Two drivers going into title decider level on points. Maybe this is the shape of things to come at the end of this season in F1, but that was the reality ahead of the final W Series round of 2021. And it was reigning champion Jamie Chadwick who came out on top – so what better time than now to catch up with the first repeat W Series title winner and see what the future holds for her?
For the first time ever, W Series headed to the Circuit of The Americas, and the anticipation was palpable ahead of its final two races. Supporting the United States Grand Prix, there were thousands of fans in attendance to see how it panned out between Chadwick and her rival Alice Powell, both drivers going Stateside level on 109 points.
“It was so cool, honestly; I’ve never raced in America, but I’ve been to quite a few events in America including the Indy 500 and I think I didn’t expect it to be as big as it was going to be,” recalls Chadwick. “It was unbelievable, and it was amazing that the fans really got behind W Series as well.
“Obviously getting that race on Sunday morning before the F1 race really made a big difference and to have that atmosphere and for us to be able to soak it up as well really meant a lot. Incredible what Austin was able to do to put on such an amazing event.”
And with two wins from the final two races, the defending champion cemented her place on the throne, to add to the maiden series title she picked up two years ago.
“I think, yes, it feels actually a bit sweeter this year than it did in 2019. I think it was a hard-pushed battle, it felt like the stakes were a bit higher. It feels good – I feel like I’ve started to come back down to earth and feet touching the ground now. And yes, just really happy to have got that second title,” Chadwick continues.
The Williams Development Driver had a bit of extra support from the F1 team, too, as F1 driver George Russell and CEO Jost Capito were on hand for the celebrations. But what did Mercedes-bound racer Russell say to the now two-time W Series champion?
“Just ‘well done’,” she replies. “I spend quite a lot of time with George away from the track. It’s nice to see him there and obviously the whole Williams team. It’s nice to have the support of those guys, I think it’s been a big, big part of the success I’ve had this year has been a result of their support. It’s great to have that underneath the podium.”
So that’s two titles in two W Series seasons; six wins; 12 podiums and seven poles for Chadwick. Not only that, but she managed an Extreme E podium with Veloce Racing this year after scoring a Formula Regional European Championship podium last year – plus four podiums and one pole position to finish behind Haas’s Nikita Mazepin in the 2019-20 F3 Asian Championship. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Chadwick might have squeezed everything out of her W Series opportunity. Perhaps it’s time for something new?
“I think finding a new challenge is my motivation at the moment,” she says. “Yes, of course W Series, the first year, what it offered me was huge and obviously the second year was a step up and with the Superlicence points it was a no-brainer to return given the fact that I couldn’t secure anything anywhere else.
“So far, it has been an amazing series for me, it’s offered me huge opportunities, but looking forwards I do need to step on up and find a new challenge.”
So where to now? Chadwick enjoyed a maiden World Endurance Championship test alongside runner-up Powell in Bahrain on the day of the Mexico City Grand Prix while her Williams development duties continue. But the 23-year-old says she’s having conversations with numerous teams to secure a drive in another competitive junior series.
“There’s conversations that have been around and about. I think from my side, there’s been so much focus on last weekend I’ve tried not to jinx it or put anything at risk prior to the weekend. So now the conversations are definitely opening up.
“I think there’s a bit of responsibility from my side to do the best job I can in whatever I do next – representing W Series – but I think it’s great that the opportunities are there now and hopefully we can make something next year that really showcases how useful the series has been for me.”
Then there’s the work she has to do with Williams to help them hit the ground running into F1’s new era – plus the hope that she’ll one day be able to swap Williams’ simulator for the real thing. Chadwick, however, admits that she’s still not ready for the imposing step up to F1.
“We’ll see. I definitely want to at some point step into the car and have the opportunity to test, you know, in Formula 1. I think the main thing is working out the best options. W Series, while it’s an amazing step up – an amazing platform for me to hopefully go on to bigger, better things – relatively speaking it’s still a very big step away from Formula 1.
“I can’t be [oblivious] to the fact that that is the case and I need to prepare better before testing Formula 1 but if I think I can try to get into a feeder series to Formula 1, for example, that’ll be the aim for next year.”
It seems, then, that Chadwick might step away from W Series in 2022 – if her talks with teams from other series go smoothly. But the female-only championship needn’t worry. It’s in safe hands.
Not only is the two-time champion a fine ambassador for the series wherever she may end up; the likes of Powell, Abbi Pulling, Emma Kimilainen and Nerea Marti are worthy flagbearers for the future.