To celebrate the two-year anniversary of W Series launching on 10 October, we will be catching up with the leading drivers from our inaugural on-track season last year in a new series of blogs. First up is reigning W Series champion Jamie Chadwick.
It feels like I have gone from zero to 100 miles per hour over the last few months. I spent the majority of lockdown on my own at home in London and now I have resumed the life of a racing driver with all the travelling that entails. It was the weirdest transition, but I’m just so grateful that my loved ones are healthy and I’m back racing again.
I am currently competing in the Formula Regional European Championship, so during the summer I spent five or six weeks testing in Italy. I’ve been racing for many years but mostly for British teams, so to suddenly be racing for Prema – an Italian team with lots of French personnel – was a big culture shock. Now that travel restrictions have eased slightly, I am hopping between home and the races which are in Italy, France, Austria and Spain. Resuming my racing career after such a long break, leaving home after so long for a new environment, and racing for a new team in a new series has been a huge challenge, maybe bigger than people realise.
Lockdown gave me the chance to train hard. I really got into my cycling and I’ve been able to maintain it by taking my bike away with me. During the summer I passed through Monaco where lots of drivers are based and rode around with some of them. Let’s just say I was glad that I’d done some preparation on the bike as they were really strong! The first circuit we visited for testing after lockdown was Mugello and, as you may have heard some of the F1 drivers say recently, it is one of the most physical circuits in the world. I was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights, but I really felt the benefit of all that lockdown training. When we returned to Mugello for round four of the season last weekend, the physical element was not so much of a factor and it was pleasing to feel that progress.
I sit seventh of 13 drivers at the halfway point of the season and it’s been very tough so far. Prema are one of the best teams in junior motorsport and they’re doing an amazing job in the championship which my team-mate, Arthur Leclerc, a Ferrari junior and brother of F1 driver Charles, is leading. It’s not worked out quite so well for me as little technical issues have kept me on the back foot quite a lot and I’ve struggled with a few things. The car is the same Tatuus F3 model as the one I drove to win the W Series title last year, but the set-up and the tyres are very different. That takes a while to get used to but I’m getting there and learning a huge amount from some of the best people in the industry.
I finished on the podium in the first race of the season at Misano and I took a lot of confidence from that. I’m racing against guys who are rising through the ranks fast, but I know I can be competing at the front with them and what it will mean for my career if I do that consistently. I am not focusing on the championship standings too much – I just want to finish the year strongly by pushing for more podiums. It’s not been easy and I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up a little bit, but I’m confident that, even though we’re halfway through the season already, we can turn things around. Having the ability to bounce back would be a huge positive, showcasing what I can do in the car and how mentally strong I can be.
I am really drawing on my experience with W Series last year to help me recover from these difficult situations. W Series not only developed me as a person, it also taught me how to deal with pressure. Contending for the W Series title last season brought with it more intensity than I’ve ever felt and now I’m in a similarly high-pressure environment. Knowing I’ve come through similar experiences and learnt so much is helping me prepare and respond as an athlete.
If you had told me when W Series launched in October 2018 that two years later I would be the reigning champion, competing in the Formula Regional European Championship for a top team and a development driver for the Williams F1 team, I would have laughed at you. The last two years have been a life-changing whirlwind, I feel lucky to have had so many amazing opportunities and W Series was the biggest stepping stone. The same goes for so many drivers from our maiden on-track season in 2019 – like Beitske Visser competing at Le Mans recently – and it shows W Series is working. The proof is in the pudding and winning the title gave me the chance to perform in the F3 Asian Championship, which then gave me the backing for the Formula Regional European Championship.
People are most aware of me because of W Series and it remains the most topical thing around my career. It’s made a massive difference. I feel immensely proud to be part of it and I strive to represent W Series well in every other series I race in.