Jamie Chadwick has been in the media eye after announcing her 2022 plans to stay in W Series for a third season. The decision came under fire and the British racing driver was, we feel, unfairly criticised for not progressing. But, dig a little deeper, and the reason why the move to FIA F3 didn’t happen becomes painfully obvious: lack of budget.
“I wish I had an answer [to it],” Chadwick tells Females in Motorsport. “From my side, at the moment, the ladder is very much forced into F3, F2, F1, which is great because you prove yourself and if you have success, you can move up.
“But, unlike in IndyCar or in the States where if you win at a level you are automatically guaranteed a seat at the next level, and that’s why you see the likes of Piastri unable to secure seats. “
Chadwick isn’t alone in this predicament. More top talent like Oscar Piastri missed out on a Formula 1 seat after winning FIA F2 last year. Many would expect the move up to be a natural progression - a reward for winning the top feeder series.
“Very few drivers get to achieve those seats in the first place,” she says. “So the kind of revolving door of talent isn’t very great and that’s where we need, now that the sport is getting more popular, we need more opportunities to be driving and getting seat time, ideally at a lower cost. That’s where we can see the sport progressing.”
Chadwick hasn’t ruled out a move to the US to race in the future, with Colombian racing driver Tatiana Calderon having made her IndyCar debut last week.
“100% IndyCar, of course - I’m yet to race out there but it’s something I’d love to explore the options with and definitely over in Europe as well; F3 and F2 are something I’ve got an eye on but it’s more just what opportunities what can arise,” she says. “With Tatiana over there [in the US] being able to get a seat in IndyCar is really cool to see so that’s an inspiring thing from my side.”
W Series is providing a free-to-enter championship for female drivers to compete in and it has grown in popularity massively in its first two seasons alone. This year, double champion Chadwick will compete for Jenner Racing - a new team for 2022 with Caitlyn Jenner at the helm.
“Being part of an American team with Jenner Racing is exciting and there’s definitely some opportunities potentially out there,” Jamie says. “I want a busy year. Obviously, the eight races in W Series are going to keep me busy but I’d like to do some more.”
Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist, will lead the team and its two drivers.
“When I spoke to Caitlyn, I made it clear that my goal isn’t just to become a three-times W Series champion - there are longer-term goals that I have,” Chadwick says. “She was very aligned with that and wanted to help support where she could.
“Her knowledge of the sport is very good but her knowledge of the business environment of the sport is really good. I’m confident that with a good working relationship, the start of Jenner Racing and the place where I am with them is going to evolve into something that can last beyond W Series.”
Chadwick, along with 19 other female drivers, is currently testing for W Series at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.
“It’s been a while, I haven’t been out a lot really since Austin,” she says. “It’s good to get the blood flowing again and I'm looking forward to the first race in Miami. It’s going to be a big one and an exciting one on the calendar; probably one of the highlights for a lot of us so just excited to build towards that and get going in May.”
Chadwick’s 2022 team-mate will be confirmed soon after the final driver selections for this year have been made.
“It came back to me quickly but my body feels a bit rusty,” she says. “I’ve been training hard over the winter but nothing can prepare you for being in the car so I definitely felt it in my neck, more than I’ve done recently. It was just trying to delve back in - when you’re in the car regularly, especially like we were last year, everything’s quite synonymous. I brushed off a few cobwebs over the last few days but feeling much better prepared for Miami.”
The W Series season begins in May, in support of the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix.
All photos are credited to W Series and Lou Johnson.