Alice Powell secured her first pole position of the 2022 W Series season in a frantic qualifying session for the sixth race of the year at the Hungaroring.
The 2021 W Series runner-up took the third pole of her W Series career – more than a year after her second at Silverstone, UK, last July – when she posted a lap of 1:42.986 with two minutes remaining of a dramatic session, during which the lead changed hands on numerous occasions. Alice is now perfectly placed to win the fifth W Series race of her career and first since she claimed victory at Circuit Zandvoort, Netherlands, in September 2021.
The Briton – who is currently sixth in the championship standings – was two tenths of a second faster than Beitske Visser, who will start on the front row for the second straight race having scored her maiden W Series pole position at Circuit Paul Ricard, France, last weekend.
Nerea Martí has fond memories of the Hungaroring where she stood on a W Series podium for the first time 12 months ago, and the Spaniard will start Saturday’s race where she finished last year’s in third. She will be joined on the second row by compatriot Marta Garcia.
Jamie Chadwick is chasing an eighth straight W Series victory this weekend, but the reigning double champion will have to do it from fifth on the grid – her lowest starting position since the first race of the 2021 season in Austria where she qualified eighth.
Jamie leads Abbi Pulling by 70 points at the top of the championship standings, and that pair will line up alongside each other on the third row after Abbi qualified sixth. Belen García, Emma Kimiläinen, Fabienne Wohlwend, and Jessica Hawkins completed the top 10, who were separated by less than a second.
After a third of the 30-minute qualifying session, Beitske led Emma by four one hundredths of a second. They were followed by Jamie before, just a few seconds later, Alice moved into the top three. That pair improved on their next runs when Alice’s effort was two one hundredths faster than Jamie’s.
Emma briefly leapfrogged Alice and Jamie before her lap time was deleted for exceeding track limits. However, the Finn – who enjoys great support in Hungary – improved again on her next run to lead Alice by six one hundredths at the halfway stage when the entire field pitted for fresh tyres.
With rain forecasted during Saturday’s race in support of the Formula 1 Aramco Magyar Nagydíj 2022, a good qualifying result was even more important than usual at the tight Hungaroring where overtaking is notoriously difficult. That prompted a frantic second half of the session, when the drivers pushed the limits in a bid to improve their times.
Less than half a second separated the top 10 with six minutes remaining. Nerea was the first to break out of the pack, beating Emma’s time by two tenths. She was followed over the line by Jamie who knocked a further two tenths off Nerea’s time to hit the front. Beitske went quicker before Nerea went faster still, only for Beitske to set three purple sectors to regain the lead.
With two minutes remaining, the yellow flags were waving in sector three where Bruna Tomaselli and Bianca Bustamante made contact and that incident was being investigated by the stewards after the session. Despite that, Alice took two tenths off Beitske’s best to be the first driver to post a time below 1:43.000, and that proved good enough to secure pole.
Earlier in the day, Beitske took her strong form from France – where she scored her first W Series pole position – into Friday morning’s practice in Hungary, leading the way by two tenths of a second from Sarah. Jamie was a further four tenths adrift in third, despite completing fewer laps (nine) than any driver due to a clutch issue.
Emma spun at Turn 1 in the closing stages but still finished the session in fourth. Nerea was fifth and Jessica sixth, although the latter was given a five-minute time penalty midway through the 30-minute session for exceeding track limits, something several drivers were warned about.
The top 12 were separated by less than a second, and there were only three and a half tenths between Jamie in third and Abbie Eaton in 12th.
Alice Powell said:
“It’s really good to get the first pole for the Bristol Street Motors team. They have worked so hard in that awning. We made quite a few changes from free practice to now and I think all the changes helped. I’m really, really happy but tomorrow it’s going to be wet if you go by the forecast, so we’re going to have to see and it’s going to be pretty interesting. We were alright here last year, even though Jamie [Chadwick] had the legs on the rest of us in the race, but I think it was fairly close in qualifying.
“I just need to get a good start tomorrow, but you can’t plan or predict because the weather keeps changing so much. I’ve looked at it three times and it has said different things. I think it’s just a case of turning up tomorrow, looking up, looking down, seeing what it’s like and off we go.”
Beitske Visser said:
“It was a good session. The track was completely different to this morning, which is always the case after the F1 cars have driven, so you have to adapt to that. I’m happy to be on the front row. Let’s see what the weather will do tomorrow, but I’m sure it is going to be a good race. I don’t mind whether it’s dry or wet. The track itself is fine physically, but mentally it is a tough track and is very easy to make a mistake.”
Nerea Martí said:
“I love this track. It was a bit difficult because I had problems at the rear of the car, as I had a lot of oversteer. We changed a lot of things before qualifying, but I still had oversteer. I’m happy with qualifying. I need to get points to be in second position in the championship because Jamie [Chadwick] is too far away. I’ll try tomorrow to take as many points as possible. Let’s focus on tomorrow and maybe it will be raining.”
For full W Series results and session timings from the sixth race of the 2022 W Series season at the Hungaroring, Hungary, click here.
British fans can watch the sixth race of the 2022 W Series season live from the Hungaroring on Sky Sports F1, Sky Showcase, and Sky Sports Mix from 13.15 BST on Saturday 30 July. Highlights of the race will be on Channel 4 at 14.00 BST on Sunday 31 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.