, it’s an issue for a lot of young drivers coming through that don’t necessarily have the financial support that they need to progress.” Chadwick explains, “I think the difficulty is, whereas in previous years there were lots of different options, different series you could race in to progress. Now, it’s very much that you have to be in Formula 3 and Formula 2. There are only 30 seats in F3 and 20 in F2 – 50 seats total. Without the budget, it’s very, very tricky to get those.”
“Also, with the competitive ones in mind, it’s not so easy. It makes it quite funneled, especially with the number of people getting into the sport now, it’s become a lot more popular.” It would be nice if there were more opportunities at a junior level.”
On her future aspirations, Chadwick has one championship in mind, and hopes to ascend the feeder series ladder to get there: “The ultimate goal is Formula 1. I want to have a professional career in the sport, and racing at the top level. In my opinion, I have to have a bit more experience in single-seaters, and it makes sense to pursue the goal of Formula 3 and Formula 2, whether Formula 1 ends up being a reality or not.”
Chadwick is currently a Williams Driver Academy member, a position she’s held since 2019. Of the six drivers, she is the only woman, and only driver to secure a title whilst a member of the academy. Despite fan speculation, she will not compete in a practice session with the Formula 1 team this year. “I’d love to, I’ve got the superlicense for it. But I think it’s unlikely that I’ll be in a practice session this year.”
Instead, Chadwick’s contributions to the team focus primarily on development: “I did a little bit of simulator work with the car. I think It’s going to be tough to tell on the sim, but I think it’s going to be a great season of racing. I’m hoping that they have a bit more success and build on the progress they’ve made in recent years.”
Header photo credit: W Series
Enjoy our content?
Consider contributing as it’s our only income 🙂