W Series: Alice Powell storms to pole position at Hungaroring
Alice Powell returned to pole position in another brilliant W Series qualifying that saw over five drivers alternating at the top of the timing screen; Powell seals Bristol Street Motors' first pole, leading Beitske Visser and Nerea Marti ahead of the Hungaroring race.
Over a year after Silverstone 2021, Alice Powell returned to pole position in W Series with an outstanding performance on Friday evening at Hungaroring, beating the near-perfect Beitske Visser by two tenths of a second in the closing minutes of another tightly fought qualifying session. In the morning practice session, Beitske Visser carried momentum after her maiden pole position at Circuit Paul Ricard a week ago, topping the timing screens at the 4.381km long Hungaroring race track that hosts W Series for the second time. Visser continued her top form in the 30 minute qualifying, but she had great competitions from Powell, Marti, Chadwick and Kimilainen. As the sun set over the home of the Hungarian Grand Prix, drivers went out on track for one of the most crucial sessions of the year, given the tight and twisty nature of the circuit located in Mogyorod, 20km North-East of Budapest. Belén Garcia set the pace after the first run, leading Beitske Visser and Emma Kimilainen - the latter returning to her usual speed after an unlucky round in France. Belén - who had just claimed her first podium in the series last week - improved again, but had her lap time deleted for track limits. Just like in practice, in fact, the session was dominated by track limits warnings and drivers had plenty of times cancelled. After 10 minutes, Alice Powell made her way up into first place and preceded Visser and Kimilainen - before the Finnish Puma driver claimed the lead. While her first lap was soon deleted, Emma could set another strong lap and she settled on top of the leaderboard. After receiving a 5 minute penalty in practice, Jessica Hawkins struggled again with track limits and couldn't get closer to the top five at the mid-way mark - which saw Kimilainen leading Powell, Chadwick, Visser and the highly impressive Tereza Babickova in fifth. The young Czech rookie made her first appearance in the top ten in practice and showed again some great pace around Hungaroring. The top three were separated by one hundredth of a second when most of the drivers returned to the pitlane to switch to a new set of tyres. And the final 10 minutes were indeed hectic, as times dropped and several racers alternated on top of the classification. Fabienne Wohlwend was the first to go out on the new Hankook tyre and moved into third; but in a fast sequence, Jamie Chadwick, Nerea Marti and Beitske Visser all set provisional pole - before the two-time champion became the first driver to go under the 1:44 mark. Abbi Pulling - also victim of many deleted times - found a clean run to slot into second - but positions changed by the second and, after another strong run by Visser, it seemed like Nerea Marti could have snatched pole, when Chadwick could not beat the Spaniard by 6 thousandths of a second. There was plenty of life in the Hankook tyres, though, as Visser put her sectors together and improved by over three tenths with 2 minutes to go. Nerea Marti improved but narrowly missed out on P1. It was looking good for Visser - before Alice Powell set a 1:42.986 and stormed to pole position in the closing stages - also aided by a yellow flag brought out by the contact between Bianca Bustamante and Bruna Tomaselli that went around at Turn 12. The track was clear again in the final seconds, but Jamie Chadwick could not do better than fifth after a slow first sector. It is Jamie's worst qualifying result of the season - and the first time outside the top three since the 2021 season opener in Austria. "It's really good to get the first pole for the Bristol Street Motors team" - commented Alice Powell, who has endured a tough first half of the season but now seems back to her top form. "We made quite a few changes from free practice to now and I think all the changes helped." "I'm really, really happy but tomorrow it's going to be wet if you go by the forecast, so we're going to have to see and it’s going to be pretty interesting. We were alright here last year, even though Jamie [Chadwick] had the legs on the rest of us in the race, but I think it was fairly close in qualifying" - she continued. Visser will start again from the front row and, after a highly competitive Friday, she might have a good race pace. "It was a good session" - Beistke explained. "The track was completely different to this morning, which is always the case after the F1 cars have driven, so you have to adapt to that." "I'm happy to be on the front row. Let's see what the weather will do tomorrow, but I'm sure it is going to be a good race. I don't mind whether it's dry or wet. The track itself is fine physically, but mentally it's a tough track and is very easy to make a mistake." Nerea Marti will share the second row with compatriot and fellow Valencian Marta Garcia. Marti conquered her first W Series podium in Hungaroring last year - and has her eyes set to climb the rostrum again. "I love this track", Nerea said. "It was a bit difficult because I had problems at the rear of the car, as I had a lot of oversteer." "We changed a lot of things before qualifying, but I still had oversteer. I'm happy with qualifying. I need to get points to be in second position in the championship because Jamie [Chadwick] is too far away. I'll try tomorrow to take as many points as possible. Let's focus on tomorrow and maybe it will be raining." Weather forecasts were in fact one of the biggest talking points on Friday, with rain showers predicted for Saturday. The last wet race in W Series was claimed by Finnish srat Emma Kimilainen, with a masterful drive at Spa Francorchamps in 2021. Emma, though, will only start eighth after a difficult second half of the session. While leading at the mid-way point, the PUMA driver struggled to improve in the final minutes and had traffic in the final sector on her last attempt. Abbi Pulling managed to move into sixth and will precede Belén Garcia - another driver that shouldn't be counted out for the battle for second in the standings. Fabienne Wohlwend could be a contender in wet conditions and will line up alongside Jessica Hawkins on the fifth row. Sarah Moore had a brilliant run in practice but she could not replicate it in qualifying; she will start P11, ahead of the best rookie Tereza Babickova. Just like her PUMA teammate, Babickova could not improve in the final minutes after spending all session well within the top ten, so we can expect the Czech driver to battle for her first points tomorrow. Abbie Eaton will line up in P13, alongside Chloe Chambers; the American is making good progress and, despite a small off track excursion at the final corner, she finished ahead of Bruna Tomaselli, Juju Noda, Emely De Heus and Bianca Bustamante. Noda confirmed her positive trend in the final minutes when, despite not setting a significant time in the first 15 minutes, she set a 1:44.851 which is less than two seconds adrift pole position. The sixth race of the 2022 season will get underway tomorrow, Saturday 30th July, at 14:40 local time. Weather will be a big factor, but there is no doubt that the 18 talented W Series drivers will once again deliver brilliant racing.