W Series: Jamie Chadwick endures pressure from Pulling and Powell, wins 3 out 3
Jamie Chadwick endured the pressure of compatriots Abbi Pulling and Alice Powell in a tyre-management race at Barcelona to score her 9th win out of 17 races in W Series' history.
Another perfect weekend and 75 points collected out of 75 available after the first three races: Williams F1 Team's junior driver Jamie Chadwick couldn't have asked for a better start of her third W Series campaign, as she claimed yet another victory in a hot Barcelona on Saturday. After making the most out of some chaotic races in Miami, Chadwick was the class of the field in Barcelona and topped every session, signing a grand chelem with pole position, victory, fastest lap and every lap led. In qualifying, Chadwick was able to put in a late lap on her birthday to beat rivals Alice Powell and Abbi Pulling - in a closely fought session that saw 10 cars finishing within one second to the pole time. On Saturday, on the other hand, it was a three-way fight for the win, with the three British racers breaking away early and lapping within hundredths of a second lap after lap. When the lights went out at 2.40pm local time, Chadwick had a great getaway and cleared the competition at Turn 1, while Abbi Pulling was able to move ahead of her coach and mentor Alice Powell. Emma Kimilainen leap-frogged Beitske Visser, but the Finnish star couldn't then make further progress. Kimilainen's weekend was hampered on Friday when she suffered a sensor failure that resulted in the engine delivering about 50% of its power. The flying Finn went out in qualifying with limited setup knowledge and found herself only in fifth place after struggling on the first run. Having impressed in practice on her home track, Belén Garcia had high hopes for the race, but the Catalan lost a few places at the start and battled with the CortDAO cars around seventh place. On the first lap, Tereza Babickova dropped to last after almost tangling with the Academy drivers, as the rookie drivers battled in the second half of the pack. The Czech racer had received a grid drop that put her 16th on the grid after a contact with Juju Noda at Miami. Bianca Bustamante made a small mistake and put a wheel off track - allowing Chloe Chambers to make an opportunistic move for 14th place. After the first few laps, everyone went into tyre management mode and positions were mostly settled: Nerea Marti was the biggest mover, having gained three places to advance to 8th from 11th on the grid. The Spaniard was greatly disappointed on Friday, after an early spin in the gravel that brought out the red flag meant she effectively missed the 30 minute practice session. With limited knowledge of the new Toyota-powered cars, Marti went into qualifying with no data and found herself out of position. Abbi Pulling tried to get closer to Chadwick, but a small lock-up allowed Powell back in the fight. While the three remained most of the race within a one second margin to each other, there was never a clear passing opportunity for any of them - with the Barcelona new track layout not featuring big braking zones. The most exciting duel saw Jessica Hawkins and Sarah Moore fighting for the final point-scoring position: after a great wheel-to-wheel action, Moore made the move stick at Turn 2 and moved into P10 on lap 7. Similarly, Juju Noda and Chloe Chambers battled for the highest placed rookie position in P13. The 16 year-old Japanese driver seemed a lot more comfortable compared to her debut in Miami and was able to hold off the attacks of the 17 year-old American. In the final 10 minutes of the race, Jamie Chadwick had to endure the pressure of Pulling and manage her tyres at the same time. With not a single mistake from any of the top-three, though, Chadwick crossed the finish line to claim her third win of the season - out of three races - and her ninth out of 17 races in W Series' history. An over 50% success rate.
Abbi Pulling equalled her best result in the series with second place and stepped back on the W Series podium after the 2021 season finale at COTA.
The young Racing X driver was the first recipient of the Hankook Driver of the Day award.
The Barcelona result elevates Pulling to second in the championship, five points clear of Alice Powell - who is the only driver other than Chadwick to finish twice on the podium this year.
Powell reported issues with a long brake pedal in qualifying which carried on into the race.
Emma Kimilainen was in damage limitation mode and still scored good points with fourth place, while Beitske Visser rounded out the top five after a fierce battle with the charging Marta Garcia in the closing laps. Marta - followed closely by Belén Garcia and Nerea Marti - was right in Visser's gearbox but couldn't ultimately make a move.
With eighth place, Nerea Marti drops to fifth in the drivers' standings, but she remains at a 4-point distance to Visser.
Fabienne Wohlwend had a bit of a lonely race in ninth position but scored her first points of the season after an incredibly unlucky start at Miami. After overtaking Hawkins, Sarah Moore gained over 10 seconds to Wohlwend, but she came a few laps' short to attempt a pass on the driver from Liechtenstein.
Jessica Hawkins and Bruna Tomaselli missed out on points with P11 and P12; the Brazilian showed good speed in practice but was hampered by a clutch issue in qualifying that meant she spent most of the final run in the pits. With limited passing opportunities, Tomaselli's race was eventually compromised.
With an encouraging 13th place, Juju Noda was the best placed rookie at Barcelona. She preceded Emely De Heus and Bianca Bustamante. The latter had to defend from Abbie Eaton - who also had an unlucky qualifying marked by technical troubles and could not make up for it in the race.
Tereza Babickova rounded out the field, as Chloe Chambers spun and ended in the gravel at turn 9 on the final lap while she was running in P14.
With an all-British podium, W Series now gears up for its third race meeting of the season - the British GP at Silverstone on 01-02 July.
Last year, Alice Powell took a spectacular home victory in front of a spectator full-house. Will Chadwick be able to continue her unbelievable winning streak on home soil - or will Silverstone mark the start of her rivals' recovery? Only time will tell.