Double podium for Jamie Chadwick in Asian F3
After a denied victory in Abu Dhabi, Jamie Chadwick claimed her first two podium finishes in Asian Formula 3, as the championship travelled to Sepang, Malaysia.
Almost one month from its third round in Abu Dhabi, the Asian Formula 3 Championship made its return to Sepang International Circuit, where the season started last December.
After claiming her first victory in the Emirates, Jamie Chadwick was later demoted to 8th place due to a starting infringement. The inaugural W-Series champion started her Malaysian weekend by topping the timesheets in the first practice session, confirming her excellent form after the opening championship weekends.
SevenGP racer Tatiana Calderon missed the Asian F3 round after being announced last week as part of an all-female LMP2 crew together with Katherine Legge and Sophia Floersch. The Colombian will also be entering the upcoming Super Formula championship in Japan and she hasn't made public yet if she will travel to Thailand for the Asian F3 season finale.
But there was another welcomed addition to the grid in Sepang: Miki Koyama made her first 2020 appearance in the championship, after entering two rounds last year. The Japanese W-Series driver, racing for BlackArts Racing Team, was 11th in free practice.
Following heavy rain in the morning, the cars went on the grid facing a tyre dilemma. On a still very damp but drying track, everyone opted for wet tyres, with only Miki Koyama choosing to take the gamble and fitted slick tyres.
After two formation laps (leading to a shortened race distance of 27 minutes), Jack Doohan lined up on pole, alongside guest starter and reigning champion Ukyo Sasahara.
Jamie Chadwick had a good start from fifth and immediately moved up to fourth, while many drivers from the second half of the starting grid decided to come in for slicks at the end of the second formation lap. Koyama initially struggled in the wet conditions, while Chadwick challenged Sasahara for third and ultimately made a move stick at turn 9. She then had to watch her mirrors from the attacks of championship leader Joey Alders, but Chadwick held on. F2 driver Nikita Mazepin had a good start and advanced to second, behind Doohan.
On the third lap, Alders found a way around Chadwick at turn 1 and the British lady also had to defend from the return of Sasahara.
The drivers on wets started to search for damp spots on the straights, trying to preserve their tyres temperature. It became in fact apparent that the time lost for a pitstop could not have been recovered on tyre performance.
Miki Koyama's laptimes started to become more competitive and gained two positions, advancing to 12th.
While other battles sparked in the midfield, Joey Alders caught up with Mazepin and started to put pressure on the Russian. After several attempts and an exciting side-by-side action, Alders moved up to second, with Chadwick close behind. When Mazepin went slightly wide at turn 4, Jamie completed an opportunistic move and brought herself up again into third, pulling away from the Hitech driver.
Koyama recovered two more positions at the expenses of Deledda and Luedi, while Fittipaldi started a battle with Sasahara for fifth. In the closing laps, the Brazilian found a way past both Sasahara and Mazepin, but could not further close in on a very competitive Chadwick.
Alders chased down Jack Doohan, but the Australian crossed the finish line in first, never under real threat from his opponents. Alders was second, ahead of Jamie Chadwick, as the 21-year old from Bath, UK, finally claimed her first podium position in the series.
Fittipaldi and Mazepin completed the top-5, with Miki Koyama finishing P10.
“Obviously early on in the race I made a good start and managed to get by Ukyo." -explained Chadwick. "I managed to maintain the pace from there. It was quite tricky at the beginning of the race because it was quite greasy."
"I thought it was going to get dryer towards the end, so I started battling with Joey but then thought, ‘he’s got a bit more pace so it’s better to avoid battling too much and ruining my tires’. I settled into third. Joey’s pace was probably a bit quicker than mine at that stage in the race.”
After more rainfall overnight, the build-up to the grid was finally a drier one for the second race and all the drivers opted for slicks.
Joey Alders had a good getaway from pole position, unlike fellow front-row starter Pietro Fittipaldi who dropped to sixth. Jamie Chadwick, lining up in fourth, had another good start and immediately grabbed the third spot, also challenging Doohan for second in the opening lap, before the Australian retook his position one corner later.
Miki Koyama, starting from 11th, held her position throughout the initial stages.
Alders controlled the chasing Doohan, with Chadwick and Mazepin following closely.
On the fourth lap, though, Jack Doohan made the successful move for the lead at turn 4, quickly opening a gap on the Dutchman.
In the second half of the competition, the race really came alive, as Jamie Chadwick filled the rearview mirrors of point-standings leader Joey Alders. The BlackArts Racig team driver kept struggling and Chadwick built the pressure lap after lap: Jamie made several attempts at turn one, after long side-by-side battles. This allowed Nikita Mazepin and Ukyo Sasahara to join the party, making it a four-way battle.
Chadwick finally found a way past Alders for second, but it was Mazepin to ultimately benefit from the battle, as he had positioned for a better exit out of turn two and clinched the runner up spot. Chadwick, pushed on the outside of turn four, initially defended from Sasahara, but had to desist on lap 12.
With Jack Doohan running away into distance, the Australian took a back-to-back victory from Mazepin and Sasahara. But it was then Chadwick to claim the last podium position, due to the guest-starter status of the Japanese driver.
The young lady thus claimed her second podium of the weekend, despite not being fully satisfied by her result: “I’m a bit frustrated." - she said. "Yesterday I was happy to be on the podium, today I’m a little bit frustrated to miss out on P2. I had a good start and slotted into P3 after the first lap. I was quite comfortable there. Joey’s pace was a bit quicker in the early laps but quite quickly started to drop off so I was able to capitalize to the point where he was really struggling with the pace when I started to attack. He didn’t make life easier for me so when I tried to pass him, it allowed Nikita and Ukyo to close up, which then made it a four-way fight."
"It’s a bit frustrating to lose out to Nikita when I passed Joey as I think we had good pace to be comfortably in P2. You win some, you lose some, and I’m happy to be on the podium again." - she commented.
Fittipaldi finished fifth, ahead of Kanamaru, Yu Kuai and Alders. Miki Koyama was again tenth.
The third and final race of the Malaysian weekend immediately started with some drama, as front-row starter Ukyo Sasahara stalled on the grid, forcing every driver to take evasive action. Unfortunately, it was Jamie Chadwick to loose valuable time: the British lady, starting in fourth place and right behind the stricken Hitech car, masterfully avoided a crash but lost momentum and dropped to sixth, despite a good initial getaway.
Doohan had another perfect start and held the lead, ahead of Alders and Kanamaru, who were all starting from the right side of the grid.
Miki Koyama dropped from P9 to 10th but then completed a bold move on Deledda on the second lap at turn one, while Nikita Mazepin made up few places and completed the first laps in seventh place.
Jack Doohan pulled away and opened a safe gap on Alders and Kanamaru, with Smith and Yu Kuai under pressure from the attacks of Jamie Chadwick. Their battle once again allowed Mazepin and Fittipaldi to join the action and, in the last third of the race, Mazepin seized the opportunity to climb to sixth, with the Brazilian following closely and demoting Chadwick to eighth.
The Mazepin-Fittipaldi manouvre repeated itself soon after, when the Russian found a way past Yu Kuai, this time opening the door for Chadwick as well.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Mazepin's comeback was not over and he attacked and passed Tommy Smith for fourth.
Again, Fittipaldi and Chadwick followed the F2 racer like a shadow, gaining one more position.
In the final laps, Mazepin went on pursuit of Yu Kanamaru, trying to claim a remarkable podium. Despite closing in on the Japanese, Kanamaru's defensive driving ultimately denied Mazepin of a top-3 finish.
After 15 laps, Jack Doohan took a commanding hat-trick win that completed a perfect weekend for the Australian driver. Alders was again second, in front of a solid Kanamaru. Nikita Mazepin and Pietro Fittipaldi rounded out the top-5, with Jamie Chadwick right behind in sixth. Miki Koyama brought home the best result of her Malaysian weekend with a ninth place.
"Two podiums and lots of positives to take away from this weekend." - commented Chadwick: it was in fact her best round points-wise, as the British lady now sits 8th in the standings at 78 points. After the first few races, the W-Series champion is now looking fully at ease with the car and the team, and her latest performances might be a further confidence boost.
Joey Alders still leads with 215 points, but Jack Doohan is now only 15 points behind the Dutchman. The championship fight will reach its climax next weekend for the Asian F3 season finale at Buriram, Thailand.
In Jamie's words:
"You win some, you lose some, and I’m happy to be on the podium again."
Ph Credits: F3 Asian Championship