75 days, 13 hours, 25 minutes. When the light at the end of Circuit Paul Ricard’s pit-lane turns green this Friday to commence W Series’ practice session for the fifth race of the 2022 season in south-eastern France, that is how long it will have been since Jamie Chadwick overtook Emma Kimiläinen for the lead of the season-opener in Miami, USA.
Jamie Chadwick followed up that dramatic initial victory with three dominant lights-to-flag wins in Miami, Barcelona, and Silverstone – topping all seven W Series sessions, including practice and qualifying, along the way – to give her a maximum 100 points so far this term and a commanding 47-point lead over nearest challenger Abbi Pulling in the championship standings with six races remaining.
Jamie will go for her seventh straight W Series race win – a run of success dating back to 23 October 2021 in Austin, Texas, USA – this weekend in Le Castellet, which lies approximately 50km (31 miles) east of France’s second-most populous city, Marseille. The race in support of the Formula 1® Lenovo Grand Prix De France 2022, is the first of back-to-back W Series events – the sixth race of the season takes place at the Hungaroring, Hungary, next weekend (29-30 July) – which conclude the international single-seater motor racing championship for women drivers’ European races for 2022 ahead of F1’s traditional summer break in August.
This will be W Series’ 15th race in Europe but first in France and, while there are no French drivers among the 18 – who represent 10 different nations – on this year’s grid, several of the class of 2022 are familiar with the 5.842km (3.63 miles) Circuit Paul Ricard, which hosted its first F1 Grand Prix in 1971.
Jamie competed there in the Formula Regional European Championship in 2020, finishing all three races inside the top 10. Belen Garcia has contested five races at Paul Ricard – three in the 2019 F4 Spanish Championship, which team-mate Nerea Martí also took part in, and two in last year’s Formula Regional European Championship. Beitske Visser raced there in the Formula V8 3.5 Series in 2014 and 2016, and in the European Le Mans Series in 2020. Abbi, Fabienne Wohlwend, and Emely De Heus have tested at Paul Ricard.
It will be a home race of sorts for British pair Abbi and Alice Powell, who are both members of the BWT Alpine F1 Team which is owned by French automotive company Groupe Renault. This year, Abbi joined Alpine’s Academy and Affiliate programme, for which Alice is a Talent Identification and Development Mentor. Alice has a long-standing affiliation with the team and, like Abbi, lives a few miles away from Alpine’s factory in Enstone, Oxfordshire. Last year’s W Series runner-up made history in 2009 when she became the youngest-ever female driver to compete in the Formula Renault UK Championship. A year later, Alice was the first woman to win a Formula Renault Championship race.
W Series’ schedule for this weekend starts on Friday 22 July with a 30-minute practice session at 10.40 (local time, CEST), followed by qualifying from 19.25 to 19.55 on the same day. The race starts at 14.50 on Saturday 23 July and will be 30 minutes plus one lap.
British fans can watch the fifth race of the 2022 W Series season live from Circuit Paul Ricard on Sky Sports F1 from 13.30 BST on Saturday 23 July, with qualifying live on Sky Sports F1 at 18.15 BST on Friday 22 July. Highlights of the race will be on Channel 4 at 09.00 BST on Sunday 24 July.
W Series’ practice session will be streamed live globally across our YouTube channel from 09:40 BST on Friday 22 July. The action can also be seen across W Series’ digital and social channels, as well as being broadcast in more than 175 territories with a full list available here.
Dave Ryan (Racing Director, W Series) said:
“Jamie [Chadwick] is full of confidence at the moment and proving why she has won two W Series titles. Her approach to our race weekends so far this season has been very professional and impressive, and it’s helping her be consistent when she gets on track. The chasing pack has a tough task on its hands to stop her, but anything can happen, starting this weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard.
“Like the last circuit we raced at, Silverstone, Paul Ricard is fairly flat. It features big run-off areas and its 15 corners are a pretty even mix of high, medium, and low-speed, hence why it’s a popular testing venue. W Series hasn’t been to Le Castellet before, but some of the drivers have, so, given that and the fact we’re at the halfway point of the season now, I expect them to hit the ground running this weekend.”
Alice Powell (Click2Drive Bristol Street Motors Racing W Series Team, 29, UK) said:
“It’s going to be Alpine’s biggest Grand Prix of the year so, in terms of my link to the team, it’s a weekend I’m looking forward to. However, I’ve never driven at Paul Ricard before so it’s totally new to me and I’m learning it on the simulator. Miami was the last track where that was the case, but that was a brand-new circuit so all of us were in the same boat. Lots of the drivers around me in the championship standings have been to Paul Ricard before, so I’m on the back foot and expecting it to be one of the toughest races of the season.
“It looks like one of the hardest tracks on the calendar because there are lots of corners, a wide range of corners – fast, medium, and slow speed – and lots of things to learn. The weather will be hot, and, after France, we go straight to another hot race in Budapest, so the next couple of weeks will test our bodies, and fitness will be important.
“It’s been a pretty awful season so far and the championship standings sum it up really. It reminds me a little bit of 2019 where things don’t seem to be going my way. The DNF in Miami was my fault, but in Barcelona I had issues with the brakes all weekend. Then, at Silverstone, qualifying wasn’t too bad and I had a big fight with the track limits before eventually getting my lap back as it shouldn’t have been deleted. But in the race I suffered with low voltage to the gearbox and it wouldn’t select gear on the grid.
“I can’t say I’m looking forward to the next two races because things have been going poorly, and just when I think I’m moving forward something else comes along and kicks me back down, so it’s tough. Winning the championship is going to be difficult now. I need Jamie [Chadwick] to have some bad luck like I’ve had for me to catch her. I’ll just try to collect as many points as possible.”
Belen Garcia (Quantfury Racing W Series Team, 22, ESP) said:
“Paul Ricard is like my second home. I’ve raced and tested there more than at my local track in Spain, so it’s very familiar to me. In 2019, I raced in Spanish F4 alongside Nerea [Martí], and last year I did Formula Regional there, and those races went well. In Spanish F4, it was only the second round of the championship, and it was the place where I started to improve, to understand the car and the category. In Formula Regional, it was the second round again and I started to understand the tyres and had good race pace. So, I have good memories of Paul Ricard and I’m confident I’ll be fast there.
“Right now, I’m looking for results in the top six. In Miami, I had a fourth place and I’ve finished in the top eight in every race so far, so maybe I could be on the podium, but I want to be realistic and not put too much pressure on myself.
“The season so far hasn’t been bad, better than last year and I feel stronger. I hope to keep improving, keep fighting, and I’m looking forward to some good battles with the other drivers. I think Paul Ricard will be a good track for that and the fans will enjoy our race. Paul Ricard is a circuit where you need to nail some corners in order not to lose time in the next part because it has big straights, so you have to be precise and I’m optimistic.”