Jamie Chadwick takes maiden win in Asian F3
Jamie Chadwick rounded out her Asian F3 campaign by taking her first victory in the series, after a stellar weekend in Thailand.
Only one week away from the penultimate round in Sepang, Malaysia, the Asian Formula 3 series rounded out its 2020 season in Buriram, Thailand, as Dutchman Joey Alders was crowned champion after the three races held at the recently-built Chang International Circuit.
Jamie Chadwick was the only female driver on track: Tatiana Calderon contested the first three rounds of the championship with Mexican squad SevenGP, but was then forced to drop out for other sporting commitments. The Colombian was in fact in Barcelona, supporting the Alfa Romeo F1 Team during the official car launch and pre-season testing, as the Swiss outfit announced that will renew and expand the partnership with Calderon for 2020.
Miki Koyama entered last week's Malaysian round, but wasn't back for the season finale.
Chadwick, who also announced this week that she will take part in the Formula E Marrakech rookie tests with Panasonic Jaguar Racing, started the Thai weekend with a very promising pace in testing, clocking the second fastest time of the day on Friday. She later finished 5th in the official practice and took P3 in the first qualifying session.
Under scorching temperatures at the Thai venue, Jack Doohan had a perfect start and immediately opened up a gap on the rest of the field, leaving the battles for positions behind. His championship rival Joey Alders was the biggest mover, gaining three places from his fifth grid slot and promptly moving up into second place. Jamie Chadwick, after a initial great getaway that had brought her temporarily up into second, had to give up the runner up place to Alders in the opening corners.
Another driver on the move was Russian F2 racer Nikita Mazepin, who came back from seventh on the grid and quickly attacked Yu Kuai and then Jamie Chadwick for third.
Series newcomer Mikhael Belov, a regular frontrunner in the 2019 Italian Formula 4 championship, emerged in the midfield and moved ahead of Pietro Fittipaldi for seventh. The Brazilian fought back and the pair started an exciting battle which was also joined by Australian Tommy Smith soon after. Belov ultimately won the battle and proceded to overtake Kanamaru for sixth on lap 7.
With Doohan disappearing into distance and Alders trying to pick up the pace, Chadwick lost and then regained a place on Deledda, before cutting the gap to Mazepin and tried to find a way past the Russian, who had seemingly found a cliff in his tyre's performances.
Italian Hitech driver Deledda dropped back into the clutches of Fittipaldi and Belov, settling for seventh.
Jamie Chadwick emerged as one of the fastest drivers in the second half of the race, as the British driver had better managed her tyre degradation.
With one lap left on the counter, Doohan had a safe margin of 6.7 seconds over his championship rival before disaster happened: his right-rear tyre puncured, hindering his perfect race and losing him position after position. Alders sprinted past and crossed the finish line to take the victory, while Mazepin and Chadwick fought hard for second: Jamie made a move stick on the last lap, but the Hitech driver switched back and claimed second place.
Fittipaldi was fourth, ahead of series rookie Belov. The unlucky Doohan limped back to eighth.
After the race, though, Nikita Mazepin received a five seconds penalty for an avoidable collision, which dropped him down to fifth and elevated Jamie Chadwick to second place.
It was her third podium after the two third-place finishes in Sepang last week.
“Starting third, ideally I wanted to have a better first few laps but struggled a fair bit for pace." - commented Chadwick about her performance. "I think in the midst of the race in the early laps we didn’t quite have the edge over the others, but came on really strong at the end so we were able to close up to Nikita and the other guys in the second half of the race."
"On the last lap, I had a go to get past Nikita. I made it past and then we had a bit of side-by-side into Turn 4, but I got lucky to be up here with Jack getting his puncture on the last lap. I’ll take it, but I think there’s still a lot to do.”
As per the series regulations, the second race featured a grid determined by the fastest laps set in Race 1. Despite his last lap drama, Doohan earned the pole position for the second race, with guest driver Ukyo Sasahara lining up alongside him on the front row.
Alders and Chadwick shared the second row for the penultimate race of the season.
Jack Doohan made another brilliant start from pole, again pulling away from the rest of his competitors, led by Sasahara and Chadwick. The British lady had another good start off the line but, just like the first race, engaged in a fierce battle with her competitive opponents.
It was Brazilian Fittipaldi to move up into third after the first lap, following a firm manouvre at turn 3.
Belov, on fresh tyres, also became a threat to Chadwick's fourth place, while both Alders and Mazepin had to recover from bad starts.
Fittipaldi closed in on Sasahara, but had to watch his mirrors from the return of Chadwick and Belov. With the three-way battle unfolding for third place, Doohan and Sasahara extended their gaps in the leading positions.
When the tyres started to lose their edge in the second half of the race, Belov attacked Chadwick and passed the Brit with a daring move at turn 4. Jamie fought back, but the Ruassian made it stick in the following corners and went on to chase Fittipaldi. The Brazilian, struggling for grip, could not hold the Russian for long either but, with four minutes left on the clock, Belov was handed a 10 seconds time penalty that effectively ruled him out from the top positions.
With Alders not doing better than sixth and Jack Doohan showing again commanding pace in the lead, everything suggested that the battle for the Asian F3 title was to be extended to the last race of the season. With few kilometres left, though, Doohan slowed down, incredibly picking-up another right-rear puncture. When he pitted and retired, the series crown had eventually slipped from his hands and delivered to Joey Alders, who, taking advantage of Sasahara's non-scoring status, became the 2020 Asian F3 Champion.
As the Japanese crossed the line in first but invisible for championship calculations, Chadwick fought with Fittipaldi in the final corners for the victory, but the Brazilian took the checquered flag to claim his maiden win.
It was a short celebration, though: Fittipaldi received a post-race five seconds penalty for non respecting track limits and handed the golden trophy to Jamie Chadwick.
The inaugural W Series champion inherited her first victory, after having endured similar fate in the Abu Dhabi round.
“It was a busy race for me." - she said. "We had good pace all the way through. I battled with Pietro for most of the race. I knew Belov had a new tyre on so it was hard to keep him behind. Fortunately, he had a 10 second penalty, so that gave us a position, and then obviously Jack’s issue gave us another one. I’m a bit lucky but hopefully we can have a good afternoon and take a few more podiums.”
With the victory, Chadwick scored 25 points and moved ahead of Sebastian Fernandez, Pietro Fittipaldi and Devlin DeFrancesco in the points standings.
Fittipaldi's bad luck continued into the third and final race of the weekend, as he was forced into the pitlane for a technical issue right ahead of the start.
Ukyo Sasahara, starting from pole position alongside Jamie Chadwick, was faultless as the lights went out and immediately checked out. Like in a replay from the previous races, Chadwick had a good sprint but soon came under threat from the attacks of Doohan, who took advantage from the slipstream and moved past Jamie on the opening lap.
Paul Wong spun coming off of turn 3, bringing out a quick yellow flag but rejoined.
His mistake proved costly though, as his class competitor Luedi gained a significant margin, ultimately winning the class round and championship.
Throughout the first part of the race, Chadwick led a seven-cars train in an incredibly tight field. Mazepin, once again forced to a comeback through the field, battled for fourth with Chinese driver Yu Kuai, who had a very positive start of his race. Kuai, after a determined defensive drive, went wide at turn 5 and allowed the Russian past. Compatriot Mikhael Belov followed closely and grabbed fifth, trailed by Tommy Smith.
The battle between the two Russians then unfolded, with Mazepin visibly waving on the straight towards turn 4 in a desperate attempt to defend from Belov. This manouvre costed Mazepin a five-seconds time penalty for driving standards.
The battle for fourth played in favour of Chadwick, who once again had perfectly managed her tyres and started to lap very competitively with approximately 10 minutes left on the clock. With Ukyo Sasahara never under pressure for the lead, Chadwick reduced the gap to Doohan, for what would have been effectively a battle for the lead.
With not enough laps left, Sasahara crossed the line in first but it was Jack Doohan to finally claim the victory. Jamie Chadwick took home another impressive second place, reducing her gap to just 1.4 seconds to the Australian on the line.
Series newcomer Belov took his first podium in third, ahead of Yu Kanamaru and Tommy Smith. Joey Alders, already crowned champion, crossed the finish line in seventh.
“Actually, it was a bit of a quiet race for once in the championship." - joked Chadwick after the podium. "I got a good start and slotted into P3. Jack got a better run than me into Turn 4 and managed to get past. We lacked a little bit of pace at the beginning of the race but managed to find our way and slot into third for the majority of the race. It’s been a good end to the year.”
By scoring two second places and a race victory, Chadwick collected the most points out of the entire field in Buriram and officially finished fourth in the drivers' standings, bagging 10 FIA Super Licence points. At the end of a remarkable Asian Formula 3 season, Chadwick proved all the W Series critics wrong and showed her pace in a competitive mixed championship. She will come back to defend her W Series title and will likely add one more championship to her summer racing schedule, in order to maximise her seat time.
Chadwick, 22 from Bath, UK, becomes the closest female driver to a FIA Super Licence.
In Jamie's words:
"It’s been a good end to the year.”