W Series announces five new entries, four returnees
Five rookies will enter the 2022 W Series season, as the all-female championship confirmed its drivers' line up following the Barcelona collective tests. Alongside the new entries, four returning drivers join the 2021 top-8.
Two weeks after the collective tests at Circuit de Montmelo, Barcelona, the all-female championship W Series announced its 2022 drivers' line up, including five rookies and four returning drivers, who will join the already confirmed top-eight from the 2021 standings.
A pool of 15 hopefuls were invited to Arizona in March and tested F4-spec machinery at Inde Motorsports Ranch, where they got their first taste of the W Series environment.
Seven drivers then advanced to the second test at Barcelona, where they had the opportunity to compare their data with the nine confirmed racers and five returning drivers - including 2019 driver Megan Gilkes.
The three-day test meant that W Series' Racing Director Dave Ryan could collect enough data to make a decision: five rookies will make their W Series debut at the Miami Grand Prix in May, joining the field of eight qualified drivers and four returnees.
The two youngest of the lot are 16-year-old Juju Noda and Bianca Bustamante, 17. Both are from Asia - further proof of a W Series international expansion.
Juju - daughter of former F1 and Indycar driver Hideki Noda - will therefore make her F3 racing debut after two seasons in Danish F4. Bustamante, from the Philippines, impressed in testing and makes the switch from karting to single-seaters after taking part in the FIA Women In Motorsport Girls On Track Rising Stars programme.
Just like Bustamante, Tereza Babickova, 18 from Czech Republic, is also switching to racing cars after a remarkable career in international karting.
The two remaining rookies already have F4 experience - respectively in the US and Spanish championship: Chloe Chambers will make sure there will be another American on the grid after Shea Holbrook and Sabré Cook in the previous editions, while Dutchwoman Emely De Heus steps up to Formula Regional machinery after winning the Female Trophy in F4 Spain.
Both had tested F3 regional cars before the W Series collective test and had consistent runs that ultimately convinced former McLaren Sporting Director Dave Ryan.
Belén García narrowly missed out on an automatic qualification after several point-scoring rounds in 2021 and a near-podium, but strong performances in Arizona and on her home track meant that she will return to the all-female championship - alongside a part time campaign in Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine.
Race winner and multiple podium-finisher Marta Garcia also returns to W Series, having endured an unlucky season in 2021. Drivers that impressed at Barcelona also include Briton Jessica Hawkins - eleventh in the 2021 championship standings - and Bruna Tomaselli, who had a strong start of her rookie season as Jamie Chadwick's teammate at Veloce Racing but then slipped to 15th in the final classification.
They will thus form the 17-driver line-up for the 2022 season, while a 18th and final slot on the grid will again be reserved for a pool of rotating reserve drivers that will be announced in due course.
Irina Sidorkova, 18, finished ninth in 2021 despite missing three rounds - and had a secure seat as a member of the Academy programme. The Russian athlete was not part of the collective tests and W Series confirmed with today's statement that she will not race in the series until further notice.
With nine teams being announced at Barcelona, almost every team has already confirmed one of its drivers. The remaining drivers/teams pairings will be announced in due course.
2022 W Series Line Up:
Tereza Babickova, CZE, 18
Bianca Bustamante, PHI, 17
Jamie Chadwick, UK, 23
Chloe Chambers, USA, 17
Emely De Heus, NED, 19
Belén García, ESP, 22
Marta Garcia, ESP, 21
Jessica Hawkins, UK, 27
Emma Kimiläinen, FIN, 32
Nerea Martí, ESP, 20
Sarah Moore, UK, 28
Juju Noda, JPN, 16
Alice Powell, UK, 29
Abbi Pulling, UK, 18
Bruna Tomaselli, BRA, 24
Beitske Visser, NED, 26
Fabienne Wohlwend, LIE, 24