Nerea Marti beats reigning champion to maiden pole position in Miami
2021 best rookie Nerea Marti secures maiden pole position in Miami with late fastest lap, beating reigning champion Jamie Chadwick just before session-ending red flag.
The first day at Miami International Autodrome was about testing and exploring the limits of the track. On Saturday morning, it was time for serious business.
Returning drivers had the upper hand in practice, as experience paid off in the fast and tricky new Miami street circuit. A few drivers missed their braking points and explored the run off areas, but the only incident saw Juju Noda hitting the wall at the end of the session, while a previous red flag for a spin by Academy teammate Bianca Bustamante resulted in no contact with the barrier.
Alice Powell and Fabienne Wohwlend were the two drivers to beat on Friday, trading the fastest laps at the top of the leaderboard. Jamie Chadwick, Emma Kimilainen and Nerea Marti – unsurprisingly – also showed promising speed, while Abbi Pulling and Marta Garcia struggled a bit more and were out of position in the second half of the timing screen at the end of Day 1.
Qualifying went underway on another very warm Florida day; all eyes were on two-time champion Jamie Chadwick, making her debut for new American team Jenner Racing. Chadwick, looking to seal her eighth W Series pole position, waited in the pitlane until the 10 minute mark, as the others went out and Kimilainen set the early pace.
Alice Powell and Emma Kimilainen alternated as pace-setters, and Jamie Chawick joined them soon after in third place. Belén Garcia, who went out on new tyres early, was fourth fastest with a great lap that allowed the Catalan to remain among the highest placed drivers throughout the session. The only American in the field, Chloe Chambers, also joined her more experienced teammate in the top-five, after a turbo issue had relegated her down the field yesterday.
Most of the drivers dived into the pitlane to bolt on their set of new tyres and, just as times were starting to drop, Chambers spun at the chicane – but crucially kept it away from the barrier. A red flag was deployed to allow the Jenner Racing’s driver to turn around and rejoin.
Fabienne Wohlwend was the first of the drivers to significantly improve in the second half of the session and moved into fifth place.
Jamie Chadwick started her pole position assault and set fastest sector times, ultimately climbing to the top spot, three tenths faster than Alice Powell’s previous benchmark. Emma Kimilainen was next: the Finnish racer went purple in sector 1, but a mistake in sector 2 cost her over six tenths. Nevertheless, she improved to fourth.
Nerea Marti – who had narrowly avoided a collision with the wall in the opening minutes – got into the rhythm and led the pack with a 1:56.915, seconds away from a session-ending red flag that secured the Valencian her maiden W Series pole position.
Fabienne Wohlwend had in fact made a heavy impact with the wall with one minute left on the clock, bringing out the red flag. Wohlwend was luckily fine after the impact, but the CortDAO mechanics will have some extra work to do to fix the #5 bright pink Tatuus in time for today’s Race 1.
Marti will start from pole in Race 1, ahead of Jamie Chadwick – but the top two positions will be reversed for Race 2, having Chadwick set the second fastest lap in the 30-minute qualifying session.
“It was amazing, it’s my first pole in W Series. At the beginning it was a bit difficult because I didn’t find the feeling. I was focusing because I was a bit nervous at the beginning, but I’m happy” – said the Miami GP pole-sitter.
Alice Powell and Emma Kimilainen will get away from the second row, while Wohlwend will be fifth in both starting grids.
Powell was left very frustrated by her result, having set a strong first sector just before the red flag.
Jessica Hawkins managed to advance to sixth, ahead of Belén Garcia, Sarah Moore and Abbi Pulling – the latter showing promising signs after practice. Marta Garcia rounded out the top ten, while Chambers was the fastest of the rookies in a very good eleventh place. Beitske Visser is still struggling to return to her 2019 shape and preceded Abbie Eaton in 12th position. The 2022 newcomers are still trying to familiarize with the car and the track and were two seconds off the pace; Juju Noda struggled to set a representative lap time and spent most of the session in the pits presumably with technical issues.
Jessica Hawkins managed to advance to sixth, ahead of Belén Garcia, Sarah Moore and Abbi Pulling – the latter showing promising signs after practice. Marta Garcia rounded out the top ten, while Chambers was the fastest of the rookies in a very good eleventh place. Beitske Visser is still struggling to return to her 2019 shape and preceded Abbie Eaton in 12th position. The 2022 newcomers are still trying to familiarize themselves with the car and the track and were two seconds off the pace; Juju Noda struggled to set a representative lap time and spent most of the session in the pits presumably with technical issues.
The first race of the weekend – and of the 2022 season – will go green in a few hours’ time, at 14:30 local time (20:30 CEST).