New track, new teams, same winner – the opening round of the 2022 W Series Championship certainly did not disappoint. The scene has been set for the remainder of the season, and the one’s to watch have been identified. Here are F1 Feeder Series’ top 4 takeaways from the opening rounds.
By Aisha Sembhi
The first Miami Grand Prix weekend has been party-central, with the women of W Series taking centre stage as the first drivers to ever race on the track. The 18 drivers have proven that women in motorsport are more than capable of putting on an impressive show. Within a twenty-four hour period, viewers were treated to two races in which the points positions were unpredictable and hotly contested.
Chadwick’s title defence starts strong
The 2022 season got off to a near-perfect start for defending champion Jamie Chadwick, who bested the 18-person grid on two separate occassions. The 23-year-old Briton, competing with Jenner Racing, lined up on the front row for both rounds – after a stall from Round 1’s pole-sitter, Nerea Marti, Chadwick stormed to first place. A collision between Fabienne Wohlwend and Abbie Eaton just after the halfway mark allowed Puma’s Emma Kimilainen to push Chadwick into second place momentarily. However, Chadwick was determined at the restart, storming back to P1 in a last-lap shootout.
Chadwick’s journey to victory came a lot easier in Round 2. She maintained the lead from her pole position throughout the entirety of the race, though occasionally coming under pressure from Nerea Marti, who managed to slim the gap to less than a second at times. Regardless, Chadwick did not concede, eventually wining the second race and establishing a 27-point lead over second-place Marti in the Drivers’ Championship.
Veterans get racy – Alice Powell and Emma Kimilainen experience Round 1 struggles
Three senior drivers stood out across the weekend, falling victim to crashes and spinouts before reminding viewers why they were in contention for previous titles. 2021 runner-up Alice Powell was one of these drivers – she had a difficult first round, initially qualifying in third , but crashing out after one minute of racing and subsequently losing out on valuable points. Despite this painful start to the weekend, the Bristol Street Motors driver gained a position in Round 2, finishing second after a strong drive and a Marti time penalty, thus securing her first podium of the season. Powell currently sits in seventh overall in the Driver’s Championship, 32 points behind Chadwick.
Similarly, Puma’s Emma Kimilainen, who finished third overall in 2021, had a less-than-stellar Round 1. The Finnish driver did well to challenge Chadwick for the win, but spun out on the final lap of the race, eventually finishing fifteenth . Kimilainen was, again, chasing a podium finish, but was bested by Alice Powell and Belen Garcia in the final moments of the race. After Rounds 1 and 2, Kimilainen sits in ninth overall in the Drivers’ Championship, despite two top-3 finishes being within reach. Her strong performances have so far been plagued by bad luck – there’s no doubt she will come back stronger in future rounds.
Academy disparity – Noda trails, whilst Bustamante secures points
Juju Noda had a difficult start to the season, trailing 5.7 seconds off the pace in qualifying. She was originally the last-place finisher in Round 1, eight seconds behind the car in front. However, three retirements and a string of penalties imposed on the grid post-race allowed resulted in Noda being classified as twelfth overall. Round 2 followed a similar pattern, with the young Japanese driver trailing in last place before being promoted due to the technical issues of others – Jessica Hawkins eventually retired, Bruna Tomaselli was originally thought to have retired before re-entering the race after a long pitstop, and Tereza Babickova was called into the pits after damaging her front wing. On the last lap, Noda trailed 36 seconds behind the car in front of her.
Bianca Bustamante has, overall, performed to a higher standard in comparison to her teammate. She had difficulty managing the car during the practice session, spinning out and then trying to recover the car with a 180 degree turn. This, however, was unsuccessful, leaving Bustamante momentarily beached and causing the first red flag of the season. Regardless, she was able to secure her first W Series points with a ninth place finish in Round 1, after penalties imposed on other drivers promoted her to the points from her original P11 finish. The young Filipina driver has set a strong foundation for herself – with eight rounds of the season remaining, Bustamante has several opportunities to familiarise herself with an F3-level car, and establish herself as a front-running competitor.
Ones to watch – Nerea Marti and Abbi Pulling
All eyes were on two W Series returnees this weekend – Abbi Pulling (Racing X) and Nerea Marti (Quantfury), 19 and 20-years-old respectively.
Marti immediately established herself as the one to beat after qualifying on pole position for the inaugural race. However, a stall at the starting line allowed Chadwick to overtake. The young Spaniard had little time to recover, as a subsequent crash into the wall from Powell resulted in a red flag – ultimately, she finished Race 1 in eighth. Marti remained on the front row for Race 2, starting behind the eventual winner, Chadwick. She put in an immense performance, recovering her position from a hungry Emma Kimilainen, and challenging Chadwick the win, only to be demoted to P3 because of a time penalty for impeding. Based on her performance this weekend, Marti is certainly one to watch – she’ll be the home hero at the next round in Barcelona, a track she undoubtedly knows like the back of her hand.
Similarly, Abbi Pulling has a strong weekend, finishing fourth in the inaugural round. The young Briton, who trains alongside Alice Powell, stormed to fifth place after initially setting the ninth fastest time in qualifying, and secured fourth place after original runner up, Marta Garcia, was awarded a ten second time penalty for causing a collision. During the second round, Pulling made an impressive overtake on Sarah Moore for P6 in the dying moments of the race. A collision between Powell and Kimilainen in the final minute of the round allowed Pulling to overtake the latter, and secure her second top five finish of the season. She currently sits in fourth overall in the Drivers’ Championship.
Results W Series Miami Round 1
1. Jamie Chadwick
2. Jessica Hawkins
3. Beitske Visser
4. Abbi Pulling
5. Bruna Tomaselli
6. Nerea Marti
7. Belen Garcia
8. Sarah Moore
9. Bianca Bustamante
10. Emely de Heus
Note: Marta Garcia finished second, but was demoted to P11 due to a 10-second time penalty
Results W Series Miami Round 2
1. Jamie Chadwick
2. Alice Powell
3. Nerea Marti*
4. Belen Garcia
5. Emma Kimilainen
6. Abbi Pulling
7. Beitske Visser
8. Sarah Moore
9. Marta Garcia
10. Chloe Chambers
* Marti finished second, but was demoted to P3 due to a 5-second time penalty
Drivers’ championship after Miami
1. Jamie Chadwick, 50 pts
2. Nerea Marti, 23 pts
3. Beitske Visser, 21 pts
4. Abbi Pulling, 20 pts
5. Jessica Hawkins, 18 pts
= Alice Powell, 18 pts
Header photo credit: W Series
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