It is difficult to find a racing driver who doesn’t relish the chance to race around the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and, this weekend, W Series’ 18 drivers will get the chance to see what this iconic track is like and how their Tatuus T-318 cars handle there.
However, first and foremost, everyone at W Series sends their condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the circuit’s CEO, Nathalie Maillet, who died last week.
It is no surprise that, in a pre-season poll, several of the drivers who had never raced there before declared it as the track they were most looking forward to visiting this year. The ones who couldn’t wait to experience Spa for the first time included Ayla Agren (M. Forbes Motorsport, NOR), Sabre Cook (Bunker Racing, USA), Belen Garcia (Scuderia W, ESP), Marta Garcia (PUMA W Series Team, ESP) and Miki Koyama (Sirin Racing, JAP).
However, several of the racers in the international single-seater motor racing championship for female drivers have had the chance to race at this 4.352-mile (7.004-kilometre) circuit previously. The lucky eight are Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing, GBR), Abbie Eaton (Ecurie W, GBR), Sarah Moore (Scuderia W, GBR), Vicky Piria (Sirin Racing, ITA), Alice Powell (Racing X, GBR), Beitske Visser (M. Forbes Motorsport, NED), Fabienne Wohlwend (Bunker Racing, LIE) and Caitlin Wood (PUMA W Series Team, AUS). In addition, Nerea Martí (W Series Academy Team, ESP) has tested there. The inclusion of Caitlin on this list signifies that she will once again be the reserve driver who steps into the second seat for the PUMA W Series Team this weekend, having made her season debut last time out in Hungary.
As the drivers go into the second half of the season, the battle to be crowned W Series champion could not be closer. Just a single point separates Jamie and Alice at the top of the standings, while the fight for third is incredibly close as Nerea, Sarah, Emma Kimiläinen (Ecurie W, FIN), Fabienne and Irina Sidorkova (W Series Academy Team, RUS) are separated by three points.
This is a landmark year for the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps as it celebrates its 100th anniversary. It is a circuit with a fearsome reputation as the longest on the Formula 1 Grand Prix calendar and, perhaps, the most unpredictable due to the region’s changeable weather. In the picturesque Ardennes region of Belgium, sudden storms often make one side of the circuit dry and the other side wet. The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa was on the calendar during the first year of the Formula 1 World Championship and, since then, 53 of the 65 Belgian races have been held there. The other 12 were staged at Nivelles (two) and Zolder (10) where W Series raced in its inaugural season in 2019.
W Series’ schedule for this weekend starts on Friday 27 August with a 30-minute practice session from 12.55 (local time, CEST). The 30-minute qualifying session will be held later that day from 16.30. The race – which lasts for 30 minutes plus one lap – will start at 16.30 on Saturday 28 August.
British fans can watch the fifth round of the 2021 W Series season live from the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Channel 4 from 15.00 BST on Saturday 28 August. 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:
“It’s great that we will start the second half of the season at Spa – one of the best circuits in the world which so many of the drivers are looking forward to racing at. The list of corners – including Pouhon, Stavelot, Blanchimont and Eau Rouge – is legendary, as are the previous Formula 1 winners – including Juan Manuel Fangio, Alberto Ascari, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Bruce McLaren, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and, of course, W Series’ very own David Coulthard. The victorious W Series driver this weekend will rightly feel very proud. At Spa there is a distinct possibility that the drivers will see changeable weather conditions for the first time this season and, should that be the case, it will be very interesting to see how they cope.
“Jamie [Chadwick] and Alice [Powell] have been the standout performers so far this season, but there is still a long way to go and one bad round could give lots of other drivers an opportunity. The chasing pack is getting stronger at every race and that development is great to see. Nerea [Martí], for example, is now third in the standings after getting her first podium in Hungary and I expect to see more challengers at the front as the season progresses.”
Jamie Chadwick, 23, UK, Veloce Racing, said:
“As we enter the second half of the season, I’m feeling really positive. The first four races have gone very quickly and all of us have experienced ups and downs so far. But my confidence is really high after winning the last race in Hungary and that gives me good momentum going into the second half of the year.
“The victory in Budapest felt like an important one. I had lost the championship lead at the previous round at Silverstone and knew that finishing behind Alice [Powell] again would make winning the championship a real challenge and force me to be very attacking in the second half of the year. So, to regain the championship lead and do it in the fashion I did was a real boost.
“I’ve enjoyed some downtime during the four-week summer break. It’s been nice to get away on holiday and do some different training too – I did a triathlon a couple of weeks ago which I’ve been looking forward to for ages – so I’m feeling fresh and hoping that I can hit the ground running at Spa.
“I’ve raced at Spa in British GT and British F3 but haven’t been there for a few years. It’s one of my favourite circuits in the world and I’ll be looking to use that experience to my advantage. The first and last sectors are all about carrying straight-line speed so you can try to run with really low downforce, but in the middle sector you want to have the highest minimum speeds possible in all of the high-speed corners. It’s a lap of contrasts and getting the setup right will be all-important. Spa always promotes good racing and is a real driver’s circuit for that reason, so I’m very much looking forward to it.”
Alice Powell, 28, UK, Racing X, said:
“The first half of the season has flown by and I can’t believe there are only four races left. I didn’t expect to be in this position – just one point behind Jamie [Chadwick] at the top of the championship standings – because I had been out of the car for a long time before winning race one in Austria whereas Jamie had a full year’s racing last year. It’s going to be extremely close in the second half of the year, but my plan is the same – to take one race at a time and be as consistent as I can. I’m sure that’s the same for Jamie too, so it’s going to go down to the wire and hopefully I’ll come out on top.
“It’s been nice to have a four-week break after the previous round in Hungary, but I’ve been as busy as ever, only having four days at home in that time before travelling to Spa because I’ve been away coaching the young drivers I work with. So not much has changed for me and I’ve just been training as hard as I can.
“I’ve not been to Spa since 2012 when I drove there in GP3, but it’s one of the best circuits in the world and I’m buzzing to race there again. It’s such a unique circuit – it’s very long so there is lots of potential for gaining time, but you need to be bold because there are some really fast corners in second half of the lap. It makes for great racing because, as we saw in Hungary, it can be hard to follow in single-seaters, but with the long straights at Spa you’re able to tow up to the back of people. That means that, even if you don’t have a great qualifying session, there’s potential to move forward and that element makes it one of the drivers’ favourite circuits.”
Need to know more about Spa? Check out out latest track guide courtesy of Abbie Eaton.