After months of hype and build-up, the W Series got under way at Hockenheim on Saturday, with Jamie Chadwick dominating the opening round to take victory. Chadwick and she delivered across the weekend, going fastest in both practice sessions, qualifying on pole by 1.7 seconds in the wet and winning the race.
Having made history by becoming the first female race-winner in British Formula 3 last year, much is expected of Chadwick and she was in fine form, with Alice Powell and Marta Garcia joining her on the inaugural W Series podium.
With plenty of attention and a free-to-air television contract drawing in a potentially huge audience – how did the first race of the competition go?
As would be expected from a race run using matching Formula 3 machinery, there was little to choose from between the 18 drivers on-track.
A massive T-bone crash at the hairpin – Megan Gilkes smashing into the sidepod of Emma Kimilainen – prompted a lap-one safety car, while Chadwick had lost P1 at the same spot to Sarah Moore.
Chadwick regained first place soon after the restart though and would retain it to the chequered flag, despite pressure from former GP3 racer Powell, who in turn had to switch attention to a late charge from Garcia.
Arguably the star of the show was Miki Koyama, who made up 10 places to bank points in seventh place from the back row of the grid.
Kimilainen had looked a contender for big points, but seemed to stall at the start, dropping her down the grid and into the wrong place at the wrong time when Gilkes locked up on a damp patch of track.
There was disappointment for British fans as the early qualifying was not shown by broadcaster Channel 4, which in turn denied UK fans the opportunity to follow the W Series' live coverage on social media – something the competition hopes to have resolved by Race 2 in a fortnight's time.
This is something we’re working with @Channel4 on 👍
An experienced presenting team of Lee McKenzie, David Coulthard and Ted Kravitz were slick throughout the pre-race action, while McKenzie interviewing Chadwick from the cockpit of her car over team radio was a smart adaptation on the grid walk of other series like F1.
In the race, lead commentator Claire Cottingham and Coulthard appeared to get tripped up on identifying drivers – something made trickier by a select batch of liveries, meaning several drivers appear immediately recognisable. Indeed, a three-car train of Beitske Visser, Moore and Fabienne Wohlwend was a touch confusing.
Pre-race, a segment explaining the selection process was spoiled by live audio from the track being leaked over the top, which fed back into live coverage in which McKenzie and Coulthard's microphones were briefly affected by pretty bad feedback.
There was little post-race analysis to speak of as an advertising break was squeezed in by C4 soon after the chequered flag fell, but credit is due for airing the race without interruptions.
Overall, a tightly-packaged broadcast and an exciting race made for a promising start to life on the airwaves and asphalt for the W Series and both the competition and broadcast partners will hope for more of the same in Zolder in two weeks.
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