Motorsport trailblazer, history maker and role model. At just 22, Jamie Chadwick has established herself as one of the leading icons in women's racing. The W Series champion sat down with GiveMeSport Women to talk about her rise into the spotlight and the growth of the sport.
It's been two years since the top level of women's motor racing was in action. The inaugural series got underway in 2019, painting itself as a huge landmark for the development of female drivers looking to turn racing from a part-time hobby to a full-time career. The last chequered flag of the tournament would become a milestone as Chadwick was crowned the first ever winner of the W Series.
Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 season was cancelled, meaning racing fans have been eagerly awaiting this year's campaign, which kicks off in France on June 26th. Chadwick is looking to build on her first ever title and has been working hard behind the scenes to constantly improve her game.
"It obviously feels like a long time since 2019," she said. "So I think momentum from that has been halted but I was fortunate enough to still have a bit of an opportunity to be out racing last year which I think has really helped."
Although the wait has been frustrating for fans, Chadwick admitted that the late return to W Series action has benefited the drivers as new training regimes have been implemented during the hiatus. For the series champion, it has given her more time to prepare to fight for her crown.
"I’ve just been working as hard as I can. I know the level that's required, not just for the W Series but beyond that and my whole focus is [on] trying to leave no stone unturned."
From karting to champion
For many high profile drivers, their 'zero to hero' racing stories are typically similar. With Formula 1 dating back to 1950, male racers have had decades of watching single seater action, with thousands of icons inspiring them over the years. For Chadwick, however, her story is much different.
Whilst she admitted the British greats of the sport like Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have inspired her, racing became part of her DNA quite late into her childhood. Chadwick got behind the wheel of her first kart when she was 12-years-old, encouraged by her brother who was the first in the family to take interest in motorsport.
"My older brother started just before me so I definitely wouldn’t have gotten into this sport if he hadn’t done it – he was the one that kind of brought it into the family," she explained. "From there I just developed this love for the sport which started off as a hobby. Only recently has it turned into something a lot more serious that I’m lucky enough to do full-time."
The Bath-born racer reminisced on the first time she beat her brother whilst karting when she was just 13. Her victory as a young girl was "sweeter than anything I'd done before" and was perhaps the moment a real fire started in her belly.
Chadwick still revels in her historic W Series win and says it's undoubtedly her professional career highlight to date. Despite the sport growing at a rapid pace, she herself admitted that she didn't expect it to have quite as much impact on her career as it has done.
Off the back of her title winning season, the 22-year-old now competes in Formula E's off-road racing project Extreme E. The series, which is the first gender equal event in motorsport, features nine teams made up of male and one female driver. Chadwick partners Stephane Sarrazin for Veloce Racing and competes against the likes of Button, Carlos Sainz Sr and Molly Taylor.
Chadwick also touched on the slow burn that has been propelling female drivers into the public eye. Women were once involved in Formula 1, but the grid hasn't been shared in more than 40 years. It has become a heavily male dominated competition, but plans are in place to once again welcome the best female drivers to the action.
"I'm a big believer that it needs to be on merit," Chadwick said on women being called up to compete in F1. "I think we can't have a female racing driver there as a token gesture. I really strongly believe that it has to happen because whoever has made it has done a good enough job to get there."
Indeed, a lot of female racers are in the running for F1's plans to become a more gender inclusive sport. After winning the first ever W Series, Chadwick will likely be one of the names thrown into the mix for when these talks come to fruition.
"I'm going to work as hard as I can to make it me [who is called up to F1]. I know what I need to achieve to get there and I still have a few steps to go until I feel like I will be there on merit."
Formula 1 has also partnered up with the W Series, providing support for the 2021 season and beyond. This will help increase viewership and bridge the gap between men's and women's racing.
Chadwick stressed the importance of the partnership and feels it "gives a visible option" for young girls looking to pursue a career in racing.
This W Series season will be huge for both the racers and those watching. As an icon of the sport, all eyes will be on Chadwick when she takes to the grid next month to defend her W Series title and continues to climb the ladder towards Formula 1.News Now - Sport News