Two points and two places were all that stood between Gosia Rdest and automatic qualification for the 2020 W Series season, but she is back for the brand-new W Series Esports League and is third in the League table after the opening round at Monza.
In this exclusive Q&A, the Pole reflects on last season’s disappointment, reveals how the W Series Esports League has helped neighbours become friends, and explains why she can’t wait to take care of ‘unfinished business’ at Brands Hatch.
How has the lockdown been for you?
I’ve been living in Geneva, Switzerland, since January. When I first moved here I was still going back to Poland at weekends to see my family, but I haven’t done that since the end of February as my grandmother is 102 and I don’t want to risk her health. I’m living on my own which was hard at first, but now I have more things to keep me busy. I bought a home trainer bike which has saved my life because all the gyms are closed here. All my sim equipment for the W Series Esports League is here too, so those things are making me happy. I have to thank W Series, not just for the sim, but for helping me to get to know my neighbour. When all the parcels arrived, she helped me carry them up to my flat. She is my age and we have become friends. When I’m not training or practising for the W Series Esports League, I’m working from home or talking to family and friends in Poland, so there are lots of Zoom and FaceTime calls. I’ve also started to cook which makes my mum laugh. She jokes that she is glad I’m 1,000 miles away so she doesn’t have to taste it!
How do you reflect on your 2019 W Series season?
The whole experience was amazing. I can’t be thankful enough as I never thought I would get to race an F3 car. At the first selection in Melk – where 54 drivers were cut to 28 – I got more confident. David Coulthard announced that I was through and I was so emotional, but that was nothing compared to the final selection in Almeria two months later. Most of the girls had more experience in single-seaters than me – I’d only driven an F4 car in 2013 – so I knew I needed to push hard. The circuit was dusty with not much run-off so it was tricky. I thought I’d shown good pace and then, when it was announced that I’d made it, I was in floods of tears because it was so important for me. I called my parents and they were so excited too. One of the pictures I have on the wall at home is of me reacting to getting through. It was mega! The season itself was full of ups and downs. I was quickest in practice at Norisring and qualified fourth but had contact in the race and finished a lap down. I still felt good leaving there and carried the momentum to Assen where I finished sixth. I was unlucky at Brands. Esmee Hawkey stalled at the start, forced me off and I lost positions. I finished 13th so missed the points I needed to get into the top 12 in the championship. In the week after Brands I was down. I’d been in the top 12 all season and the last weekend killed me. Of course, you start thinking about how things could have been different when you are so near but so far from something really important. But everything happens for a reason and all the opportunities I’ve had since, especially in single seaters, would never have happened without W Series. I learnt how to handle a new car and became a better driver. The feedback from fans has given me an amazing boost too. People have started to see me differently, not because I’m a girl but because I’m quick.
How pleased are you to be back as part of the W Series Esports League, and how was the opening round at Monza where you finished the three races fifth, third and sixth?
It feels like there is some unfinished business to take care of, so I’m really pleased and I’m taking it super seriously. Sim-racing has become so close to on-track racing thanks to the amazing equipment and software. The only difference is the physical aspect, as I am used to feeling a racetrack through my bum and hips because you are so low and move laterally. If you transfer your on-track skills you will have good pace on the sim, but to be really quick you need to judge the feeling of the car and the track with your eyes more than your body. My pace was pretty good at Monza. I scored my first W Series podium so, even though it’s on the sim, I was super happy but there is still room for improvement. I need to familiarise myself with the equipment and tracks more, as a few of them are new to me, and I need to polish my braking technique – that’s where I’m slightly missing.
How familiar are you with the rest of the circuits on the W Series Esports League calendar?
I’ve driven at Brands Hatch, Spa, Silverstone and the Nürburgring GP circuit. I know Brands Hatch seems not to be lucky for me, but that’s the round I’m most looking forward to. I really like that circuit as it’s very challenging with amazing elevation changes and few run-off areas. There’s a great flow to Brands and you need to keep the momentum when you find it because it’s full-on all the time.
To find out more about the new W Series Esports League and how you can watch, visit our esports page here.