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With the W Series season opener just weeks away, here’s a look at the 18 drivers and 4 reserves that are travelling the world with F1 this summer. Some of the most experienced female drivers, alongside rookies, are just starting their careers, who couldn’t be excited for the start of the 2021 season.

2021 drivers:

Ayla Ågren, Norway, 27

New to W Series in 2021, Agren will hope to make a real impact on the series. She has previously raced in F1600 and F2000 in the United States on the Road to Indy programme. Her best result to date is a first-place finish in the 2014 F1600 championship.

Jamie Chadwick, UK, 23

 2019 W Series champion Chadwick scored 110 points in the inaugural season. She will hope to retain the title in 2021 while also competing in Extreme E for Veloce Racing. The Williams F1 team development driver is a real talent and one to watch for the future of females in motorsport.

Sabré Cook, USA, 27

Cook is starting her second year in W Series and will be hoping to improve on her 12th place championship finish from 2019. She is another driver who’s hoping to reach IndyCar in the future, although funding issues may stand in her way. Having competed in various American categories, she should be prepared for the challenge of the W Series this year.

Abbie Eaton, UK, 29

Eaton is taking part in her first W Series season in 2021 using her experience from Mazda MX-5 and British GT. She is currently leading the 2021 GT Cup Championship championship and will hope to reach the same fate in W Series. Her best results are 1st in the 2009 Production Tour Car Championship and 2014 Mazda MX-5 Supercup. When not behind the wheel, she is an ambassador for Racing Pride, an LGBT rights charity working in the motorsport industry to promote inclusivity throughout the sport.

Belén García, Spain, 21

2021 will see Belen’s W Series debut, where she will build on her experience from various F4 championships. Having only started karting in 2015, she continues to build on her experiences and grow as a driver. Having taken the female trophy in the Spanish F4 championship in 2019, with an overall finishing position of 15th, this will be her first F3 championship.

Marta García, Spain, 20

Unlike her namesake, Marta has W Series experience, having competed in the 2019 championship, finishing 4th. Having started well with a podium in the first race, her form dipped to a P8 and P9 finish in the last two races. She will hope to improve on that in 2021 to take the title.

Jessica Hawkins, UK, 26

Aston Martin Cognizant F1 team driver ambassador Hawkins is returning for another chance at the W Series title this year. After finishing the last season in 11th, she will use her touring car experience to try and move up the championship order. Her best result to date was 2nd in the 2017 Mini Challenge UK Championship with 727 points.  

Emma Kimiläinen, Finland, 31

Another driver returning this year is Kimiläinen, who finished 5th in the 2019 season. The Finish driver has so much experience that she will want to take the title this year. With success in Formula Ford and Scandinavian Touring Car Championships since 2005, she will be one to watch this season.

Miki Koyama, Japan, 23

Koyama is also hoping to improve on her 2019 championship position after finishing 7th. Having competed in Japanese F4 and Asian F3 since 2015 with varied but improving success, she will hope to continue building on this success in the 2021 W Series season.

Nerea Martí, Spain, 19

At 19 years old, Martí has only recently started her professional racing career. She has previously competed in Spanish F4, where she finished 16th in the 2019 championship, although she scored a podium on debut. She will hope to bring that experience to W Series that year and continue to grow her racing career.

Sarah Moore, UK, 27

On the other hand, Moore is a very experienced driver who has been competing in a variety of series since 2007. Having finished 8th in the 2019 W Series Championship, she will want to move up the grid and take the title as she did in the 2018 Britcar Endurance Championship. She is also an ambassador for Racing Pride alongside Sarah Moore.

Vicky Piria, Italy, 27

Piria is hoping to build on her 2019 season as well, having finished 9th in the championship. Having competed since 2009 in a variety of series, she can build on this to continue her W Series career and move towards the front of the grid.

Alice Powell, UK, 27

Another W Series veteran is Alice Powell, hoping to improve on her P3 finish in the 2019 championship. As another driver who has experience throughout motorsport, she will hope to take the championship away from fellow Brit Chadwick this year. Her last series win was in the 2014 Asian Formula Renault Series.

Gosia Rdest, Poland, 28

A late change in the driver line-up brings Gosia Rdest back to W Series as she replaces Tasmin Pepper after changes to the South African Coronavirus travel policy. Having finished 14th in 2019 and then taking a year break from single-seaters, she may take some time to come to terms with the car again after being a late call-up for the 2021 season.

Irina Sidorkova, Russia, 17

The young Russian driver will have turned 18 the day after she competes in W Series for the first time on the 26th of June. After success in junior categories in Russia, the 2021 season is her first step into a larger series. Having competed in Asian F3 to finish 22nd, W Series gives her another chance to make that leap towards her important role in the future of women in motorsport.

Bruna Tomaselli, Brazil, 23

The final W Series rookie on the grid this year is Tomaselli, who was also on the Road to Indy programme taking part in F2000 between 2017 and 2019. Having attempted to join the 2019 lineup but ultimately being unsuccessful on evaluation day, this season will give her the chance to take part in the series and make the next step towards her future in motorsport.

Beitske Visser, Netherlands, 26

Visser finished just 10 points behind champion Jamie Chadwick in 2019 and will be hoping to take the title in 2021. In recent years, she has become successful in LMP2 cars, taking part in Le Mans 2020 before competing in the WEC this year. She finished 9th on both occasions. With such rich experience, Visser is a real favourite to fight for the title.  

Fabienne Wohlwend, Liechtenstein, 23

Finishing 6th in 2019, Wohlwend is another driver who will want to move up the order in the 2021 season. Having seen success in Ferrari Challenge Europe in recent years, she’s another driver with a lot of experience who can play a major role in the series this year.

Reserve drivers:

With the pandemic constantly causing a change in restrictions and the location of races, we will likely see more of these drivers than in a usual season. As seen with Rdest already, the line-up will change as drivers battle the restrictions in place.  

Tasmin Pepper, South Africa, 30

Having competed in W Series in 2019, Pepper is well-qualified for the challenge of taking a seat at the last moment. With lots of Formula VW and Volkswagen Polo Cup experience in South Africa, she is well-placed to take any opportunities that come her way throughout the season.

Abbi Pulling, UK, 18

With Alice Powell as her driver coach, Pulling is in a good position to take the place of a driver, if necessary, this season. Having recently taken 6th place in the 2020 British F4 championship, she is a real talent, and she will play a role in the future of women in motorsport alongside her coach.

Naomi Schiff, Rwanda, 27

Alongside her commentary and presenting duties this year, Schiff will have a reserve driver role this year. Having finished 16th in 2019, she did get some points after two 10th place finishes and will be ready to take up the role if required this year.

Caitlin Wood, Australia, 24

Like Pepper and Schiff, Wood took part in the 2019 season and will be well-prepared to take the place of a driver this year. With experience in various cars, she is ready for any scenario that may arise throughout the season.

We’re just six races into the 2021 season, and what a rollercoaster of emotions I’ve been through! Despite having a couple of less than exciting races, there was enough action just in Azerbaijan to make up for that, let alone the rest of them. We’ve seen wet racing, tyres destroyed, and the closest championship battle we’ve seen for many years, and there are still so many races to come. Here are some of my favourite moments from the last 6 races, although it was impossible to choose.

Bahrain:

The season opened where it all but closed last year, in Sakhir, and it did not disappoint. We saw the first of what would be many Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton battles, this one going Hamilton’s way. Max tried desperately hard to overtake Hamilton when pitting onto fresh tyres, and he succeeded. It became clear very quickly, however, that Max got through off the track and, therefore, the place would have to be given back. This was the last opportunity for the young Dutchman, and he ended the race in P2 but would have won had he waited to pass on a less windy part of the track. This gave us the first glimpse of the biggest title fights in years, and we immediately knew the 2021 season would be different.

Italy:

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix came next and got us excited for different reasons entirely. A wet race! Within seconds of the race start, we could see it would be a dramatic one as none of the drivers could be seen through all the spray. If we couldn’t see them at home, it must have been impossible to see from inside the Formula 1 cars. Within a few laps, cars were beginning to spin and slide all over the track and while it, unfortunately, ended the race for Latifi, and we saw a horrific crash between Bottas and Russell, it also spun Hamilton off the track and almost into the wall, almost costing him a race finish. He came back from P9 to finish an impressive P2, much to everyone’s surprise. This race also brought one of my favourite driver/engineer moments in recent times. Mick also spun into the wall during the race, and the calm and collected nature of his engineer Gary saved him from panicking, and the F1 rookie’s race continued after a front wing change. We’re very used to hearing very technical and heated conversations between drivers and engineers during a race, and it was lovely to experience the supportive role these engineers also play.

Portugal:

The race in Portugal was far from the most thrilling but did have one moment, which was nice to see, again involving Mick Schumacher. The young German driver was able to overtake Latifi during the race, and therefore, his Haas car did not finish with only his teammate behind him. While, of course, the battle for the bottom places is rarely important or even noticed during the race, but it was nice to see. Knowing how underpowered the Haas car is compared to even their nearest rivals and the constant press attention the team has been subjected to, none of which is his fault, it was nice to see him take a place on the track. I’m sure that improved his confidence as a rookie F1 driver hugely, given he’d spun in the two races before this.

Spain:

Barcelona was yet another race showcased a Hamilton vs Verstappen showdown, as every race seemed to have at this stage. What made this race special was that the role of strategy became so much more obvious compared to most races. With the front running teams often going for almost identical strategies during a race, it is rare to see a strategic win as we saw in Spain. Hamilton pitted late onto fresh tyres to take Max Verstappen close to the end of the race, and that he did. It surprised everyone both in the paddock and at home as the pit crew appeared in the pitlane at the very last moment. This caught Red Bull completely by surprise, and they immediately knew they’d been outwitted on this occasion, and Mercedes were likely to take the win. Even if this was another race with the two drivers taking all of the glory, this one showed a different side to the sport.

Monaco:

The race in Monaco was surprisingly underwhelming, with very little surprise apart from the pace of Ferrari and the lack thereof at Mercedes. After weeks of Red Bull vs Mercedes rhetoric, it was interesting to see a different team on top. My favourite moment in Monaco was seeing Charles Leclerc on pole, even if it ultimately went disastrously wrong on Sunday. Seeing the Monegasque driver on top at his home GP was really exciting and knowing that Ferrari was on the path to fighting back was lovely to hear.

Azerbaijan:

Asking me to choose a favourite moment from the Grand Prix in Baku is totally impossible! I loved every second of the drama we saw during that race. Of course, I’m most happy that both Stroll and Verstappen were okay after such scary crashes, but the action was intense. We went from thinking the title would stay in Verstappen’s hands to thinking Lewis would take over after Max’s DNF to realising neither of them got points. From this, we got the most random but by far most exciting podium of 2021 so far. Sergio finally getting the Red Bull to work in his favour was thrilling, even if it was due to Max’s misfortune. What made it so crazy was seeing Vettel in P2, however. Aston Martin struggled throughout the season and seemed so off the pace, but the 4-time world champion pulled through. Hopefully, he has found some new confidence that will ensure he continues to fight at the front of the grid, as we know he’s capable of doing. I can’t ignore Pierre Gasly either, as he was strong all weekend and totally deserved that podium. Seeing Gasly succeed after all of the dramas of recent years will never stop making me very happy. He is such a talented driver and deserves to be a front runner in years to come.

Extreme E returned last weekend, after an almost two-month gap, and it didn’t disappoint, with action and drama throughout. The Odyssey cars took to the beaches of Senegal for the Ocean X-Prix, where the sand was once again the terrain standing between the drivers and a successful weekend. As we saw in Saudi Arabia, weekends were made or ruined by a minor mistake, and this can happen to any team when competing in such a new category. Here’s a rundown of what happened in Senegal, as RXR dominated once again.

Qualifying:

Q1:

Team X44 were impressive during the first part of qualifying on the beach, taking the fastest time, although the top 3 were only separated by 10 seconds. Loeb and Gutierrez outpaced the Chip Ganassi car of Price and LeDuc by 4.23 seconds. The Abt Cupra car qualified 3rd but was moved to 4th after a driver change infringement as replacement Kleinschmidt took over from Ekström, leaving Rosberg X Racing to take the third position in the standings. JBXE took 5th with Button’s replacement of Kevin Hansen, using his rally experience to get quickly up to speed in the electric SUV. After a poor Round 1 in Saudi Arabia, Veloce’s Chadwick was finally given her chance in the car, finishing 6th alongside Sarrazin, with Xite Energy taking a trouble-free 7th. The same cannot be said for the Andretti United and Acciona Sainz teams.  Sanz stopped on track after a heavy impact caused an electrical issue, and although she was able to get the car going briefly before it stopped once again, leaving them with a lot of work to do in Q2. The same also occurred to Timmy Hansen in the Andretti United car, although he could restart the car, leaving them over 3 minutes off the pace, but with a time on the board.


Q2:

The second round of qualifying was also dominated by X44, who set the only sub-11-minute time of the session. They were followed by Abt Cupra, who clearly had a point to prove after their penalty during Q1, finishing 10 seconds back. RXR rounded out the top-3 after another safe but quick performance from the Rosberg team. JBXE finished in 4th again, with Andretti United able to recover some of their time to finish 5th, followed by Acciona Sainz in 6th, although this wasn’t good enough for either team to reach the end semi-finals. Veloce ended the second qualifying in 7th, but the early issues for the two teams ahead of them meant that they were through to their first semi-final, something good to see after such a disastrous Desert X-Prix. Xite Energy took the final spot in the semi-finals, despite finishing 8th in the second qualifying session. Chip Ganassi finished the session in a disappointing 9th after their car also had an issue on the track, causing them to stop and restart the car. This shows just how vital it is to ensure the car doesn’t stop on course, with all three teams ruled out of any further success over the weekend because of this.

Classification after Qualifying:

1. X44 (Gutiérrez/Loeb) 21m44.856s

2. Rosberg X Racing (Taylor/Kristoffersson) +27.58s

3. Abt Cupra (Kleinschmidt/Ekström) +35.95s

4. JBXE (Åhlin-Kottulinsky/Hansen) +40.57s

5. Veloce Racing (Sarrazin/Chadwick) +1m20.51s

6. Xite Energy (GZ/Bennett) +1m51.60s

7. Chip Ganassi (LeDuc/Price) +3m56.95s

8. Andretti United (Munnings/Hansen) +4m12.21s

9. Acciona Sainz (Sanz/Sainz) +1 Lap

Semi-finals:

Semi-final 1:

This weekend, a new semi-final system was in place that saw the top 3 together in the first round and the mid-3 teams together in the second semi-final, meaning a top placing team was to lose out on the final. This was how the weekend began to fall apart for Abt Cupra, who were leading into the driver switch but lost out on two places due to a radio issue, meaning they finished last and were ruled out of the final. The round was won by Taylor and Kristoffersson in the RXR car, who beat the X44 into the first gate, with Kristoffersson taking a wide line to undercut Loeb and then kept the position throughout the race.

Semi-final 2:

With two places left for the final and three worthy teams fighting for them, semi-final 2 was set up to be a good one. Hansen in the JBXE started well to take the lead, with Chadwick and Bennett duelling behind. Chadwick kept P2 from the Xite Energy car behind her, but an issue with the pit limiter for Veloce gave Bennett an advantage. While the JBXE continued to put time between themselves and the rest of the field, the fight continued behind them. Despite technical issues continuing for Veloce, Sarrazin was able to win the fight, ending the weekend for the Xite Energy team.

Shootout:

With three teams who were not expected to be in the shootout battling each other for the final few points, this race was never going to be disappointing. Timmy Hansen took the lead into the first corner with Price in P2 with Sainz behind her. The experience of Sainz meant he was able to fight back, however, to take the lead going into the driver switch, but this didn’t last for long. LeDuc, who had started his stint in third, fought back strongly, overtaking Munnings for second then going on to take the win from Sanz. An outstanding performance from the Chip Ganassi Racing driver who will be disappointed to have missed out on showing this skill in a final in both of the first two rounds of X-Prix.

Final:

4 teams were left to line up for the final, but two cars made it to the end of the first lap. After colliding with the RXR car when fighting for the lead, Gutierrez’ X44 had suspension damage, bringing an early close to the Hamilton team’s impressive weekend. A bump in the terrain left the JBXE car in a similar position, with the car stopping with suspension issues which ultimately blocked the track and led to a red flag on the race. With Veloce and RXR both left confused during the driver change as a red flag was called, the best option was to do another standing start as Kristoffersson and Chadwick began their laps. The RXR driver was able to take the lead immediately and kept it, with both drivers successfully finishing their laps. However, the Swedish driver was 14.676 seconds ahead of his British counterpart by the end of the lap.

Championship Standings:

Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 71 points

X44 (Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez) 57 points

JBXE (Jenson Button / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky) 44 points

Andretti United Extreme E (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 37 points

XITE ENERGY RACING (Oliver Bennett / Christine GZ) 37 points

ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz / Laia Sanz) 36 points

ABT Cupra XE (Mattias Ekström / Claudia Hürtgen) 35 points

Veloce Racing (Stéphane Sarrazin / Jamie Chadwick) 31 points

Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) 30 points

Another exceptional weekend for the RXR team leaves them with a large gap in the championship, with X44 and JBXE rounding out a top-3 entirely managed by legends of the F1 world. After an outstanding first weekend, then an abysmal second round, Andretti move to 4th, although the Xite Energy team couldn’t be closer to them, with Acciona Sainz only one point behind both teams in 6th. The bottom 6 teams are split by just 7 points, showing how much there is still to gain and fight for in the next 3 rounds of the new series.

Almost two years since the 2019 W Series season ended at Brands Hatch; the all-female racing series returned to the UK for testing last week. With varied weather conditions and rookie drivers learning how to drive these cars for the first time, there was a lot for everyone to learn.

COVID rescheduling:

Like everything in the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic affected W Series hugely. After cancelling the 2020 season, the announcement in December 2020 that the women would return to the grid this year excited everyone. The series was then given another blow when it became clear that their pre-season testing in Valencia could not go ahead during the final week in April due to COVID restrictions in Spain. Therefore, the decision was made to move the testing to Wales, meaning it could be completed with plenty of time before the season begins in Austria on the 26th of June.

Testing:

During the 5-day test, 4,723 laps were completed by the drivers, an incredible 15,918 kilometres in distance. The drivers battled through sun, wind and rain throughout the week, something they were pleased to experience. With clear conditions during the first two days, the drivers were able to learn a lot much more quickly than they could have expected. Racing Director Dave Ryan discussed how keen all the drivers were to get started, having had little track time since August 2019. The drivers, therefore, pushed themselves exceptionally hard to prepare themselves for the season. This became particularly helpful as the weather deteriorated towards the end of the week, and they had new wet weather data to collect.

Jamie Chadwick, the 2019 W Series champion, expressed how pleased she was with these varied conditions. She stated that “it’s really good to get wet testing if [they] can” because it is “so different to the dry conditions”. This is a sentiment that was shared throughout the paddock, with drivers desperate to be back in the cars and learning as much as possible. With the weather so poor in the UK, they were able to gain a lot from that experience under wet conditions, although the stormy weather became too dangerous during Day 4 of testing, meaning it had to be called off. This did not hinder the drivers too much, though. They were back out on Day 5, learning all they could about their F3 spec cars ahead of their busy calendar of races over the summer.

The Anglesey circuit is short but undulating, making it a useful stage for these tests. The 3.4km circuit boasts fast sections, as well as hairpin bends and mid-range corners, meaning a lot can be learned about how to best prepare and use the cars for hugely varied circuits they will compete at around the world.

Looking to Austria:

With testing complete, there is so much to look forward ahead of the start of the season in June. Dave Ryan’s sentiment that “all the drivers will travel to Austria feeling confident” is reciprocated by many throughout the paddock. Emma Kimiläinen, a 2019 race winner, made it clear that she feels “like she could race tomorrow”, going on to say it “shows how good the preparation has been”. Every driver went on to share their excitement on social media, with many thanking the series for providing such incredible facilities and engineers. It is good to see how hard everyone is working to make the series as successful as possible. The W Series team, as well as motorsport fans around the world, are counting down the days until the competition begins at the Red Bull Ring in a month’s time.   

Formula 1 is set to see a major overhaul in 2022, which could dramatically change the sport. These changes were meant to occur in 2021 but were postponed largely due to the pandemic’s financial implications. However, it is now time to discuss and understand what these regulations are and what they will mean for the sport.

Design changes

The biggest and most dramatic change for the 2022 season will be returning to the ground-effect formula of aerodynamics on the car. The existing reliance on wings is causing the cars to produce ‘dirty air’, which means the cars behind lose 50% downforce when close. This means overtaking is becoming increasingly difficult, and therefore the FIA plan to reduce this downforce loss to 5-10%. The ground-effect design involves air being passed through two Venturi tunnels at the front of the floor. Therefore, the air is squeezed to the closest point to the ground, turning it into a low-pressure area with suction underneath. This means that the floor is relied on more for downforce, rather than several bodywork components, as we currently see. Air will therefore be cleaner as it comes off the car while also being pushed higher, out of the path of the drivers and cars that are following. Cars being able to follow each other closely will mean much more exciting races for the fans to watch and the drivers to race in.

In addition, many elements of the car have been made sleeker and simpler, including the front wings and bodywork. Under the new regulations, front wings will be much simpler, being made up of a maximum of just four elements. The most striking difference can be seen on the endplates, which remain up-turned. The nose will be attached to the front wing rather than being connected by additional carbon fibre, making the likelihood of front wings breaking much lower. The rear wings have also changed, with endplates now wrapping around the back of the car, allowing cars to follow each other without any aerodynamic difficulties. With the barge boards also removed, in place of “wheel bodywork”, which minimises the impact of wheel wake, the cars are more reliant on the floor for downforce, making the racing fairer between teams. These wheels are also changing with larger 18-inch wheel rims, as seen already in F2, taking the place of the current 13-inch tyres, with wheel-wake control technology, which again should lead to more fair racing throughout the field.

One major element of the car that will not change is the V6 turbo hybrid engines, although they will be built from commercially available materials, meaning none are company exclusive. This freeze will continue until 2025, with the aim of sustainability becoming the major focus at that point. In addition, exhaust systems have been added to the PU components that are limited during a season, with a maximum of 6 permitted before a driver incurs a penalty.

Cars will be 25kg heavier due to all of these changes, meaning they will be slower than they currently are, but racing will hopefully be drastically improved.

Financial changes

2022 brings with it a cost cap of $175 million per team, which will apply to everything that impacts on-track performance, excluding driver salaries, marketing costs and the top-three personnel at any team. In addition, cars will be given less wind tunnel running time and must focus more on Computational Fluid Dynamics simulation than physical testing. Rules have also been put into place to limit car upgrades over a weekend, as well as the number of in-season aero upgrades. This will reduce the constant developments from the larger teams, which are currently impacting how competitive the grid is.

Race weekend structural changes

With the FIA hoping to have a maximum of 25 races in 2022, the race weekend has been condensed to cater for this and to improve the fan experience. Rather than Thursday, the press conferences will take place on a Friday morning before FP1 and FP2. Cars will also be in Parc Ferme conditions from the start of FP3 onwards, limiting the upgrades that teams can add over the course of the weekend. Teams must at this point return their cars to ‘reference specification’, meaning any bodywork being trialled must be removed at this stage.

Teams must also run at least two practice sessions during the year using drivers who have competed in two Grand Prix or fewer. This is a very beneficial change for the future of the sport as it gives opportunities to young drivers who are hoping to race in Formula 1 in the future, rather than reserve drivers who have competed in a multitude of previous races.   

What do these changes mean for the sport?

According to Ross Brawn, these new regulations stop the serious issue that we currently see in Formula 1, where “the more you spend, the quicker you go”, which means finances won’t entirely dictate the competitiveness of a car. With so many talented drivers currently on the grid, the future of motorsport looks hugely positive with closer racing and, therefore, hopefully, more varied results.

With four race weekends behind us, and eight different riders on the podium, the MotoGP championship fight is hotting up. With championship favourites crashing out and terrible luck for many riders, here’s a run-through of the 2021 season so far and who to watch out for throughout the rest of the season.

Qatar (Losail International Circuit) – 28 March

Qualifying:

Bagnaia (Ducati)

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Race Result:

Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Zarco (Pramac)

Bagnaia (Ducati)

The season opened with a thrilling race around the Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar. Maverick Viñales came through to win an outstanding performance to take the win against a very competitive field. The Qatar GP also showcased the Ducatis as a bike to watch this year, with Zarco and Bagnaia in second and third respectively. 2020 champion Mir came in 4th after a mistake at the last corner, and Quartararo finished up the top 5 on the Monster Energy Yamaha. Morbidelli, a championship favourite at the start of the season, rode poorly, finishing in 18th place.

Doha (Losail International Circuit) – 4 April

Qualifying:

Martín (Pramac)

Zarco (Pramac)

Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Race Result:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Zarco (Pramac)

Martín (Pramac)

Race weekend two in Doha saw Quartararo beginning his bid for the championship, outsmarting the other riders to win. It was also a good weekend for the Pramac Ducati riders, who both qualified and finished the race in the top three. Rins finished in 4th for Suzuki with Viñales in 5th. It was another poor week for the Petronas Yamaha riders, with Morbidelli in 12th and Rossi out of the points in 16th. The rider with the most disastrous start to the season was clearly Alex Marquez, who crashed out for the second weekend running. Already at this stage, it was clear that this season would not be easily called, with so many riders in the mix.

Portugal (Algarve International Circuit) – 18 April

Qualifying:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Rins (Suzuki)

Zarco (Pramac)

Race Result:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Bagnaia (Ducati)

Mir (Suzuki)

The reign of Quartararo continued in Portugal, where he qualified first and then went on to win the race, completely outpacing his rivals. Bagnaia was able to take the second step on the podium, with 2020 champion Joan Mir in third after a dramatic race that saw Zarco crashing out from second place, ultimately finishing 13th. Morbidelli finally got some good points on the board after a tough start to the season, finishing 4th, with Binder in 5th for the Red Bull KTM team. This was not the biggest story of the weekend, of course, with Marc Marquez returning and finishing an impressive 7th in his first race back after a 9-month injury break. This race was plagued by crashes, with Zarco, Rins, Rossi, Miller and Espargaro unable to finish the race. This affected Jack Miller hugely as he needed a good result following a reasonably poor start to the season.

Spain (Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto) – 2 May

Qualifying:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)

Miller (Ducati)

Race Result:

Miller (Ducati)

Bagnaia (Ducati)

Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)

The Spanish Grand Prix was the race that Miller needed. The Australian rider took his first dry race win after championship leader Quartararo, who led for a lot of the race, had to back off with arm pump issues. An unfortunate end to a stellar start to the season for the Frenchman, who only picked up a few points, finishing 13th. Bagnaia made it a one-two finish for the Ducati team, a result they were not expecting in Jerez, with Petronas Yamaha rider Morbidelli improving one place on his Portugal finish to take the final step on the podium. Takaaki Nakagami finished an impressive 4th after flying through the field towards the end of the race, with Mir taking 5th, another good set of points for last year’s champion.

Who to watch this season:

Fabio Quartararo:

Throughout the course of the 2021 season, Quartararo has been the most consistently impressive rider. Without the issues surrounding his arm in Jerez, he would likely have been on the podium for the third time, possibly even taking a third win in four races. He has become a favourite for this year’s title with such impressive form, but will his injury stop that? Fabio had surgery on his arm on Monday 4th May and hopes to recover in time for his home race at Le Mans next weekend. If his recovery takes longer, questions will begin to emerge over whether he can fight to take the championship, having lost points while recovering.

Francesco Bagnaia:

Bagnaia is another rider who has shown the importance of consistency this season. Despite not winning a race yet this year, he has been on the podium three times, finishing the other race in a still-impressive 4th. The 2018 Moto2 champion has shown impressive skill throughout this year, and if this continues, he will continue to play an important role in the battle for the title.

While these two riders are the most consistently impressive so far this year, many have a good chance of battling for the championship win. 2020 champion Joan Mir is also not out of the running, having finished between 3rd and 7th in every race so far this year, leaving him 4th in the standings. Maverick Viñales is also thoroughly impressive this year, winning the first race out and recording the fastest time at testing on Monday 4th May. With so many strong riders competing closely this year, in addition to a likelihood for even more surprising crashes throughout the field, the championship is still very much up for grabs. With such thrilling racing this early in the season, MotoGP will continue to be one to watch throughout the year as the championship fight gets closer and more dramatic.

A clear talent in the world of female motorsport, Sabré Cook is working hard both on and off the track to make it to the top. With the return of the W Series just weeks away, I was lucky enough to talk to chat to Sabré about her goals and aspirations for this year, women in motorsport and much more.  

Like many drivers, Sabré got her start in the sport because of her father, a motocross and supercross rider in the 80s. With the risk of this sport being high, her parents wanted her and her brother to start karting instead, which she did at the age of 8. Having found a love for the sport, she continued to race in karts for many years but struggled to find the funding to get her there. This changed in 2017 when she was able to kickstart her journey towards her ultimate goal of IndyCar. After years of trying to build the budget for single-seater racing, finding some key sponsors allowed Cook to race in USF2000 and US F4. Taking part in these series was enough to get her noticed by the W Series head-hunters, and after testing in 2018, she gained one of the 18 coveted places on the 2019 grid, and from there, her success has continued.

More than a driver:

Racing is not Sabré’s only passion, however, as she is also a talented motorsport engineer. Having won the US final of the Infiniti Junior Engineering Academy in 2019, allowing her to move to the UK to assume a position with Infiniti and, therefore, the Renault F1 team. For Sabré, this was a second chance at a dream, with the move to Europe coming at the perfect time. Following “a constant struggle with sponsorship”, which made it so difficult to get into a car, especially in a professional series, W Series “matched up perfectly” with her living and working in the UK. Without this, the series simply “wouldn’t have been feasible”.

Being able to work so closely with cars was, of course, a massive opportunity for the American driver, but it doesn’t always have any on-track benefits. Sabré discussed how it does allow her to have a “deeper understanding”, meaning they can often “get to a solution faster”, but this isn’t beneficial in spec series like W Series. Unlike Formula 1, spec series drivers all compete in identical cars, meaning she’s “limited on the changes she can make”.

Working hard both on and off-track became important for Sabré in 2020 when she could concentrate on coaching and some engineering for Formula Mazda in the US. She was also lucky enough to drive in two IndyPro and 2 SCCA races, allowing her to keep her skills sharp ahead of a very busy 2021. She has already been able to compete in 6 races this year, which she remarked was more than ever before, something she was “extremely happy about”.

Women in Motorsport – is W Series important?

Sabré recognises that W Series was very beneficial as it allowed her to “build [her] brand and get more exposure”, which helped her continue competing in many series in the United States this year. With so much support for W Series in 2019, she feels that joining the F1 weekend will only allow that support to branch out even more.

With female drivers becoming an increasingly common sight in mainstream racing series, Sabré, like many people, is pleased to see the recognition that the women competing in W Series are getting. She remarked about how this had allowed young girls to see a clear path and goal, stating that “almost every young girl [she meets] saying ‘she wants to make it to W Series'” Hearing that girls see W Series as a goal is so important for the future of women in motorsport. As more young girls see women just like them competing, the goals of these up-and-coming talents will only continue to be bolder and more equal to those of young boys.

Goals and ambitions – this year and beyond:

Competing in so many different series in 2021 and beyond, Sabré has many aims and goals for the future. In terms of the W Series, her main aim is to improve on her 2019 performance. Having gone in with the “least experience of anyone”, building on last season is important to her, with hopes to “finish in the points in every race and improve [her] overall championship position“.  Sabré also announced just last week that she would be competing in two Porsche Sprint Challenge races this year, the first of these races being this weekend at COTA (Circuit of The Americas), where she hopes to see how she stacks up against her competition. Using this experience, she hopes to finish in the top 5 at the second race at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) in early June.  

In terms of longer-term aspirations, Sabré’s goal is IndyCar, focussing on racing in the medium term and returning to engineering once her racing days are behind her. She talked about how important engineering is to her and that she will continue to work on small projects on the side, with an aim being to work for a top F1 or IndyCar team as a performance or race engineer. However, she also has an interest in aerospace, which may be something she comes back to in the future. Ultimately though, “the focus is on the driving now” as she works towards her IndyCar aspirations.

Thank you once again to Sabré for taking the time to speak with me. We wish her the best of luck with her many series this year. Porsche Sprint Challenge at COTA starts this Friday, with W Series beginning at Le Castellet, France, on 26th June.

Since it was announced as an F1 support series in November 2020, fans worldwide have been excited to see what W Series can add to the F1 weekends. With 8 races taking place throughout the F1 calendar this year, let’s look at what we can expect from this new racing series.

What is W Series?

W Series, an all-female single-seater championship featuring the most talented female drivers in motor racing. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the series hugely, with only one season taking place so far. Having only been announced in late 2018, the 2019 season, won by Jamie Chadwick, left us all with a lot of anticipation and excitement about the future of women in motor racing.

So, how does it work?

In addition to two reserves, eighteen talented female drivers compete in a series of races throughout the year. The top eight from each race are awarded points, using a scoring system of 15-12-10-7-5-3-2-1. The driver with the most points throughout the season, minus any penalty points, becomes the champion at the end of the season. This is a simple system in motorsport that we can all understand and many will recognise. This is why it is such a welcome addition to the F1 weekend for 8 races during 2021.

The drivers (in 2019 championship order):

Jamie Chadwick (UK) – Age: 22

Beitske Visser (HOLLAND) – Age: 26

Alice Powell (UK) – Age: 28

Marta García (SPAIN) – Age: 20

Emma Kimilainen (FINLAND) – Age: 31

Fabienne Wohlwend (LIECHTENSTEIN)- Age: 23

Miki Koyama (JAPAN) – Age: 23

Sarah Moore (UK) – Age: 27

Vicky Piria (ITALY) – Age: 27

Tasmin Pepper (SOUTH AFRICA) – Age: 30

Jessica Hawkins (UK) – Age: 26

Sabré Cook (USA) 26

New to W Series:

Belen García (SPAIN) – Age: 21

Ayla Agren (NORWAY) – Age: 27

Abbie Eaton (UK) – Age: 29

Nerea Martí (SPAIN) – Age: 19

Irina Sidorkova (RUSSIA) – Age: 17

Bruna Tomaselli (BRAZIL) – Age: 23

Is W Series a good idea?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the W Series and whether it will benefit female motorsport more widely in the future. Many believe that it segregates women from men by not allowing them to compete on the same stage as men, which Extreme E is trying to change (link). While there is some truth to this statement, having a platform for women to show their talents can only be a positive step forward towards inclusivity on the track. As many of these women are lesser-known drivers are, being able to showcase their talents during an F1 weekend is very important. It is a recognised fact that no driver reaches the pinnacle of the sport without any sponsorship and financial help.

These women are more likely to be offered sponsorships due to being showcased during a Formula 1 weekend. But W Series also awards a top prize of $500,000 to the champion, with the remaining $1 million is divided amongst the rest of the drivers. This allows all of the women competing to fight for the top step with the knowledge that this money could help them further their careers. With many young women competing in the W Series, their chances and the chances of future generations of female drivers can be drastically affected by this. Money will continue to play an inexplicably important role in deciding who competes at the highest level of motorsport.

The Formula 1 ‘We Race as One’ initiative and the hope to improve equality in the sport being strongly focused on throughout the 2021 calendar. Being able to showcase such a wide array of talented women, alongside the many talented men we are so aware of already, is a hugely positive step. Not only will this showcase women on track but also off the track, in more managerial roles. This will inspire a new generation of girls to combine their love of motorsport with any job they may want to do in the future. Being able to inspire a more diverse future for the sport is at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts, and W Series is very likely to help this.

The Calendar:

26/27 June – Le Castellet, France

3/4 July – Spielberg, Austria

16/17 July – Silverstone, UK

31 July / 01 August – Budapest, Hungary

28/29 August – Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

4/5 September – Zandvoort, Netherlands

23/24 October – Austin, USA

30/31 October – Mexico City, Mexico

With all of that explained, I’m sure you’ll join me in being very excited to see it during the Formula 1 weekends throughout the summer. With such an array of talented drivers worldwide to support and following a whole year without the series, you won’t want to miss a single race.

The news we’d all been waiting for was finally announced on Saturday. Marc Marquez will return to MotoGP in Portugal following a 9-month recovery from an arm injury. But will he be able to battle for wins when he returns, or will he linger at the back of the grid?

Injury and recovery: What do we know?

Marquez was ruled out of MotoGP following a serious high side crash at the Spanish GP in Jerez, Spain, in August 2020. After a fracture to his right humorous, he had surgery to have a plate fitted to the bone to aid his recovery. Despite trying to come back at the following race, he could not get further than qualifying after damaging this plate. This led to a second operation being necessary, ruling him out for the rest of the season. He then endured a further set back when he had a third surgery in December, where a bone graft from his hip to his arm was performed in the hope of aiding recovery. This was expected to require up to 6 months of recovery but such a strong athlete as Marquez is, he’s back racing much sooner.

What can we expect in Portimao?

One of the fastest and most successful men ever to compete in MotoGP is back – but is he ready? He is definitely not coming back to an easy track, that’s for sure. Turn 1 at the Portimão track subjects the riders to the highest g-force that they’ll ever experience on the track, aside from when crashing. Having only tested on a Honda RC213V-S street bike, a bike without carbon brakes, becoming comfortable on the bike again is not an easy feat. Following such a long recovery, will Marc be more careful and ensure he can continue racing, or will he go flat out? Only time will tell.

Marquez was also unable to take part in testing or the first two races in Doha and has, of course, not been able to ride a competitive bike since his accident. So many are wondering whether he will be competitive at all. But if anyone can do it, Marc Marquez can. He was able to come back from a Moto2 crash which seriously affected his eyesight, for which Marquez says the recovery was much worse than it was for his arm injury. He had surgery on a serious vision issue following a crash in Sepang 2011, leading to major concerns over whether he’d ride again. Coming back from that to win so many titles proves the strength of this rider and indicates the fight he will put in to compete for championships once again.

The Honda rider can also be reassured that there are no expectations of immediate success from the team. They are aware that they cannot possibly put any more pressure on Marquez’s return that he will not already have put on himself. Despite such a long break, this talented rider will immediately aim for the top and is unlikely to stop until he gets there. With replacement Stefan Bradl managing a best finish of 11th in the two Doha GPs, while Pol Esparagó finished a best of 8th, the team are not battling to stay at the top of the championship standings. They are, therefore, able to give the rider time to acclimatise to MotoGP and take a few races to reach his full potential, if that is possible following such a serious injury.

So many unanswerable questions:

With the entire weekend yet to start, we can’t predict how it will go for Marquez and the team, but that makes it even more thrilling. His season could be incredibly exciting or truly disappointing, depending on how quickly he can get back to the front of the grid over the course of the season. Our main hope is that he can compete again following his break with no issues or incidents. While he may not win the title, he will expect to be strong from the start, and I can’t wait to see if it’s possible.

With Lewis Hamilton coming close to the end of his career, many fans are starting to think about which drivers we can expect to be fighting for a title in the future. With some serious talent in Formula 1 and the junior series at the moment, let’s take a look at who could one day win the championship.

Current F1 Drivers

Max Verstappen
Since joining Toro Rosso at 17 years old, Verstappen has been talked about as the future of F1 and the biggest competition to the likes of Hamilton in terms of talent and ability. As the only driver who can currently fight on the level of the seven-time champion, the 23-year-old Dutchman is, of course, the most likely candidate for the World Championship, particularly once Lewis retires. This doesn’t mean it is guaranteed though, with many young F1 drivers able to compete at the top of the sport if given the right car.

Charles Leclerc
Ferrari has, of course, been recovering from a serious drop off in pace in recent years but already seem to be much closer to the front of the grid this year. Given this, no one should rule out Charles Leclerc for a future championship. At only 23, he is another driver who rose to the top of the sport very early, winning the F2 title in 2017, then spending just one year at Sauber before moving to Ferrari. It has been clear for many years that Charles is one to watch in F1. Given his talent and his young age, he will have plenty of opportunities to compete at the top of the championship in the future. His talent has already been proven on multiple occasions, and that will surely continue.

George Russell
The Sakhir Grand Prix is still a very sore subject for many F1 fans, with George’s chance in the championship-winning Mercedes ruined by multiple tyre mishaps. However, this doesn’t mean that he didn’t have long enough to prove himself as a serious contender for future championships. Once the 2018 F2 champion leaves Williams, who are still struggling at the back of the grid, and moves to a stronger team, he will immediately be challenging for wins. The only thing that will stop him is being stuck in the Mercedes Junior Programme, completely unable to progress. It is hoped by all of his fans, as well as by George himself, I’m sure, that he will move to Mercedes at the end of the year or leave the Mercedes programme and begin a new F1 journey to the front of the grid.

Lando Norris
McLaren are getting closer and closer to the front of the grid every year. Lando Norris has been able to keep up with these improvements throughout and continues to be a real favourite for future wins. After finishing in 2nd place to George Russell in F2, then joining a much stronger team than the fellow Brit, he has been able to show his skill and ability to cope with the sport’s pressure since joining the sport. It’s likely that his pursuit of an F1 title will only be stopped by his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. If Lando can keep up with, or even beat, the Australian driver this year, he will quickly become a much-desired driver for all teams. 2021 is a crucial year for Norris and one we should all watch closely.

Yuki Tsunoda
Despite having only raced in one F1 race so far, Yuki has proved himself as one to really watch in the coming years. It was clear in testing that the Japanese driver was talented, but then he proved it by taking P2 in Q1 on Saturday in Bahrain. He was then able to make up many places and performed some exceptional overtakes in the race, most of which many wouldn’t be brave enough to attempt on their first proper race in F1. Finishing 3rd in the championship to Schumacher and Illot in his rookie F2 season, we were expecting a top-class driver, but very few people predicted he’d be as strong as he is. If his career continues to be as strong as it has been so far, he has a real chance of winning championships in the years to come.

Possible Future F1 Stars:

Formula 1 has become a hugely difficult championship to reach, let alone succeed in. With money playing a larger factor, no one can predict who may get a seat in F1 in the coming years. Despite this, here’s a small list of some impressive F2 drivers who may be able to win the title in the future if they can make that step.

Robert Shwartzman
As 2019 F3 champion and Ferrari Academy driver, Shwartzman has clearly shown his talent in the junior series. Having just started his second year in F2, with a solid rookie year under his belt, it would be a shock if Shwartzman didn’t feature on the podium regularly in 2021. Despite a rough start to his F2 campaign in Bahrain and a new race format to cope with, Robert is definitely one to watch this year and for the future. With many Ferrari-linked teams to consider and constant discussion of when Alfa Romeo may have a new line-up, Shwartzman will be discussed regularly as the next addition to the F1 grid.

Oscar Piastri
Last year’s F3 champion is a real talent that cannot be ignored on this list. On his first weekend as a rookie F2 driver, he won the second sprint race, then almost picked up another podium during the feature race before a crash with Ticktum ruled him out. This indicates the true pace and talent of the young Australian driver and is something to really watch out for throughout this F2 season and in the future. As an Alpine junior driver, we may see him moving up into F1 once Alonso retires and will expect to see him in FP1 sessions to test the car in the future.

Theo Pourchaire
At 17 years old, Pourchaire is the youngest on the F2 grid but is far from the weakest driver. He finished just 3 points behind Oscar Piastri in the 2020 championship and has started F2 strongly. He finished 6th and 8th in the second sprint race and the feature race, respectively and showed real skill. These will, of course, be more evident as he settles into the new series. As part of the Sauber junior programme, he is another possible candidate if any driver changes occur at Alfa Romeo if his season goes well, despite only just being old enough. F2 can often be a series that takes more than one year to succeed in, as we saw with Mick Schumacher, but that doesn’t rule out this young talent’s chances in the future as a real F1 star.

How likely is it?

With money playing such an important role in the future of F1 and talent often being overlooked or squandered at the back of the grid, it is hard to predict who will take the titles in the future. It is clear that Max Verstappen will be expected to take the title once Lewis Hamilton has retired. But this isn’t even guaranteed, although very likely. With regulation changes in 2022 that could mix up the grid entirely and a wealth of young talent in the sport currently, there are many current and future F1 drivers that could and should take this title if they’re in the right car. It is going to be an exciting few years for the sport, that’s for sure!

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