Back in the driving seat: Caitlin Wood returns to W Series for Budapest round
W Series reserve driver Caitlin Wood returns to single-seater racing after the 2019 season finale: she will enter this weekend's fourth round of the season in Budapest alongside Marta Garcia at Puma W Series Team.
24-year old Aussie driver Caitlin Wood will be the third 2021 W Series reserve driver to get behind the wheel of the second Puma Tatuus T-318 car in a race weekend, stepping in after Gosia Rdest (Red Bull Ring) and Abbi Pulling (Silverstone) in the seat originally destined to Tasmin Pepper. The South African had in fact missed the pre-season test and the first part of the season due to international travel restrictions. Wood missed out on the automatic entry by one point in 2019, finishing 13th in the driver standings, but was invited at the Anglesey collective test and positively impressed, gaining a place in the W Series reserve drivers' pool. "Obviously I was delighted that I was able to participate in pre-season testing with everyone and get back into the swing of things." – she told us before the start of the season. "It took maybe the first session to find my feet again but after that you definitely find a rhythm and are ready to crack on with it all!" "It has been awhile since the season finished at the end of 2019 so it was all about gathering as much information as I could, getting comfortable with the car again and just progress throughout the week." Since then, Caitlin has been trackside for both the Austrian double-header and the British GP round, observing her colleagues and getting ready to make her racing return. "I've been at every round so far this season watching and learning from the other drivers and I know I need to work as hard or harder than all of them." – she said. "After the disappointment of just missing out on automatic qualification at the end of season one, I have a very refreshed outlook for 2021 and I feel comfortable and confident in my ability to do a good job." "Every setback is a chance to be better and I've tried to learn and improve on 2019. I did well at the pre-season test in Wales and that's given me this chance to get back in the car. It's amazing to be supporting Formula 1 and now I want to show my pace and enjoy a good weekend in Hungary." Originally from New South Wales, Australia, Wood moved to Europe in 2016 to pursue a professional racing career and has entered the European GT4 championship in a KTM X-Bow GT4 – a racecar that she also drove around the famous Mount Panorama circuit for the 12H of Bathurst in 2018 and 2019. As part of her GT4 campaign, she had the chance to race at the Hungaroring, a popular European racing venue that has hosted the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix since 1986. "It's great to be back and the Hungaroring is one of my favourite circuits having raced there in 2016 in the European GT4 Series." – Caitlin explained. The 4.381 kilometres long racetrack is notoriously technical, twisty and difficult for overtaking, with qualifying playing a crucial role. With only a single 30-minute practice session in 2021, it will be an extra-challenge for drivers new to the track. Wood, though, will have to be quickly up to speed having missed the opening three races. "The circuit is quite technical so you have to know where to position the car to get the most out of it, but the rhythm is really cool. It's going to be tricky because I haven't had the three rounds of seat time that everyone else has had. The fact that I know the circuit helps, but I'll need to be smart and focus on myself." "There is pressure because I want to perform. I'm preparing myself well and working with the right people to set myself up to do a good job. Hopefully that rewards me with more drives this season because I’m loving being here and I want to be in the seat." Drivers with prior knowledge of the circuit include Alice Powell and Vicky Piria – who both raced as part of the F1 Hungarian GP weekend in 2012 in GP3 Series – Beitske Visser and Gosia Rdest (this weekend's reserve driver). Visser, who had a difficult start to her 2021 W Series campaign, has previously raced at the Budapest venue in both single seaters and GT cars: she scored points in two out of three participations in Formula Renault 3.5 Series (2015, 2016) and took a victory in the European GT4 championship in 2018. The Hungarian round could also be considered Emma Kimiläinen's home race – as traditionally the Finnish fans have flocked to the race to support their F1 heroes. On track action starts on Friday 30 July for the free practice session (12:55 CEST) and qualifying at 16:30 local. The fourth round of the season will get underway on Saturday 31 July, at 16:30.