W Series champion Chadwick targets F1 drive after 'toughest' year
Williams F1 development driver Jamie Chadwick made history on Sunday as the first driver to be crowned champion of the W Series, the groundbreaking new all-female racing championship.
Rob Watts spent the weekend at the championship's Brands Hatch season finale and was on hand to quiz Chadwick shortly after the Brit returned to the paddock with her trophy.
“At the moment I have a lot of mixed emotions. It hasn’t sunk in at all,” the elated Chadwick says, grinning from ear to ear and still soaked in champagne.
Already no stranger to success, the 21-year-old from Bath can already boast becoming the youngest and first-ever female winner of the British GT Championship and the first woman to win a British F3 race on her impressive CV.
In adding the W Series title to her list of achievements, Chadwick recognises the importance historically of her triumph and says she ranks it as her most important to date.
“[It’s] by far the highest,” she tells the watching media in WHQ - the hospitality unit the W Series takes to each event.
“I think this year’s been one of the toughest years I’ve had. People judge you on your on-track performance but there’s a huge amount more to it. This year’s tested me more than any other year and it’s been intense, but I think the reward now off the back of it is the greatest out of everything [I have achieved].”
Chadwick says she recognised the W Series’ potential early on and despite it having divided opinion upon its launch, she believes the championship’s inaugural season has already caused a stir in motorsport, and for the better.
“I think I kind of always knew after the first meetings with the team and after the first assessment process how big [the W Series] could be, but this has exceeded my expectations for sure,” she says.
“[There are a] number of people who’ve changed their minds about it - Claire Williams admittedly being one of them - so it’s fantastic.
“We’re all trying to achieve the same thing, to get more women involved in motorsport, so hopefully, the criticism can stop now and we can see it for what it’s trying to do.”
Heading into her home race at Brands Hatch, Chadwick held a 13-point lead over Dutchwoman Beitske Visser but knew a podium finish would secure her the title regardless of Visser’s result.
Despite seizing pole position with her rival Visser only fifth on the grid, Chadwick says she still felt enormous pressure ahead of the race, explaining how the heightened exposure she’s faced this year meant there would be no place to hide if she were to make a mistake on track.
She joked: “I would love to lie and say I didn’t but yeah, of course, I felt a lot of pressure. Who wouldn't?
“Coming into my home race with a lot to lose, I was kind of trying to remind everyone that it could easily go wrong. The relief that today’s over is pretty high.
“To put it into perspective, normally you can go under the radar quite a lot in junior motorsport. Particularly, in everything I’ve done, I’ve not had this kind of exposure.
“This is the first year I've kind of been exposed to that and have experienced it. You can’t make a mistake without someone noticing and you’re in an intense environment with the other girls.
“I definitely think [the pressure has] made it more rewarding.”
Chadwick says her future plans could change now she has a single-seater championship on her CV and admits she may not return to defend her title if the opportunity to compete at higher level presents itself.
“[There is] no certainty as to whether I’ll be back [in W Series] but potentially that’s the most logical step in terms of super licence points. I want to do as much as I can, I want to aim bigger, overall my aspirations are much greater than just the W Series,” Chadwick says.
“I want to go on to achieve a lot in the sport and yeah, next year I’ll be preparing myself in the best way to do that. This year has been great, but really I need more racing under my belt to level up with the top guys that are out there and hopefully next year can allow me to do that.”
Chadwick acknowledges that even with a Williams development role and $500k prize money in her pocket, there’s still no clear path for her to secure an F1 race seat as there’s one obstacle that all young drivers share, regardless of gender.
“I think what’s in your back pocket [makes a big difference]. Finance is the biggest hurdle. I don’t want to dwell on it because it’s the same for everyone, and really for now in the position I’m in, I’m getting a better opportunity and a better stab at it than [any other female drivers],” Chadwick explains.
“If you look at all the drivers who make it into F1 now, they all come with significant backing, whether that’s personal or through sponsors or a team, none of them have paved their way by scraping the barrel.
“It’s tough but that’s the way this sport is, but hopefully, this will put me in the best position to make that happen.”
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