Veloce Racing's Jamie Chadwick topped the timesheets in the W Series practice session at Budapest by a significant 7 tenth margin, as Beitske Visser and Marta García were back in the top-5 after a rough start to their season.
Reigning W Series champion Jamie Chadwick lost the championship lead of the 2021 season at her home race two weeks ago, when compatriot Alice Powell claimed her second win of the season in front of the Silverstone crowd. At the fourth round this year – which also marks the half-way point of the W Series sophomore season – Jamie Chadwick is eager to get back ahead and started the weekend on the right foot: the Veloce Racing driver led the Friday practice session by the significant margin of 7 tenths, preceding 2019 main rival Beitske Visser. Chadwick's 1:43.317 was the only time below the 1min44 mark.
"It was quite a tough session because it was really hot, so quite difficult or the balance" - said Chadwick. "I think I got a lap in early on, but it was difficult to get back down there in the end. I'm really happy with the laptime considering not being here before, but I think we'll have to work quite hard before qualifying." Visser has endured a rough start to her 2021 W Series campaign and was back in the front-running position at Hungaroring, setting the pace in the early minutes before times started to drop. The Dutchwoman is arguably the driver on the field with more experience of the Hungaroring racetrack, as she competed three times in the Formula Renault 3.5 and won a race in the 2016 European GT4 Championship. "I think Hungaroring suits my driving style" – Visser told us a few days before the event. "It's a bit like a big karting track and it should be good for us. Any experience you have at a certain track is always good value, but the [Formula Renault] 3.5 car is a very different car to drive", she added. "I'm pretty sure I will have to drive this car [the Tatuus T-318] quite differently." "But at least I know my way around and I spent some time at the simulator to prepare." Just like Visser, Spaniard Marta García had struggled to score points in the first three rounds but was back in the positions everyone expected her to be after the first practice. García was ultimately fourth after the 30-minute session and is looking strong for the remainder of the weekend. Just ahead was Bunker Racing's Fabienne Wohlwend, who finished third with a best lap time of 1:44.424. The driver from Liechtenstein is really having a solid season and seems to be able to replicate her performance on both fast tracks like Silverstone – where she was 5 minutes away from her first victory – as well as on twisty and technical circuits. Wohlwend often traded second place with Visser, with the MForbes Motorsport driver managing to advance into the runner-up spot ten minutes into the session. Championship leader Alice Powell climbed to fifth place with 5 minutes to go as she demoted Irina Sidorkova to sixth. The young Russian – a podium finisher in Austria – struggled at Silverstone but suggested that on a slower and more twisty track she might have been back in contention. That was indeed the case, and Sidorkova spent the session within the top five, but wasn't able to improve in the final minutes after a big moment at Turn 4 where she went off sideways in the tarmac run-off and flat-spotted her tyres. Sidorkova's W Series Academy teammate Nerea Martí wasn't far away: she finished seventh, 0.117 seconds adrift of her teammate. Martí was fifth in Silverstone and is consistently establishing herself as the next podium contenter. Caitlin Wood set the eighth fastest time, in what was a greatly impressive return for the Australian. A reserve driver stepping in for Tasmin Pepper in the second Puma car, Caitlin was away from single-seater racing since the 2019 season finale and jumped right back in the mix of the top-10 in practice. Wood was one of the few drivers to improve in the closing minutes, despite hitting traffic in the final sector. To round out the top-10 were Abbie Eaton – also protagonist of a jump over the kerb at Turn 4 – and Ayla Agren, while Emma Kimilainen was only eleventh fastest after saving a big slide at Turn 9. Jessica Hawkins was P12 and preceded Miki Koyama and Belén García – the Catalan ending her session with a spin into Turn 11 with one minute left on the clock. But it was a challenging session also for her Scuderia W teammate, the always solid Sarah Moore: the British racer, third in the championship standings so far, was stationary in the pitlane during the first minutes and couldn't do better than P16. One place ahead was Bruna Tomaselli, who also returned to the pits for adjustments mid-way through the session. Sabré Cook and Vicky Piria rounded out the free practice classify. Despite many drivers running wide through Turn 4 throughout the session, Piria curiously received a 60-second penalty for "exceeding track limits multiple times". It is not clear at this point in which session Piria will have to serve the penalty, a rarity in free practice, where lap times are usually deleted for that infraction. Qualifying for the fourth round of the season will get underway at 16:30 (local).