If you’re anything like us, then you will be VERY excited that W Series’ return is just around the corner and, after two extensive tests in the USA and Spain, the all-female championship has announced its field of 17 racing drivers for 2022.
Among the line-up are five new faces - although all have impressive racing CVs to their name. This means the field of drivers is made up of hopefuls from 10 different countries. The latest influx of drivers also sees the age of the grid shift, with each of the five new faces being under 20.
Juju Noda, Japan
At 16-years-old, Juju is the youngest-ever W Series driver. The Japanese rising star impressed when she was just 10, testing an F4 car and posting rapid times - it’s even claimed that she broke the existing lap record for that vehicle by over a second. At that age, she was too young to compete in single-seaters.
However, heads were turned and she made a highly anticipated debut in Danish F4 in 2020. Her campaign yielded mixed results, although she stole the show at the first round with pole, a win and an additional podium. Sadly, that winning momentum didn’t carry through to the rest of the season, and after another two podiums in the following round, Juju finished sixth overall.
Wanting to learn more craft in F4, Juju returned to the championship the following season. This was a late call up after originally planning on tackling the US version of the series. However, Juju suddenly pulled out after the first qualifying session and returned to race in Europe.
Unperturbed by her brief stint in America, Juju started the season off with a double win in the first round. Then four non-finishes in the next six races really hampered her chances in the championship. Had the pressure become too much? Digging deep, Juju came back to score six podiums in the remaining 10 races, finishing seventh in the championship.
There is no doubt that Juju is an exciting prospect. Perhaps the initial hype around her as the next Max Verstappen, unsurprisingly, became too much. Either way, she will be one to watch throughout the season.
In a bid to prepare herself for the upcoming season, Juju is currently testing in Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA).
Bianca Bustamante, the Philippines
To say that we’re enormously excited to see Bianca progress is a massive understatement. The 17-year-old has made a stir in the motorsport community since her W Series test with many hailing her as a role model for young Asian girls. This is absolutely spot on, showing that if she can make it, you can too.
She hasn’t yet experienced a season in single-seaters, but her karting credentials show promise. Highlights include a 16th place overall finish in the 2020 IAME Asia Cup Senior category.
Prior to the W Series selection process, Bianca partook in a two-day test with F4 US machinery to allow her to get to grips with single-seaters.
Some career highlights to date:
4-time China Grand Prix Kart Scholarship Winner (2018, 2019)
3-time Macao International Kart GP Champion (2014, 2018, 2019)
2-time Junior Asian Karting Open Championship Overall Champion (2018, 2019)
Chloe Chambers, USA
Also 17-years-old, Chloe is a racer pushing for diversity in motorsport. As a recipient of the PMH Powering Diversity Scholarship, she acquired the sponsorships needed to compete in the F4 US Championship in 2021 with Future Star Racing. After a year of learning and development, Chloe had two top-10 finishes to kickstart her single-seater career.
Prior to confirming her W Series drive, Chloe had been planning on competing in select World Racing League events. However, that may have to be readdressed with her new Jenner Racing commitments.
2022 will only be Chloe’s second year in single-seaters and her first season with Formula Regional machinery. She will have two time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick to help out, as the pair will be team-mates in the outfit captained by Caitlyn Jenner.
Emely De Heus, the Netherlands
Talent emerging from the Netherlands is in abundance at the moment, thanks to Verstappen stealing the F1 headlines over the past couple of years. He certainly inspired Emely in her racing career.
Last year she made her single-seater debut, tackling the F4 Spanish Championship. Her time was testing and she openly told about her disappointment and learnings (interview to come soon). Her best result was a P14 just after the season mid-way point at Valencia. Her team-mate and fellow Dutch driver Dilano Van’t Hoff won the title, something Emely is aiming to do in other championships in the coming years.
Prior to F4, Emely spent two years racing karts at a senior European level in the Rotax Max Challenge. There’s no doubt that she is a fierce and determined competitor and we are looking forward to seeing her grow in 2022 and beyond.
Tereza Babickova, the Czech Republic
Tereza has two sisters and the three of them enjoy karting and pushing each other to go faster and faster. This competitive instinct kicked in at the Barcelona test and Tereza was able to impress W Series Racing Director Dave Ryan with her driving.
Her achievements are firmly impressive, showing raw speed and the ability to come through the pack. She likes to get her elbows out (interview to come!) and just wants to race.
In December of last year, she came tantalizingly close to becoming the first female winner in the Senior Max class of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finales. She was handed eight seconds of penalties and ultimately finished fourth - a notable finish nonetheless.
With enormous amounts of new talent coming through the ranks, W Series’ future certainly looks set for brilliant races, intense competition and, hopefully, seeing the first female driver in over 40 years make it to F1.
Read our W Series interviews here.
Photos are thanks to W Series and Lou Johnson.