It is now almost two years since Jamie Chadwick was left celebrating victory in the inaugural W Series for female racing drivers only, the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the postponement of the 2020 event.
After a long wait, the series is now back and bigger and better than ever with the announcement that every round of the 2021 season would take place on Formula One weekends, beginning at Spielberg on June 26.
As defending champion, Chadwick will once again be the driver everyone is aiming to beat. But knowing what it takes to lift the title, the Englishwoman is confident she can manage a strong defence of her title.
“I’m confident because I’ve already done it once, so I know what it takes to win this series,” Chadwick told Motorsport.Tech during the recent pre-season W Series test at Anglesey. “But also the work ethic has stepped up a lot. I know how difficult it was in the first year and how strong some of the drivers were who have had even less experience coming into it.”
— Jamie Chadwick (@JamieChadwick) June 23, 2021
With a field of 18 drivers from nine teams competing for the prize, the W Series more strength in depth than previously and although Chadwick and Beitske Visser have been singled out as the two drivers to beat, she knows there are many other drivers also capable of winning.
“Obviously Beitske was my closest rival on paper but the who grid on paper the depth is much stronger than before, and I don’t think it’s going to be a two-way fight. It will definitely be greater than that, which is exciting. It’s what you want as a driver, to be challenged. So I think it’s definitely not going to be an easy ride.”
Although the 2021 season will mark only the second season of this unique fledgling series, the fact that the races will be a part of the F1 diary will mean huge exposure for the series. It’s something that Chadwick is looking forward to, especially as the circuits the drivers will race on are some of the most iconic in the world.
“Stepping up to the Formula One platform is huge and I’m really excited about that,” explains Chadwick. “At the moment still COVID restricted in terms of spectators but if that eases as the season goes on, it will be fantastic. What we saw in the first season was that it was very popular, particularly with crowds at placed like Brands Hatch. So if we see more fan engagement as the year goes on it will be great.
“The majority of the circuits we race on are pretty cool. Obviously, I’m looking forward to Silverstone as I haven’t driven there for a few years. But honestly the calendar is spectacular and for me the highlight is going to be the Americas for the last two races.”
The countdown is on to our first race and double-header at the Red Bull Ring. Here's everything you need to know about the circuit. ⬇️
— W Series (@WSeriesRacing) June 22, 2021
One of the major features of the W Series is that because every driver competes in equal machinery, that being the Tatuus T-318, the emphasis is very much on driver skill. It means that, more often than not, the best drivers emerge victorious.
“The main thing with driving the Tatuus T-318 is that it’s the same for everyone and whilst we’re given a few parameters that we’re allowed to change, the majority is very much the same and we’re limited in that sense. I would say it comes down to the driver a little more in this series. You’re not able to be so heavily reliant on the car and we share everything including data and onboards so it’s quite hard to gain a significant advantage.
“I have been driving a lot of different things lately but every time I get back in the W Series car, I always find it fun. It really does require the driver to think about what they’re doing and the car does a lot less for you than a lot of the higher categories. You really have to make the car work for you. The Hankook tyres also last a long time, so you have to make sure you manage every factor to maximise the capability of the tyres. It’s a fun challenge.”
For 2021 the W Series also has a new series title partner in the form of Acronis, global leaders in Cyber Security. And in a sport where data is perhaps more important than in any other, Chadwick is well aware of the importance of having that important data safeguarded.
“I think having a series partner like Acronis is hugely important as Cyber Security is of vital importance in this sport,” adds Chadwick. “We are so heavily reliant on data whether it’s to gain an advantage as a driver or the engineers and mechanics working on car set up it goes far beyond that. The reliance on data and telemetry is getting more and more and making sure that it’s secure is very important.”