Fabienne Wohlwend ready to repeat first round's performance
We caught up with the fastest woman in Liechtenstein after what she described as "one of the best races of her career" at the W Series season opener: Fabienne Wohlwend took a brilliant podium in Austria and is hungry for more.
At the first round of W Series on the Styrian mountains, the three drivers on the podium were over the moon. No grumpy faces, regrets or feelings of 'what could have been' – like we often witness in F1's runner ups. The top-three finishers after 700 days of intense preparation were all aware that they had achieved something important in the first out of the eight rounds on the 2021 calendar. Alice Powell started where she had left off - on the top step. The Brit didn't have a proper chance at the championship in 2019 only due to a series of unfortunate rounds mid-season, but everyone on the grid in the series' second year knew that Powell – after impressive runs in Assen and a victory at the season finale in Brands Hatch - would have been in the game for the big prize. Sarah Moore, second across the line at the Red Bull Ring, was probably among the biggest surprises. A solid season in 2019, with a few great performances, suggested that Moore definitely had potential for top-five finishes – but her almost race-winning pace was one of the big stories of the first weekend, as she secured her maiden podium. Fabienne Wohlwend's third place doesn't come as a shock to the followers of the fastest woman in Liechtenstein: a World Champion in the 2018 Ferrari Challenge Finali Mondiali – the first woman to do so – and a very consistent presence in the top-5 in W Series' inaugural edition, Wohlwend has already clinched a pole position and a podium in the all-female championship. Yet, a difficult qualifying would put her in ninth position, forcing the 'Bunker Racing' driver to a fierce recovery during the race, "That was one of the best races of my career, I gained six positions from my starting place to finish on the podium" – she told us just ahead of the second round. "It was really amazing and I'm so happy with how it went". After the race, Wohlwend said to have excelled her expectations, having set fifth as the realistic goal. "I was a bit lucky in the final minutes, after the Safety Car", she added, but still she was able to perfectly position her car when chaos broke loose, kept her calm and never put a foot wrong. An experienced driver in GT cars, Wohlwend made a name for herself in the Ferrari Challenge after a season in the Italian F4 championship in 2016. In the most famous Italian brand's one-make series, Fabienne was again Vice-Champion in 2020, after an extremely competitive season that always saw the 23-year old battle for victories. When the pandemic hit, Wohlwend had just been testing at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, as she prepared for her title hunt in W Series. Then, the cancellation meant she would focus on her Ferrari Challenge program. In 2021, for the first time in four years, she wasn't at the start of the Ferrari campaign, due to her team's difficulties. Instead, she was back at the iconic and mighty Nürburgring Nordschleife, where she had escaped a frightening accident in 2019. At the Nürburgring-based NSL series, Wohwlend scored class podiums and joined WS Racing for the legendary 24 Hours race earlier this June. "Even if I was last racing in formulas at Brands Hatch – and it was a long time ago – I have been racing in many cars and series." – says Fabienne. "I raced in the Ferrari, I raced at the Nürburgring". "All racing helps – to be on track is always helpful, whether it be in single-seaters or GT cars", she elaborates, when asked if it could have helped her preparation for W Series. "I was actually surprised how quick I was to adapt back in the W Series car at Anglesey" – continues Fabienne. "I was happy with my pace pretty much straight away", she commented in regards to the collective test held a month before the curtain-raiser. Wohlwend, who has become a household name in her native Liechtenstein, is racing with a Swiss licence – but she feels that the fast and hilly Red Bull Ring can be considered a home race, with the small Principality bordering Austria and Switzerland. Together with a handful of other drivers, she had previously competed at the track located in the scenic Spielberg in both the Ferrari Challenge 488 GT3 Evo and the Audi TT Sport Cup car. Due to the strict Covid protocols, social bubbles were created and all the 18 W Series drivers were required to remain in Austria after the first race – as they mainly trained together and had some time to recover. With W Series now entering its first double-header of the series' history – if we don't count the Assen experimental reverse grid race – it will be really interesting to see how the drivers approach a new weekend on the same track, with a clearer idea of each one's potential. To shuffle the cards, though, it might be the weather, with darker skies and potential rain predicted. "I feel ready for the next race", she says confidently, eager to get back in her #5 Tatuus F3 car. "I'll try some more things, but we know the setup works. We had an issue in qualifying and we'll be working on that", she stressed. Indeed, if Wohlwend can improve her qualifying, she can likely become a podium regular with such collected performances – a skill that in a 8-event calendar can certainly pay dividends. What is evident is the confidence boost that the Ferrari Trento sparkling-wine shower gave Wohlwend, for the first time on the F1 podium. "It's great to have such a platform and how we've been welcomed by F1", she adds. But even though she concedes that the build up and the eyes of the world can certainly result in some pressure, Fabienne ensures that the nerves only last until the engine starts. "After that, it's a race like all the others." Round 2 of the 2021 W Series season gets underway on Friday 2 July, with the 30-minute free practice at 12:55 CEST and Qualifying at 16:30. The race is scheduled for Saturday at 16:30.