W Series: Jamie Chadwick storms to Hungarian GP victory as Martí claims first podium
After a commanding drive at Hungaroring, Jamie Chadwick secured her second grand-slam of the season to reclaim the championship lead by one point, as Nerea Martí took her maiden W Series podium.
Jamie Chadwick took her second victory of the season – and fourth of her W Series career - after a dominant drive from pole position, reclaiming the championship lead from compatriot and main rival Alice Powell by just one point. It was the fourth race out of four rounds won for pole position, as Powell was never close enough to worry the Veloce Racing driver. Chadwick fended off W Series Academy drivers Nerea Martí and Irina Sidorkova in qualifying, before Alice Powell could move into second place in the final minutes of the 30-minutes session on Friday afternoon – but the reigning champion had looked unmatched throughout the weekend, since topping the practice session by over 7 tenths on her closest competitor. Jamie, who was not able to challenge either Alice Powell or Fabienne Wohlwend at Silverstone two weeks ago, was thus back to top form on the technical and twisty Hungaroring – a track that also provided Sidorkova the opportunity to shine after a difficult British GP. But all eyes were on the first direct battle for the points-leadership, with Powell and Chadwick starting alongside and fully aware that the race start would have played a crucial role on a notoriously difficult track to overtake on. And Chadwick did not disappoint: with a perfect launch off the line, Jamie was quickly ahead and clear of the competition, with Powell slotting in second and a three-way battle for third behind: from fourth, Beitske Visser had a better start than Nerea Martí, but the 2019 runner-up had to defend from Sidorkova, who also had a great getaway and almost made contact with the M.Forbes Motorsport car of Visser at Turn 1. Sidorkova made a brilliant move stick for fourth place around the outside at Turn 3 and moved ahead of Visser, in what would remain one of the few passes of the race. Further down, Fabienne Wohlwend ran wide at Turn one and, as she tried to rejoin the track, made contact and lost her front wing. She pitted at the end of the first lap to change her Bunker Racing's car nosecose, but with over a minute gap to the back of the field, her race was compromised. The two-time podium finisher in 2021 initially continued her race, but eventually pulled into the pits and retired on lap 10. Having made it to the third row with a clever strategy in qualifying, Bruna Tomaselli had a slow start and lost two positions to Emma Kimiläinen and Belén García. The Scuderia W driver tried to attack Kimiläinen, but the Finn held on and closed in on the other Spaniard ahead – Marta García, who had a better run this weekend after a rough start to her season. Vicky Piria dropped from P11 to the tail-end of the field as she was almost stationary on the grid; the Italian had a difficult Friday hampered by engine issues but still had managed to qualify just outside the top-10. But the biggest mover was once again Sabré Cook, who has struggled in qualifying since the start of the season but has consistently made remarkable recoveries in racing conditions: the American was up five places and slotted into P13, but once her wing mirrors collapsed, she understandably had a hard time to navigate through the midfield battles and had to give up one position to Miki Koyama. Ahead, Chadwick and Powell were the only drivers able to steadily lap under the 1min44 mark – but Chadwick quickly built a safe gap and never looked back. Beitske Visser started to increase her pressure on Sidorkova - which also gave Martí the chance to pull away - but the Russian teenager outstandingly held off the attacks of the more experienced driver. While positions were relatively set throughout the field, Miki Koyama continued her charge and hunted down Abbie Eaton. On lap 13, the Japanese racer attempted her first move, but it would be one lap later that she launched a decisive attack on the run towards Turn 2: the two made light contact but both made the corner, and Koyama could ultimately claim the position after a bold pass at Turn 4. Having spent all their races in the clutches of Sidorkova and Marta García, Beitske Visser and Emma Kimilainen started to struggle to follow in the closing stages, when tyre management started to play a bigger role. Kimilainen, though, was quick to seize an opportunity on lap 15 when García made a mistake and ran wide at Turn 11, handing Emma an unmissable chance at Turn 13. Despite a difficult qualifying, Kimilainen moved up to 6th place and collected more valuable points. After 19 laps around the 4.381-km long Hungarian racetrack, Jamie Chadwick crossed the finish line over 10 seconds ahead of Alice Powell, with rookie Nerea Martí comfortably in third and securing her first W Series podium. "I said before the race that it was all going to be about the start so, after getting off the line really well, I could relax after turn one as I knew I had plenty of pace if I was ahead." – commented Chadwick. "From there I could settle in and enjoy it as there were no safety car periods and I was able to just bring it home in first which was the aim coming into the weekend." Powell also knew that she had to nail the start in order to keep the battle for victory alive, but wasn't quite able to match her rival. "My start wasn't great and, although I kept Jamie [Chadwick] honest for a while, she had the legs on me today." – she said. "It was good to come home with some good points as the car was quite a handful at the end, but hopefully that will all be sorted for the next race at Spa." At Silverstone she claimed her first top-five and she was eager to keep the trend going: at the half-way point of her maiden season, Nerea Martí is arguably establishing herself as one of the most exciting female prospects in single-seaters and has now her eyes even further. "I'm super happy with my first W Series podium as I have worked really hard for it and now I have to push for more as I feel like I am improving all the time." – said the Valencian. "I haven't driven here before, but I've really enjoyed this weekend as the track has suited my driving style. The race was fun – I managed to keep Irina [Sidorkova] and Beitske [Visser] behind me at the start and could just control my pace from there." Irina Sidorkova did not crack under pressure and had an equally impressive race preceding Beitske Visser at the chequered flag, with Emma Kimilainen, Marta García, Belén García, Bruna Tomaselli and Jessica Hawkins completing the top-10. With today's tenth place, Hawkins scored her first point of the season. Ayla Agren was P11 and finished ahead of Miki Koyama, Abbie Eaton and Sabré Cook. Previously third in the standings after an impressive start of the 2021 season, Sarah Moore endured a tough weekend at Hungaroring and, despite putting pressure on Cook throughout the second half of the race, she couldn't finish higher than P15. Vicky Piria had the pace to finish higher up the order, but the problem at the start meant that she could only gain one position over Caitlin Wood. The Australian had a great comeback in Friday's practice session where she was comfortably in the top-10, but a rear-suspension issue in qualifying relegated her to the last row. "This year, it's difficult to be as consistent throughout the weekend with so many great drivers on the grid and the races coming thick and fast, so you have to be able to bounce back quickly from disappointment." – explained Chadwick after the race. "That's the nature of this championship and when you have the chance to score big points you have to take it, so I'm super happy with today and really excited for the second half of the season." While the second place leaves Alice Powell with a bitter taste, the battle for the title is far from over, with the two British racers now separated by just one point. "We didn't do any racing last year, so to come back and be fighting at the sharp end of the field is great." – added Powell. "There's a bit of a break now and I'll come back stronger in the second half of the year." Nerea Martí is now sitting third in the championship standings, one point ahead of Sarah Moore and two points clear of Emma Kimilainen. Wohlwend drops to sixth, with four points separating five drivers. The second half of the season starts in four week's time at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit.