Alice Powell made it back-to-back W Series victories at an action-packed first race of the 2021 season in Austria.
Nearly 700 days after winning the final race of W Series’ inaugural season at Brands Hatch in August 2019, the 28-year-old (Racing X) led all the way from pole position to the chequered flag – and recorded the fastest lap – to complete a clean sweep at the Red Bull Ring where she also topped Friday’s practice and qualifying sessions.
The Briton was followed home by compatriot Sarah Moore (Scuderia W), while Liechtenstein’s Fabienne Wohlwend (Bunker Racing) took advantage of a flurry of late incidents to complete the podium despite starting ninth.
Rookie Belen Garcia (Scuderia W) was fourth and Jess Hawkins (Racing X) fifth, while Miki Koyama (Sirin Racing) progressed from 13th on the grid to take sixth. Defending champion Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing) recovered from an early incident to finish seventh and Nerea Marti (Academy) made up more places than any other driver, going from 16th to eighth. Irina Sidorkova (Academy) and Gosia Rdest (PUMA) completed the top 10.
Alice made a clean start from pole position to keep Sarah behind, while Belen retained third despite coming under pressure from Beitske Visser (M. Forbes Motorsport).
After a turbo issue consigned Jamie to eighth place in qualifying, the 23-year-old made good early progress to sit fifth at the end of lap one. However, those initial gains were undone at the start of lap two after contact with Jess, relegating Jess to eighth and Jamie to 16th. The contact didn’t hamper the pace of either of the British drivers though, as Jamie set the fastest lap of the race with 25 minutes remaining and Jess passed Marta Garcia (PUMA) at turn six to take seventh place three minutes later.
Sarah was under increasing pressure from Belen for second place, and Alice capitalised on the clear air at the front to post the fastest lap with a third of the race remaining and extend her advantage to more than two seconds. Belen ran wide at turn six as the race ticked past halfway and returned to the track in ninth, giving Sarah some breathing space and promoting Beitske to third.
An issue for Marta forced the Spaniard to pull off the track on the back straight and brought out the safety car with eight minutes left, bunching the field for a sprint finish when the action resumed with less than four minutes to go.
Beitske spun after contact with Emma Kimiläinen (Ecurie W) on the first lap after the resumption, sending Beitske to the rear of the field and promoting Fabienne to third. Abbie Eaton (Ecurie W) spun on the next lap to drop behind Beitske, while Emma fell back through the field as a result of the damage to her front wing. Jamie was the biggest benefactor from that frantic end to the race, recovering from her early incident to finish seventh.
The Red Bull Ring will once again play host for the second of this season’s eight W Series races on Saturday 3 July in support of Formula 1’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Alice Powell, 28, UK, Racing X, said:
“I saw Marta’s car on the side of the track and I was dreading the safety car coming out, but I managed to keep control. I knew I had the pace, so it was just about staying consistent and bringing it home. I struggled for the first couple of laps to push but I knew the pace would be there, and I was just focused on going forward. It’s the perfect start and an amazing feeling, better than I had in 2019, so a massive thanks to W Series and F1 for such a great weekend.”
Sarah Moore, 27, UK, team, Scuderia W:
“I stalled on the formation lap but managed to get away well at the start of the race to keep a little bit of pressure on Alice. The safety car came out and I was under pressure from behind at the restart, but Beitske’s spin gave me some room at the end of the race. Coming off the back of 2019 and the way that ended, this is such a boost.”
Fabienne Wohlwend, 23, Liechtenstein, Bunker Racing, said:
“That’s the best race of my career. It’s such a mega feeling to come from ninth on the grid and finish on the podium. I set myself fifth as a target so I excelled myself to finish third and I can’t wait for the rest of the season now. Beitske’s spin was so close because I had to run wide to avoid her, but I just made it. It was an amazing drive and to do to it on this stage in front of these fans was so exciting.”