British racing driver Jamie Chadwick on motorsport premieres and Formula 1 hopes
When former Formula 1 (F1) general manager Bernie Ecclestone said in 2016 that a woman driver wouldn’t be taken seriously, he obviously didn’t foresee the feat that is Jamie Chadwick. The 23-year-old Briton is making firsts at such a pace that she is considered the first woman in years with potential in Formula 1.
Born in Bath, Chadwick’s foray into racing began in 2013, when she followed her older brother into karting. “I thought I would like to try this,” she recalls. Motivated by a bit of “sibling rivalry”, Chadwick’s motorsport career grew “from what was really a hobby to something much more”.
His first major auto racing victory came in 2013, winning the Ginetta Junior Championship scholarship. Then, in 2015, Chadwick claimed two spectacular victories and five podiums in the British GT Championship, making her the first-ever female and youngest champion in history.
“At that point, I thought it might be a career,” she says. Her victories earned her an invitation to the exclusive British Racing Drivers’ Club and a place in the Aston Martin academy, with which she was able to race on the tough Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit in Germany – her favorite circuit to date.
Blessed with the support of her non-racing parents, Chadwick continued to rise through the ranks of motorsport, switching to single-seater racing and signing up to compete in the British Formula 3 Championship in 2017. In August, she won the race at Kent’s Brands Hatch. circuit – in another first as the only British woman to win an F3 race.
Since then, she has won the first W Series (another first) and won the prize pool of US $ 500,000. She also joined the Williams Team Driver Academy as a Development Driver. The opportunity could help him realize his F1 ambitions, as the program has produced current F1 drivers such as Nicholas Latifi.
Chadwick spoke to commotion on Zoom just after returning from Senegal, where she competed in the Extreme E racing series. As part of the series’ goals to promote gender equality, all participating teams must have a female and male who have equal responsibilities.
It’s an attempt to remedy the historically male dominated nature of the sport, which is particularly evident at higher levels like F1. Compared to countless male riders, only five women competed in the Grand Prix. The last woman to participate was Giovanna Amati in 1992, almost 30 years ago. Could Chadwick be next?
She’s definitely scheduled to be, which must be a lot of pressure. But Chadwick remains unfazed. She said pragmatically, “I think it’s very flattering but I’m a realist and I know what I have to accomplish. I don’t think I’m close to F1 yet.
She adds, “I’m very conscious of being a role model, but at the end of the day what I do throughout my career is really what I want to do. I do it for myself, because I want to accomplish something.
Chadwick’s next race will be on June 26, with the W Series at the Spielberg circuit in Austria. One of eight Grand Prix circuits where Chadwick and other female drivers can compete, as part of a new partnership between the W Series and F1. Other circuits include Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and Silverstone in the UK.
Below, Chadwick discusses the barriers women face entering the sport and how to start breaking them down.
Why do you think auto racing is so dominated by men?
The bottom line is that motorsport is incredibly expensive in competition – it can start at over a million pounds for F2 or F3, for example. And this is a big factor for a lot of young pilots where they are unable to find the budget or get the support needed to be able to compete in the sport. At the same time, I think the talent pool for female racing drivers is so small right now. So naturally, if you add all the factors together, the fact that so few women have risen to the top of F1 in the past 40 years is not surprising.
Tell me about the W series and how it has helped your racing career.
The W series saw the light of day in 2019. It was designed as an all-female single-seater championship. It’s a free series, so it really helped improve the accessibility of sports for women and professionalized women’s motorsport overnight. On top of that, there is a pretty big prize pool. Indeed, it is an opportunity to find talented female drivers and it gives us this platform to learn a lot, to be successful, so that we can continue and compete in other forms of motorsport. We are getting huge visibility at the highest level of motorsport, so I think this will have a powerful impact on the younger generations to come.
Have you encountered any challenges as a woman in a male dominated sport?
I think the biggest challenge is getting into sports. Once you got into the sport, for me, I didn’t notice any difference. With motorsport being male dominated, of course there are very few women you might interact with on the team. But at the same time, my experience and my kind of feeling about how I’ve progressed – I don’t really feel like I’m one of the few women. On the contrary, I feel very welcome there.
How do you think we can get more girls and women interested in watching or even participating in motorsport?
I maintain the idea of improving the visibility of women in motorsport. By creating positive role models and getting women to compete at the highest level for merit, it shows that motorsport does not have to be dominated by men. It will inspire a whole new generation of younger women to be keen and eager to get involved in sport.
Do you have any advice for young women who want to race?
Nothing is stopping you. Obviously, it is not the easiest sport to play. But at the same time, I feel like now is the best time. There is no better time to be a woman in motorsport; most of the community wants to see women succeed. If you want to get involved, nothing can stop you.
Jamie Chadwick competes in the W Series, the groundbreaking women’s racing series, in June of this year. The W Series will race in partnership with Formula 1 in 2021, from the Red Bull Ring, Austria, on June 26, and Channel 4 will broadcast coverage of all eight races on its platforms. For more information, visit wseries.com