Alice Powell holds off Chadwick and returns to victory in W Series
She had to survive two safety car restarts and pressure from her rivals - but Alice Powell kept her cool and took a lights to flag victory at Hungaroring, breaking Chadwick's winning streak.
Alice Powell topped the timesheets on Friday afternoon, beating Beitske Visser and Nerea Marti as she returned to pole position after over a year in W Series - but weather forecasts remained the big talking point throughout the first day of running at Hungaroring. And indeed the rain did come on Saturday morning, with heavy rain in the hours preceding the sixth race of the 2022 W Series season. When the 18 cars lined up on the grid, though, the rain had stopped and most of the track was dry. With half the starting grid on a dry line and the other half on the wet, race direction opted for a Safety Car start, which gave the drivers their first taste of the grip levels around the track on the first lap. With everyone on slicks, conditions were tricky and Nerea Marti spun at turn 10, allowing past Marta Garcia before the actual restart. As soon as the race went green, Alice Powell kept Beitske Visser at bay and, just behind, Nerea Marti was under pressure from Jamie Chadwick. The Briton had her worst qualifying in over a year and, from fifth on the grid, overtook Marti at Turn 3 with a bold move. The Spaniard was visibly struggling for grip and was hit at Turn 5 by her Quantfury teammate Belén Garcia. Both dropped down the order and Nerea had to rebuild her race from last. After one lap of racing, Alice Powell led Beitske Visser, Marta Garcia, Jamie Chadwick, Abbi Pulling and Emma Kimilainen - who had a good start from eighth and was looking aggressive behind Pulling. With a really impressive getaway, Chloe Chambers was soon up into 12th place. Emely De Heus made a mistake and tumbled down the order, while Nerea Marti passed Academy driver Bianca Bustamante at the back of the field and tried to recover. Chadwick soon caught up with Marta Garcia and completed another brilliant move for third place at Turn 1, then hunting down the leading duo. Garcia, on the other hand, fell into the clutches of Abbi Pulling - but defended well and the young British racer would not find a way past. Behind them, Emma Kimilainen was ready to pick up the pieces and attacked Pulling at the first corner - but was ran wide over the kerb and she had to give up sixth to Jessica Hawkins. A few laps later, Kimilainen tried to fight back - but ended up making contact with Hawkins at Turn 1, with both drivers dropping down the order. Unfortunately, Emma eventually pitted and retired, presumably with damage from the collision.
As Visser tried to apply pressure on Powell, Chadwick was quickly catching them, lapping approximately one second per lap faster. With 14 minutes to go, Chadwick was late on the brakes at Turn 1 and completed another great pass that gained her second place - now only one position away to keep her perfect streak alive. Her Jenner Racing teammate Chloe Chambers was also on the move and climbed into the points-paying positions; fellow rookie Juju Noda was similarly making progress, in 13th place. It was not a lucky race for the other W Series Academy driver, though, as Bianca Bustamante spun and made contact with the guard rail damaging the rear suspension. Bustamante tried to reach the pitlane but would eventually come to a halt at the pit entry, triggering a Safety Car. Scuderia W teammates Abbie Eaton and Sarah Moore battled hard for seventh place; a pass under Safety Car was investigated by the stewards, but Eaton initially retained P7 until the very final lap, when Moore could get ahead. At the restart with 5 minutes to go, Powell had a good reaction and managed to put half a second in between her Click2Drive Bristol Street Motors Tatuus and Jenner Racing's Chadwick, while Visser couldn't keep up with the leading duo. Marta Garcia also defended from the increasingly aggressive attacks of Abbi Pulling - but there was more action in the midfield: Noda passed Chambers for ninth place - with Tomaselli also gaining places on Belén Garcia and the American. Having endured pressure from Visser and then Chadwick, Alice Powell crossed the finish line and returned to victory after over one year, in an outstanding lights to flag win at Hungaroring.
"It's so good to be back on the top step", Powell said. "It's taken longer this season than I would have liked, but to get Bristol Street Motors there with their first win in the championship is amazing." "Every single person on my car has done an incredible job so a big thank you to the team." Despite her record-breaking streak being broken, Jamie Chadwick was able to finish second from fifth on the grid, with some highly spectacular overtakes. "It's roles reversed from here last year when I beat Alice [Powell]. If anyone was going to break that winning streak, I feel like Alice is a deserving person. I did what I could today", Chadwick commented. "The wet conditions helped early on because it's a really tricky circuit to overtake on, but at the end I didn't have enough to challenge Alice. I'm still happy with second place, happy with the race and I go into the summer break really pleased with how the season has gone so far."
On a wet setup, Beitske Visser was left in a difficult position towards the end of the race when the track was fully dry - but the Dutchwoman was still able to bring home another podium. "It's amazing to be back on the podium and to see so many Dutch fans here. It was a very good race and I'm very happy to be back up here", she stated. "We were on wet set-up whereas the top two were on dry set-up, so early on I was quick but then the track dried and it didn't work out." "But my pace has been good all weekend and I'm looking forward to carrying this into Singapore and the rest of the races. If I can continue this progress, I'll have a strong end to the year." Alice Powell and Beitske Visser are now tied in second place in the points' standings - and only three points ahead of Abbi Pulling. The young Brit, in fact, was fifth after a race-long battle with Marta Garcia, the latter holding on to P4. Fabienne Wohlwend had another strong race and finished sixth - which brings the driver from Liechtenstein up to ninth place in the standings. Sarah Moore was seventh and remains one of the few drivers to score points in any round this year. For Abbie Eaton, on the other hand, it was her second point-scoring result of the season.
Juju Noda was ninth - the best rookie - and claimed her first points in W Series. The result gained her the Hankook Driver of the Day Award. Bruna Tomaselli returns to the top ten after the inaugural race of the season and was P10, in a very strong ending of the race after a clash in qualifying that had relegated the Brazilian outside the top 10 on the grid. Unfortunately, Chloe Chambers fell out of the point scoring position in the final laps and was P11. Nerea Marti overtook Belén Garcia in the closing stages and finished P12 after the first lap contact. Jess Hawkins (P14) also had her chances compromised by a contact and preceded Tereza Babickova and Emely De Heus. Following a calendar change, the Singapore Marina Bay street circuit will now host the next round of the all-female championship, instead of the home of the Japanese GP at Suzuka. The next race is scheduled for October 2 and will be the first ever W Series race in Asia - with the Toyota Racing Series cars set to make a return after the Barcelona round.