All good things come to those who wait, but for W Series when it signed off at Brands Hatch in August 2019 no one would have predicted that wait would be 685 days before the all female international single seater series would be back on track racing again.
During that time many things had changed and most significantly the series was invited by Formula 1 to be on its support bill at eight races in 2020 for season two. This promotion to the very top level of motorsport was a dream come true not only for the series, but also the female racers who were suddenly on the biggest stage of their careers alongside the best drivers in the world.
Along with the move to the F1 support bill came a new teams structure for the series. The 18 cars were split into nine teams with new names on the grid with Bunker Racing, M. Forbes Motorsport, PUMA W Series Team, Racing X, Siring Racing, Veloce racing, alongside three in-house teams, Ecurie W, Scuderia W and W Series Academy. Also there were seven newcomers alongside the 13 drivers from year one. Three of the drivers were nominated as reserves and were to take it in turns in one of the PUMA W Series Team cars.
The pandemic had played havoc with racing calendars for the past 18 months, and instead of starting in France and then moving to Austria, the series was in Austria for its first two races. It was at the picturesque Red Bull Ring on the 25th June that the Tatuus T-318 cars were back on track in anger. The drivers had tested at the Anglesey Circuit in Wales, but this was where the competition would commence. The 18 racers were prepared for the season both physically and mentally and once their pit lane was open for practice and qualifying on that hot Friday in Austria it was all action.
With an all new teams structure and new drivers it was going to be fascinating to see who would come out on top. Jamie Chadwick was there to defend her title, but it was fellow Brit Alice Powell who staked her claim to top spot in all the sessions and the race that weekend. Alice had signed off 2019 as a winner and was signing into 2020 in the same way. She was joined on the podium by another Brit, Sarah Moore, in second and Lichenstein’s Fabienne Wohlwend in third.
The second weekend in Austria saw Jamie back on top after what can only be described for her as a frustrating first weekend. She came back all guns blazing and replicated what Alice had done in race one, by topping the time sheets in practice and qualifying and standing on the top step of the podium. She was accompanied on the podium by the youngest driver and series Rookie 18-year-old Russian Irina Sidorkova, with Finland’s Emma Kimilainen third.
For the third round it was a home race for not only the series, but also six drivers at the Silverstone track, and 18-year-old reserve Abbi Pulling was given her first chance to drive in the series. This was a special weekend as fans were allowed back to watch the Grand Prix for the first time since 2019 and the atmosphere was electric with over 300,000 attending over the weekend. The battle of the Brits commenced with Alice taking her second pole of the year, but in the race she had to fight hard as it was Fabienne who took the early lead and stayed there until Alice slipped by her in the closing stages, while Jamie held onto third place.
Irina is in the W Series Academy Team to help promote young talent, and, while she shone in Austria, it was her Spanish team mate, Nerea Marti, who was centre of attention in Hungary for round four. At a track she had never been to before she staked her claim in qualifying and was up there in third place behind Jamie and Alice. In the race she proved a tough competitor on this physical circuit where the track temperature was over 50 degrees Celcius, and held on to the two much more experienced drivers, who came first and second respectively, to finish third.
While there have been just six drivers on the podium, there have also been some outstanding drives throughout the field and very few accidents, although lots of wheel to wheel battles. The rookies have proved that they can hold their own against the more experienced drivers, while the drivers who have none or very little knowledge of the European circuits have adapted very quickly.
The series is now at its halfway stage and it couldn’t be closer as Jamie is leading the championship battle by a single point with Alice second and Nerea third, 35 points behind. While the two Brits may be quite a way ahead in the standings, there is a five way battle for third place with three points separating Nerea, Sarah, Emma, Fabienne and Irina. When the second half of the season kicks off at the iconic Spa-Franchorchamps circuit in Belgium at the end of August there is sure to be some fierce competition.
Recap the first four W Series races of 2021 with our YouTube playlist here.