Moving in the right direction

by Fabienne Wohlwend

To celebrate the two-year anniversary of W Series launching, we have been catching up with the leading drivers from our inaugural on-track season last year in a new series of blogs. The final instalment of 2020 comes courtesy of Fabienne Wohlwend, who finished sixth in the 2019 championship and is looking forward to realising a childhood dream next year.

I am at home in Liechtenstein, working hard in the gym and on the simulator to get myself in the best shape for next year. My family are all well and, thankfully, we have had no Covid scares. The case numbers are very low here, so it feels as though we’re pretty much back to normal, apart from skiing. There are still lots of restrictions around that and it is a big part of life for us – I used to compete in ski races before I decided to focus on motorsport. My family and I normally spend new year skiing at my uncle’s hotel in Austria, but unfortunately that won’t be possible this year.

The uncertainty at the start of 2020 was tough to deal with mentally. I quit my job in October 2019 to allow me to focus completely on motorsport, but then Covid came, W Series’ on-track season got postponed and I felt like the rug had been pulled from under me, but the worries soon went away. The W Series Esports League kept me busy over the summer and I was also able to race on-track for my Octane126 team in the Ferrari Challenge. My existing sponsors stuck with me and I found two new ones as well so, all in all, I feel like I have been one of the luckiest racing drivers this year.   

The Ferrari Challenge started in Imola in July. I was nervous as I hadn’t been in a racing car since the previous October for the final round of the 2019 Ferrari Challenge at Mugello. The nine-month break is the longest I have had since I started racing at the age of seven. But the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is one of my favourite circuits so I was quickly up to speed in round one, qualifying in pole position and finishing on the podium. I competed in nine of the 12 races and recorded podium finishes in all bar one of them. It was frustrating not to get a victory, but we struggled a little with engine power. I tested a new engine a couple of months ago and it was much better, so I am looking forward to the final two races of the season in Misano next March. 

I surprised myself with how consistently quick I was during the Ferrari Challenge season. All of the practice I did for the W Series Esports League over the summer obviously kept me sharp because my feeling for the car was there straight away. I worked hard during the lockdown earlier this year with my personal trainer and that paid off. I feel stronger and fitter than ever thanks to all those long hours and pain in the gym! 

I was worried about that first round in Imola in July because the weather was very hot, but I felt no physical or mental fatigue in the car there. We really focused on improving my upper body and neck strength because I had struggled in those areas during long stints and test days, particularly in the Formula car. Now, instead of heavy weight sessions, we are working on my strength endurance to help me maintain my level for longer. There will be no let-up over Christmas. I will train pretty much every day and keep pushing my fitness levels because next year is going to be super busy and I know that putting the work in now will give me the best chance to perform well further down the line. 

I am so excited for 2021. This year was supposed to be my first big professional season, competing in W Series and the Ferrari Challenge, and it didn’t quite happen so I want to make up for lost time. The eight circuits we will be racing at with W Series are amazing. The race across the border in Austria will feel like a home race for me and I know the Red Bull Ring well having raced there two years ago in the Audi TT Cup. Spa-Francorchamps is one of my favourite circuits and, of course, I cannot wait for the final two rounds in the USA and Mexico – racing in the Americas is a real bucket-list tick. My best friend and I love to travel and she loves Mexican food, so she has already said she is coming with me! I know it will be tough as lots of the girls have more experience in single-seaters than me, but my aim is to win a race and improve on my sixth-place finish in the Championship last year. 

Seeing the race calendar is the greatest motivation to keep training hard, because racing on the same bill as Formula 1 is a childhood dream coming true. Recently, I found an old diary which I had when I was a little girl and in it I wrote that one day I wanted to become Formula 1 champion. Over time, that goal has been reset – I just wanted to become a professional racing driver and make my passion my job. But now that W Series will be performing on motor racing’s greatest stage, and with FIA Super Licence points available, that dream feels closer to becoming reality than it ever has. Maybe not for me, but for a girl in a few years’ time, why not? W Series really is changing the face of motorsport by creating something great that allows us to showcase our talent and makes people sit up and take notice. We’re moving in the right direction. Fast.