Alice Powell secures first W Series pole position of her career
In a British front row lock-out, Alice Powell has secured her maiden pole position in W Series, having also topped the first practice session of the season. Scuderia W's Sarah Moore and Belen Garcia followed Powell, in an extremely tight qualifying.
In one of the most closely fought qualifying in the series' history, Alice Powell clinched her first pole position in the all-female championship - over one year and a half since her victory at the Brands Hatch season finale in 2019.
The new era of W Series - now partnering with Formula 1 at 8 rounds in 2021 after a one year hiatus due to the pandemic challenges - saw the cars hitting the track at the Austrian venue of Red Bull Ring for the first practice session earlier in the afternoon.
Alice Powell - among the drivers that had to rely on the W Series pre-season test one month ago at Anglesey, Wales, in order to climb back in a F3 car - topped the timing sheets in practice, having alternated in the leading position with 2019 series champion Jamie Chadwick, Sarah Moore and Emma Kimilainen.
Series runner-up Beitske Visser was able to slot into second in the final minutes of the 30 minute practice - this year the only session before qualifying.
Moore was a strong third, edging Chadwick and Hawkins - with 15 cars within one second.
Approximately two hours after the inaugural session of the season, drivers went straight into qualifying, with track temperature dropping. In the first half of the session, Alice Powell was again among the pace-setters, ahead of Emma Kimilainen and Jamie Chadwick.
Marta Garcia briefly moved into second place, but her lap time was cancelled due to track limits. Similar fate awaited Ayla Agren - one of the most surprising rookies so far. The Norwegian set the fastest time around 10 minutes into the session, but had her lap deleted. Showing great pace, though, Agren managed to find a clean lap and was back into P1, only to be topped by Jamie Chadwick and the real revelation of the session: Spaniard Belen Garcia, who went faster than the FP1 benchmark.
Garcia remained on top until the final minutes, as positions kept changing constantly due to the track improving quickly. With seven minutes to go, Sarah Moore found more speed and climbed the order, but was beaten once again by Alice Powell, whose 1:28.964 ultimately gained her pole position.
Powell was the only driver under the 1:29 minute mark and edged Sarah Moore by 0.177 second. Drivers struggled to improve in the final 3 minutes - except Belen Garcia, who managed to reclaim third place from Beitske Visser, and Finnish racer Emma Kimilainen, who improved from eighth to fifth.
Jessica Hawkins had another strong session and was sixth fastest; the Aston Martin F1 Team ambassador driver will start from the third row, just ahead of two of the title favourites Marta Garcia and Jamie Chadwick. Chadwick, one of the few drivers to have driven in F3 cars at Red Bull Ring in 2020, couldn't do better than eighth, only 4 thousandths of a second behind Marta Garcia.
Fabienne Wohlwend and Ayla Agren rounded out the top 10, with Veloce Racing's Bruna Tomaselli and Abbie Eaton lining up on row six for tomorrow's race.
Miki Koyama was briefly in ninth position, but her lap time was also deleted for a track limit violation at the exit of Turn 7. She finished P13, one place ahead of Russian newcomer and youngest driver of the field Irina Sidorkova.
Vicky Piria, Nerea Marti, Sabré Cook and Gosia Rdest round out the grid ahead of the season opener, set to get underway on Saturday 26th June at 16:30 local time.