Jamie Chadwick on the podium in opening F3 Regional race
Inaugural W Series champion Jamie Chadwick completed her first race in the F3 Regional European Championship with a stunning podium position after a drama-filled opening race at Misano.
After a long wait, the sophomore season of the Formula 3 Regional European Championship kicked off in Misano, Italy, with a slightly reduced entry list but with highly impressive names on the grid: Prema Powerteam lined up Arthur Leclerc - brother of the Ferrari F1 driver Charles - Gianluca Petecof, Oliver Rasmussen and 2019 W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, racing with a eye-catching black car sponsored by New Zealander supercar brand Rodin.
Van Amersfoort Racing, the team that supported Sophia Floersch's 2019 campaign in the same championship, was back in Misano with a one-car only operation, as Frenchmen Pierre Louis Chovet made his debut in the series. On the other hand, KIC Motorsport extended their team to 3 cars, with Finnish pair Konsta Lappalainen and Patrick Pasma being joined by Red Bull junior Juri Vips. Vips, who was strongly hinted to a F1 seat last year, was set to compete in the Japanese Super Formula championship, but had to rethink his 2020 plans due to the coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
Chadwick started her weekend in Misano with a disappointing first practice session, when she was not able to turn laps due to a technical issue on her #55 Tatuus T-318 - a car that the lady from Bath, UK, knows well having won races in both the W Series and F3 Asian championship. The second practice session showed Chadwick's real potential, as she was fourth fastest, only behind Leclerc and her Prema teammates.
Under very hot weather conditions in the Italian riviera, Chadwick set the seventh time in a tricky qualifying, as Arthur Leclerc clinched pole from 2019 Italian F4 vice-champion Gianluca Petecof.
"Tricky day but we’re off the mark", wrote Chadwick after Friday's sessions. "Starting both races tomorrow P7".
And when the 2020 Formula Regional season officially kicked off on Saturday, it was a drama-filled race throughout: when the lights went out, Leclerc and Petecof sprinted towards the first corner in a close fight for the lead, while Jamie Chadwick had an outstanding start from seventh and jumped to fifth in the opening metres.
At Curva del Rio, Vips dived on the inside of Petecof, igniting an incident between the two front row starters: Petecof hit Leclerc, who was out of the race. Rasmussen inherited the lead and Chadwick was able to avoid the crash unfolding in front of her, thus advancing into third.
The Safety Car was deployed straight away, as Petecof limped back into the pitlane with a puncture. When the race restarted, Danish driver Rasmussen led Pasma and Chadwick, with the British lady having to defend from the attacks of Konsta Lappalainen at Turn 2.
Lappalainen couldn't find a way past Jamie and was passed by Chovet around the outside of Curva della Quercia.
At the back of the field, Juri Vips was also on a charge to make up positions: the Estonian initially struggled to overtake Emidio Pesce - the 18-year old in his first ever F3 race - but then started to climb the order. Likewise, Gianluca Petecof started his recovery after the first lap accident and battled hard with Gillian Henrion.
Chovet was in full attack mode and tried to find a way past Chadwick in the fast section of Curvone. Jamie held on to her position, showing very confident defensive driving.
Chovet repeated himself in the following laps, but Chadwick always responded back - despite losing valuable time from the leaders.
Juri Vips moved up into fifth place and joined the battle for third: with 12 minutes left on the clock, Vips made an opportunistic move stick on Chovet and became Chadwick's main rival for the last podium position. The KIC Motorsport driver, though, quickly had to come to terms with Jamie Chadwick's robust defending: while trying to go alongside the W Series champion, he made a mistake at Turn 13 and spun off at high speed, ending his race in the gravel. The Safety Car was brought out once again, freezing a breath-taking opening Formula 3 Regional race.
With six minutes left on the clock, Rasmussen had another great restart, with Pasma comfortably in second and Jamie Chadwick third, now with a few metres of free air thanks to the close battles for fourth between Lappalainen and Petecof - the Brazilian driver able to recover up to fifth after his nightmare first lap. Petecof passed Lappalainen - whose KIC Motorsport's car would later come to a halt for a technical issue - and started chasing Chadwick.
Behind, a race-long fight between Pesce, Chovet and Henrion ended in another contact when the latter was off in the gravel at the penultimate corner. The Safety Car was out once again, this time bringing the action-packed first race to a premature end. Oliver Rasmussen went across the finish line to claim the first race victory of the season, ahead of Patrick Pasma and Jamie Chadwick. The 22-year old lady held on to the third place clinched on the first lap and started her 2020 F3 Regional European Championship campaign with a podium finish.
The second race of the Misano weekend will get underway on Saturday at 19:55 CET, with Arthur Leclerc again starting from pole and Jamie Chadwick eyeing a replay from seventh on the grid.