Category

W Series

Category

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.

Linsay Winkler is a 19-year-old young woman who has been working in motorsport as a mechanic since she was 15.

She already gained a lot of experience in different teams and racing classes and aims to be an engineer in the future. I was delighted to sit down with this young technical talent to ask her a few questions about her current role and her experiences working within motorsport.

You clearly have a passion for motorsport, how did you come into contact with the sport, and why did you choose the technical side of it?
To start at the very beginning, my father has always worked in motorsport. He was a manager of a driver, mechanic and team boss; he stopped doing this when I was about 12 years old. In addition, my parents have a go-kart track, so of course, I already learned things. I was never really interested in motorsport myself, and instead, I was doing a different sport at a high level, which I was very busy with. When Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix (if I remember correctly), a few days later, the Max Verstappen racing days took place in Zandvoort. After Max’s win, my father was invited and naturally also wanted to take a look, so I went with him. There I met a lot of people, which increased my interest enormously. A few months later, Jos Verstappen took us to the Formula One test days, and my father took me to a Formula 4 race weekend where I immediately fell in love with the sport. I wanted to join the F4 team every weekend, from Thursday to Sunday evening. There were two free practice sessions, a qualifying session and three races per weekend where I went into the pit lane to see everything; during the sessions, I had nothing to do because, of course, I was there as a guest. I asked the other technicians to ask if I could do something, and I got into it because I was allowed and able to do more and more.

Could you tell me more about your role and the duties?
A mechanic is actually responsible for the car before, during and after the sessions. Basically, they make changes that are communicated by the driver or engineer and make sure the car is ready to race. We also adapt the car to the driver, so each driver has a different seat that must be made; the pedals are different for each driver as well due to their length, and each driver has a different driving style with the corresponding adjustments. In addition, we naturally replace parts and repair them if necessary. This may sound logical, but actually, we are constantly working on the car to get the best out of the car and ensure that everything is mounted perfectly.

You are currently studying Aeronautical Engineering; isn’t that very different from motorsport? Why did you choose this study?
The aeronautical engineering study is the perfect study to understand race car aerodynamics. Many people think this is something completely different, but almost most engineers have followed this study. My father always said that I first had to know the technical (mechanic) side of the car and then, with this knowledge, become a more complete engineer. Last year was, therefore, the perfect time to gain more knowledge in addition to working as a mechanic by following the study of aeronautical engineering.

Your work seems to me to be both physically and mentally intense because the performance of others partly depends on your performance. How do you train yourself in this? How do you keep yourself sharp?
 If you work in motorsport, you work long days and make short nights, so I prepare myself for this all year round by trying to get as much energy from my sleep as possible and getting up on time. So, during a race weekend, this won’t feel like a completely different pattern.
In addition, it is also a physical burden. I don’t perform pit stops in the W Series like in Formula 1. If I did, the physical aspect would be even more enormous. I can say the mechanics train all year round to be physically as strong as possible. I also train throughout the year to get as much out of my body as possible physically. But for me, the most important thing is that a race weekend is physically (little sleep and hard work) affected as little as possible by the changes compared to, for example, when I have classes.

What does a typical race week look like for you? Are there any routines you can tell more about? 
Every race weekend actually has a kind of fixed routine, but no two weekends are the same. Usually, the weekend starts on Monday or Tuesday when we travel to the track. Then on Wednesday, we pitch the tent and start working on the cars. On Thursday, we prepare the cars for training and qualifying on Friday. Free practice’s and qualifying are on Friday. After Friday, we prepare the cars for the race on Saturday or Sunday in the evening. Every weekend is obviously different; when a car is damaged, you work differently than when the car is perfectly adjusted, and the driver does not require any adjustments.

Do you have a moment in your career so far that you are proud of? Or very exciting moments?
The race at Assen with the W Series in 2019 was really cool! I was there for the first time with the W Series, and as a mechanic, I got to win with Megan Gilkes. On Saturday evening, we were told that we could be on pole in the reverse grid race on Sunday, which was very exciting. On Sunday, Megan won the race with +0.034 seconds, if I’m correct. The last laps I have been biting my nails and shaking like crazy because I was so nervous, but in the end, I was very proud of her that she had just won the race!

You work in a sport that is mainly dominated by men; how do you keep your position strong in this world among men? And how do you manage to inspire other women with this?
I think basically everyone I have worked with always says that I am a very hard worker. In addition, many people (mechanics, engineers, drivers) really enjoy working with me, which is a very nice compliment, and thankfully I also enjoy working with them! I don’t see myself as someone who inspires other women, but I do hope that women who doubt they can see me and think if I can, they can do this too!

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to work as a Mechanic / Engineer? 
Just do it! I believe that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough and do something that you enjoy!

On behalf of Grid Talk, I would like to thank Linsay for taking the time to talk to me about her experiences in and around the paddock! We hope this inspires you to follow your dreams.

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.   

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.

Pin It
X