W Series: Alice Powell wins home race at Silverstone and takes championship lead
Alice Powell took her second win of the season – and a career-first in front of a full-house of spectators at the British GP – after overtaking Fabienne Wohlwend with 5 minutes to go, as the driver from Liechtenstein still claims her best result to date in W Series.
For the third time in 2021, the pole-sitter took home the victory – but it was everything but easy for Alice Powell at Silverstone, as the British star had to pass a very fast Fabienne Wohlwend to finally secure the third round of the championship.
Powell and Wohlwend’s battle had already started in a very tight qualifying on Friday: the two drivers traded the fastest time on the timing screens for the whole second part of the session, often beating the previous benchmark by a few thousands of a second. It was Alice Powell who came out on top of the 30-minute qualifying yesterday – but the lady from Liechtenstein was not ready to give up the fight easily.
In a sunny Silverstone, the 18 drivers lined up on the grid with a brand-new first row, followed by championship leader and reigning champion Jamie Chadwick and Emma Kimilainen.
Beitske Visser – who has missed the WEC 6H of Monza due to her W Series commitments – had technical issues and her mechanics were forced to perform an engine change a few hours from the race start. The MForbes Motorsport driver – a championship challenger in 2019 – was still at the bottom of the points’ table with zero points and qualified in 5th place as the Dutchwoman was committed to start anew at the British GP.
At the race start, Alice Powell was not as fast as Fabienne Wohlwend off the line, and the Bunker Racing’s driver went into the lead with a bold move into Turn 2. Powell had to settle for second, with Chadwick third and Kimilainen fourth. Nerea Marti had a great start and was P5, followed by Sarah Moore and Beitske Visser – the latter having lost two positions.It was a difficult start also for her MForbes Motorsport’s teammate Ayla Agren, who struggled to get off the line for the third time this year. Miki Koyama also had technical issues throughout the weekend, with her mechanics working on her car throughout the morning.
On the second lap, Alice Powell closed in on Wohlwend – but both the leading drivers quickly opened a gap from third-placed Jamie Chadwick. The 2019 champion had a rather lonely first half of the race: she couldn’t catch up with Powell and Wohlwend, but was safely ahead of Kimilainen, Marti and Moore, as they battled hard for fourth. The 31-year old Finn ran over debris at Turn 1, but with no consequences.
Wohlwend set the fastest lap of the race – but Powell immediately responded back one lap later, in what looked like another replay from qualifying.
Belen Garcia, one of the most impressive rookies in Austria, made a mistake into Becketts and left the door open to Abbie Eaton. After a great chase down Hangar Straight, Eaton attacked and completed a stunning move around the outside at Stowe. This battle meant that Jessica Hawkins and Vicky Piria had also joined the party for the final points: Piria has shown solid improvements throughout the first two races and aimed for her first points of the season, but then had to watch her rear-view mirrors from Bruna Tomaselli.
The only American on the field, Sabré Cook, has struggled in qualifying this year but her practice pace was encouraging for the remainder of the weekend. Cook was already the protagonist of a great charge in the second Austrian race, and she moved from last to P15 in the opening laps of the British round.
Mid-way through the race, positions seemed settled, with Powell looking for the right opportunity to launch an attack on Wohlwend and a solitary Jamie Chadwick in yet another podium-scoring performance. On lap 10, though, the Safety Car was deployed and changed the course of the race when Japanese racer Miki Koyama came to a stop at the outside of Turn 2.
It wasn’t great news for Bunker Racing’s Fabienne Wohlwend, whose tyres were starting to drop.
Just one lap later, the green flag was back in the air and all the cars had a clean restart: Wohlwend held position from Powell, while Emma Kimilainen managed to get a lot closer to Jamie Chadwick.
Vicky Piria overtook Jessica Hawkins for eleventh place. Abbie Eaton – at her first season in single seaters despite the extensive knowledge of GT and touring cars – attacked series debutant Abbi Pulling, but the latter defended masterfully.
With five minutes to go, Fabienne Wohlwend went deep into Vale corner and gave Powell that chance that the 28-year old ace was looking for: Alice dived down the inside at Club and made it into the lead under the eyes of the British fans.
In the closing minutes, all the eyes were on the equally exciting battle for sixth: Sarah Moore was under pressure from Beitske Visser and Abbi Pulling. After half-a-lap of side-by-side racing, Visser made the move stick, as Moore kept the young rookie behind.
On the final lap, Belen Garcia was spun around by Jessica Hawkins at Turn 5 and had to retire – losing valuable points. The incident is likely to trigger a post-race investigation that could potentially shake up the final point-scorer.
After a very fought race at the top, Alice Powell brought home the sought-after victory on home soil, beating Fabienne Wohlwend by 2 seconds across the line. For Wohlwend, it is her second podium of the season and her best finish in W Series, which puts the 2020 Ferrari Challenge vice-world champion in fourth place in the standings.
"It's an amazing feeling to win on home soil." – said Powell.
"I've experienced lots of British Grand Prix weekends but never from this side and I want to thank every single fan out there for the amazing support. To race and win in front of this crowd is the stuff that dreams are made of and it was extra special to have my family here to see it."
"It wasn't the best of starts for me, I got a bad launch and was behind Fabienne [Wohlwend]. But I knew I had the pace and was faster, and luckily she made an error which let me sneak through and I managed to bring it home from there."
"It's hard to lose a race like that, but I'm still happy." – commented the always cheerful Wohlwend with mixed-emotions. "I got a mega start and it was so much fun to be up there battling with Alice [Powell]. She kept the pressure on, and after the safety car went in I just missed the corner and lost a front wheel on the outside."
"Alice was super quick and it was a great drive from her. The season isn't over and my win will come. It feels amazing to be back racing in front of this crowd, and I can't wait for the rest of the season now."
While Jamie Chadwick’s third place is not the result she was after, it still allows the Williams F1 development driver to score big points for the championship and her second podium of the season in a race where she simply didn’t have the pace to challenge the leading duo.
"It was a bit of a quiet race for me in third", added the reigning champion. "I didn't have the pace to challenge the girls at the front who were both super fast. I'm happy to be on the podium, even though I would have loved to have won at home. But I'm just speechless looking at this crowd and the support for us, I've never seen anything like this."
"The grid is very competitive this year and it's really tough to win, but points make prizes. I would have loved the big points today, but we'll keep chipping away in pursuit of the ultimate prize which is the championship." – concluded Chadwick.
The always solid Emma Kimilainen was fourth across the line, preceding Nerea Marti – at her first top-five in her W Series career – and Beitske Visser, who scored her first points this season after a nightmare double-header in Austria.
Sarah Moore was seventh and her consistency at the top has been one of the main stories of these opening rounds. Abbi Pulling completed a stunning debut with eighth place, but is currently not clear yet who will drive the second Puma car into the next rounds.
Abbie Eaton and Jessica Hawkins rounded out the top 10. Vicky Piria was P11, ahead of Bruna Tomaselli and Marta Garcia. The Spaniard – one of the 2019 front runners and race winner – has had a very bumpy start to her season with several technical issues and misfortune.
Sabré Cook recovered to P14 after a start from last on the grid and led previous round’s sensation Irina Sidorkova and Ayla Agren at the chequered flag.
Alice Powell reclaimed the lead in the standings with 54 points, 6 points clear of Jamie Chadwick (48). Sarah Moore remains in third (36), while Wohlwend’s brilliant performance gains her fourth place at 34 points.
The fourth round of the season will come as early as In two week’s time, as W Series will head to Hungaroring.