Pulling, Rdest and Wood to join W Series collective test
2019 W Series drivers Gosia Rdest and Caitlin Wood will join the pre-season collective test of the all-female F3 championship at Anglesey this week, with F4 upcoming star Abbi Pulling set to get her first outing in the series. Tasmin Pepper misses the test due to travel restrictions.
W Series gets ready to kick off its 2021 season at Anglesey Circuit, Wales, 646 days after its 2019 season finale.
At the pre-season collective test, 20 drivers will hit the 3.4km racetrack on Monday: 17 of the 18 drivers confirmed, plus three additions: 2019 drivers Gosia Rdest and Caitlin Wood have in fact been confirmed to take part in the testing days, while South African Tasmin Pepper won't be able to join the rest of the team due to a recent change in the UK red list travel destinations.
Pepper is currently trying to find a solution to her route in time for the first race of the season, which has been moved to Austria following a shake-up in the Formula 1 calendar.
28-year old Gosia Rdest has been recently competing in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup and claimed her first podium in the series last week at Magny Cours. She was 14th in the 2019 standings, having scored points in Hockenheim and Assen, where she was sixth.
Australian Caitlin Wood, on the other hand, was left on the sidelines in 2020 and missed out on an automatic entry in the W Series by only one point in 2019. Just like Rdest, she finished in the points-paying positions in Hockenheim and Asses, with a fifth place as her best result in the Netherlands.
Rdest and Wood - the two best placed drivers not getting a 2020 entry - will then get another run in the Tatuus T-318 Formula 3 cars, hopefully with the chance to join the grid in 2021 as full time drivers.
Other series newcomers will be Abbie Eaton, Ayla Agren, Bruna Tomaselli, Belén García, Nerea Martí and Irina Sidorkova.
With W Series confirming all its 2020 drivers for the following season, no selection test went underway to assess potential new entries. At Anglesey, though, we will get the chance to see British Formula 4 up-and-coming star Abbi Pulling getting her first outing in the fully-female series.
Pulling started her second season in Formula 4 last weekend at Thruxton and has consistently shown pace to battle for victories in testing. The 18-year old Brit - who is coached by W Series race winner Alice Powell - already has experience of the Tatuus F3 car under her belt, as she entered the 2020 Imola round of the Formula Renault Eurocup and completed a testing program in the same car used in W Series.
So far, it is not clear if the three invited drivers will get a chance to qualify for the championship.
In Anglesey, the series will also test new distinct liveries to make sure the drivers will be easily recognizable. In 2019, five different colour schemes were assigned each race to the drivers - who also had names and numbers for better identification.
"I am overjoyed that the waiting is finally over and our drivers are back on track for W Series' second season" - commented W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir.
"The postponement of our second season actually gave us time to accelerate our plans, and we return bigger and better in 2021 and ready for a new era of racing. Today we are just 40 days away from the first race of our landmark new partnership with Formula 1, which demonstrates not only the power of our mission but the excitement of our racing too."
"This week's pre-season test is essential preparation for the challenges that our drivers will face this season, and a reminder of how tough the season is going to be. I know that every one of them is relishing the prospect of getting behind the wheel of our cars and bringing the W Series mission back to life again."
Series returning champion Jamie Chadwick was one of the few drivers to actually get seat time in the Tatuus F3 car in 2020: the 22-year old Williams F1 Driver Development Program competed in the Formula Regional European Championship for team Prema and, even though she endured a character-building season, will enter her second W Series season with plenty of mileage under her belt.
The young British driver will have another busy season, as she also shares driving duties with rally star Stephane Sarrazin in the Veloce Racing entry in the brand new all-electric Extreme E championship.
"Through my work with Prema in the Formula Regional European Championship last year and my development driver role with the Williams F1 team, I have learnt so much about how to approach races and I hope that will make the difference this year." - said Chadwick. "Racing at some of the best circuits in the world will be great, but winning at them will be even better and that’s the aim."
"It is important that I get off to a fast start in Austria next month, so this week's pre-season test is vital." - she added. "I have driven at Anglesey once before – in British F3 in 2017 – and the track is perfect for testing so I am sure we will all learn a huge amount over the five days.
"Retaining the W Series title is the goal this season, but it will be tougher than in 2019. The grid has more depth this year and the likes of Beitske Visser have gained lots of valuable experience in other series since the last W Series race nearly two years ago. Beitske will push me hard and be one of my main rivals for the title again."
Dutchwoman Beitske Visser, 26, was Chadwick's main title contender in 2019 and claimed the 2020 W Series Esports League in dominant fashion. Visser, a BMW factory driver, has also been selected to be part of the all-female project Richard Mille Racing in endurance racing, where she shares the Oreca 07 LMP2 prototype with two other female racing stars: Tatiana Calderon and Sophia Floersch.
In 2020, Visser entered the European Le Mans Series and made history in September when she completed the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans in the top-10, at her first participation. In 2021, she stepped up to the World Endurance Championship, always with the French outfit.
"I can’t wait for the 2021 W Series season to begin and this week's pre-season test in Wales is the most crucial part of my preparation." - said Visser, who has never been to Anglesey and had to rely on her peculiar simulator skills to prepare for the 5-day test.
"Going back to single seaters will require a change of driving style but I'm confident I'll be up to speed within a few laps. From there, the goal will be to complete as many laps as possible this week so that, when the first race of the season arrives in Austria next month, I can continue where I left off in 2019."
But Chadwick and Visser will most certainly won't be the only contenders to the 2021 title: drivers of the likes of Emma Kimilainen, Alice Powell, Marta Garcia, Fabienne Wohlwend - and possibly some of the newcomers - will certainly try to hunt down the reigning champion and follow in her footsteps.
Despite the Anglesey test being closed to the media, we will try to report the latest on the W Series testing week.