Feature: The best revelations of the season so far
With W-Series coming at the half-way point of its inaugural season, we took the time to evaluate the driver's performances so far, after the Italian round.
While it would be way too easy to write in length about the talent, maturity and consistency of Jamie Chadwick or Beitske Visser, here we would like to focus on those drivers that have surprised us with their speed in the first three rounds of the brand new all-female championship.
Also, we must understand that all the ladies on this year's season come from very different backgrounds; some with already big single-seater experiences, some rejoining the track after budget-imposed hiatuses and some others just starting to build their international racing resumé. It's a step-one campaign.
W-Series, contrariwise to what many might initially have thought, has instead delivered tense and closely competitive racing so far, with the top drivers having to push to their absolute limits to earn their positions. But, most importantly, it has represented an unprecedented learning opportunity for all the drivers, which I'm sure will come out of the inaugural season faster.
We think some of them especially deserved a praise for their first half of the season (and for answering our questions in Italy):
The Spanish 18-year old was among the highest ranked drivers on the W-Series shortlist, so it wasn't really a surprise to see her up in the charts. But third in the standings and straight away on the podium? That's pretty special in our opinion, taking into account her age and relatively small experience of formula cars. A former karting superstar, Garcia was signed by Renault Acadamy but was dropped after just eight months of Spanish F4. At 17, unable to fund her racing, her career could have been over.
Then she earned a spot on the W-Series grid, got to stand on the podium at Hockenheim and now sits third in the championship standings: she definitely qualifies for our half-season revelation list.
Racers: As one of the most competitive drivers in the series, how did you adapt so quickly to a relatively difficult car like this F3, given your somewhat short experience in cars?
Marta: Yeah, well it is true that I did just one year in Formula 4 in 2017. I did karting before and then nothing for one year and a half. So when I came here and I was fast it surprised me as well, to be with the top drivers. It's difficult to understand how to use your karting experience, because it's very different and you have to adapt to the car.
Tasmin Pepper was one of those driver that definitely wasn't on the international radar before the start of the W-Series selections. With mostly a background in the national Volkswagen Polo Cup, we didn't know what to expect from the 29-year old South African before the Hockenheim round.
Pepper impressed everyone by storming through the field to take an eight place finish in her first race. Notably, she bettered herself in Zolder, where she ran close to the top 5 to finish sixth and showed some remarkable racecraft.
Misano demonstrated the South African consistency, who crossed the line in 7th after having spent most of the race fighting with Marta Garcia.
She is so far our strongest candidate for "revelation of the year" at this point of the season.
Racers: Well done on another solid result, Tasmin. You're no more a surprise now, because I have to admit that at the beginning of the season I didn't really know your background so I didn't know what to expect but now finding you in the top 10 is no more a surprise.
Tasmin: Thank you! Well, like every race I'm making progresses. Okay, I had a step back this past Saturday, I didn't have the qualifying that I could have had as I got traffic in one lap and also I made a mistake in my other lap, so if I can better my qualifying I think my overall position at the end of the race is gonna be good.
My race pace is good and every race I'm making progresses, so that's what's important to me. I challenged Marta here and she's third in the championship, so it's not all that bad. I just have to move forward and make steps. I come from front-wheel drive cars so it's a big difference to these cars. Every time I get into the car I get happier and happier, more comfortable, and if at the end of the season I can get a podium I'll be very very happy.
R: What's your target for the standings at the end of the season?
T: You know, I'd want to be top five, that would be really good, but the girls at the front are really good and they've got a margin. Top ten would be awesome, I mean going into the season, I nearly didn't even make it in and now I'm getting points at every race and I've been consistent, which is important.
Some of the girls like Alice have made mistakes and that can happen at anyone at the front so as long as I stay on track and keep scoring points you never know what the end result is going to be. So yeah, top ten would be great, but top five would be even better.
After 4 years spent in the Japanese F4, Miki Koyama immediately found some speed in the new Tatuus F3 car. She was one of the protagonists of the Hockenheim round, where her progression up through the field certainly didn't go unnoticed as she went on to finish seventh with fastest lap of the race.
Zolder saw her taking more valuable points with a P8, while in Misano she made headlines by ending the Friday practice on top and then scoring her personal best result with fourth.
She has seemed so far the best series overtaker, pulling some remarkable moves on her competitors. Don't be fooled by her shy appearance: she's fierce on track.
Racers: Great job once again, Miki. You are among the drivers that also had the chance to drive in the Asian F3 series, which runs the same cars. Do you think it helped you in gaining some performance here?
Miki: Maybe. Even though I felt different in the car. Of course driving is always very helpful, because it's more tracktime, I can drive and learn so it's very helpful, but [the two series] have different tyres.
There's a lot of difference, the tyre is very important, and then the setup. But I gained a bit more confidence.
While it may seem curious to find a reserve driver in this list, we thought about adding Vivien because scoring points in your first full race weekend is always noteworthy.
This is the first season of single-seaters for the 18 year-old from Hungary, who finished second overall in the Audi Sport Seyffarth R8 LMS Cup last year. While she ultimately didn't make the final cut to be on the W-Series grid as a full time driver, Keszthelyi entered the championship in a reserve driver role and vigorously demonstrated her ability in the practice sessions where she performed testing duties.
In every session she proved to be fast enough and, when Emma Kimilainen was forced to sit out on Zolder's Saturday, she jumped in the car with a few minutes notice and with no second practice datas. Her race was ended by a crash in the early laps, so Misano was her first actual race weekend. And she delivered.
Keszthelyi is one of the youngest drivers on the grid, so a season as a reserve driver isn't the end of the world. We're sure we're going to hear more from her in the future. Maybe a contender in next year's W-Series?
Racers: Congratulations for your impressive race in Misano. Tell us a little bit more about your weekend.
Vivien: This was my first real race weekend here in Misano, even though I had the opportunity to race also in Zolder in the last race, but I missed FP2 and then I got involved in a crash so after five minutes my race was gone. So this was my first official race weekend for me, where I knew I was going to race since the beginning of the week. That's really good, because we could stay in the midfield and it's pretty nice because I could prove that I can be in the top 18 easily and I finished P10. So I'm really happy that I could keep my pace up with the others that are more experienced already.
We knew already in the beginning that the two reserve drivers had only one chance to participate in the race weekends which was the first practice session, and we had to take that chance to show what we can do. Luckily, W-Series saw that we had the pace to be in the series, so that's why we got the opportunity to race also this weekend in Misano and we're just praying for more opportunities in the future.
R: Do you plan to do more races extra W-Series this year?
V: It's really hard because the plan was to do some races but the problem is that it's in the same weekend of W-Series so it's impossible, but I will try to participate somewhere else.
R: What series was that?
V: It would be in a GT3 R8, the series not sure because we're still talking about it, but when I'll know where I'm going to race it'll be public for sure.
It's hard to believe the inaugural W-Series season is already at its half-way point; six races make for a short calendar. But, as controversial as it was, the whole championship feels like the biggest revelation. And we can't wait for Norisring.
Ph credits: Racers-Behindthehelmet.com