W Series star Jamie Chadwick bounced back after a difficult start last week and scored a hat-trick at the Austrian second round, preceding rookie sensation Irina Sidorkova and the charging Emma Kimilainen.
Just seven days after the season opener - almost two years after the last championship race in 2019 - W Series was back on track at the Red Bull Ring for its first double-header in support of the F1 Austrian GP. One week ago, it was Alice Powell’s dominant victory to make headlines, as the Brit kick-started her championship hunt by leading every session and showed unreachable speed. Reigning champion Jamie Chadwick and her 2019 main rival Beitske Visser - as well as front-runner Emma Kimilainen - were left with disappointing results: Chadwick struggled with technical issues in qualifying and then had to recover from the back after being spun by Jessica Hawkins on the second lap. Visser was also involved in contact with Kimilainen, the latter receiving a 3 place-grid penalty for the following race. Veloce Racing’s Chadwick managed to turn the situation around just one week later and commanded the field in spectacular fashion - also clinching the fastest lap of the race. At lights out there was early drama and another potentially big story for the championship: Beitske Visser stalled, as well as Marta Garcia and Ayla Agren, who had to rebuild their races from scratch. Visser’s setback paved the way to Irina Sidorkova: the young Russian had a perfect start, avoided the stranded car of Visser and went side by side into Turn 1 with Bruna Tomaselli, ultimately grabbing the runner up spot behind Chadwick.
Tomaselli had turned heads yesterday with an outstanding qualifying and got away from third, but then had to defend from the attacks of Emma Kimilainen on the second lap: the Flying Finn - started from sixth due to the penalty - completed a clean move into Turn 1 and hunted down Sidorkova, leaving Tomaselli ahead a train of cars that included Sarah Moore, Nerea Marti and Abbie Eaton. Moore - on the podium last week - had a difficult Friday and was quickly back up to speed in the race and made three places on the opening laps, crucially jumping ahead of young Spaniard Nerea Marti, with whom she would battle throughout the race. Alice Powell had her Friday ruined by technical issues and started from 12th, but was able to recover up to eighth in the early stages. Powell, though, complained about the lack of straight line speed and was visibly struggling to keep Belen Garcia behind in the fastest sections of the track. One of the biggest movers was certainly Sabré Cook: the only American on the field rounded out the starting grid due to a spin in qualifying, but had an outstanding run and recovered to 11th in a handful of laps. Once passed Jessica Hawkins with a spectacular move, Cook found herself behind her Bunker Racing teammate Fabienne Wohlwend and the Colorado-native initiated a long battle that would see the two drivers trading positions for the majority of the race duration.
While Jamie Chadwick was commanding the race with an increasing gap, the focus was all on the main battle for fourth: Tomaselli was hanging on to her position, but Sarah Moore and Nerea Marti were eager to get past and find their real pace in clean air. Academy driver Marti looked fast, but could not find a way around her competitors, also having to run over the outside kerb at Turn 2 in a couple of close moments with Sarah Moore, damaging her front wing. The Briton's defensive driving paid off: once Marti saw a gap and went for the move, Moore switched back and left the door open to Abbie Eaton - the latter claiming sixth with an opportunistic pass on the Valencian. Moore, now with some breathing space, caught up with Tomaselli and managed to find a way past the Veloce Racing driver with two minutes left on the clock. The other remarkable battle was taking place some 15 seconds ahead: the youngest driver on the grid was coming under pressure from the oldest driver on the grid. Yet, Sidorkova drove masterfully and managed to hold on to her second place from the attacks of a fierce racer like Kimilainen, who had intensified the pressure in the final laps. Marta Garcia - a potential title contender at the eve of the 2021 championship - had another difficult race: while recovering from her starting issue, the Spaniard made contact with her Puma teammate Gosia Rdest, sending the Polish driver into a spin mid-way through the race. Having to avoid the spinning car of Rdest, Vicky Piria had to take evasive action and lost a position to Ayla Agren. The M.Forbes Motorsport driver, though, would again slip behind Piria and Hawkins after a mistake under braking at Turn 2. Sabré Cook dropped from tenth to 13th in the closing stages, as she was once again denied her first points of the season despite a charging and overall really positive race.
After 21 laps, Jamie Chadwick crossed the finish line to take a controlled victory, 6.6 seconds ahead of Sidorkova and Kimilainen - separated by only three tenths. "I'm really happy." - commented Chadwick, who claimed her third win in the series. "I knew I'd be pushed hard by Beitske [Visser] after the great battles we had together in 2019. I don't know what happened to her at the start but that obviously helped me and allowed me to build a gap, maintain it and just control the race." "I'm so happy to get my first win of the season after last weekend. There was so much to work on after last week, but I took the positives and went into this week with more fire in my belly to turn it around and I did just that." For Sidorkova, it is a monumental leap forward compared to the first race and a truly breakthrough performance. The young driver - just turned 18 last Sunday - is at her second full season in single seaters, after a double program in 2019 in the Spanish F4 and Russian-based SMP F4 championships. In 2021, she completed the experience-building Asian F3 winter series, which gave her the opportunity to come to grips with the Tatuus F3 car also used in W Series. "I made a big step forward from last week." - said Sidorkova, who is also supported by the SMP Driver Academy. "I got a great start today and made three overtakes straight away to go from fifth on the grid to second. I corrected all the mistakes from last week, I was calm and didn't feel nervous and that's the reason why I finished second." "I feel so comfortable with the car now and I think I was faster, not because of changes to the car, but because of my experience of driving the circuit from last week."
Kimilainen was back on the podium after the 2019 season finale - which was also the last race she had started before last week's W Series opener. Undeniably one of the fastest drivers on the grid, the Finn was back in the groove. "I got a good start and then just controlled my race so I could manage the tyres and catch Irina [Sidorkova] at the end of the race when her tyres were older, but I didn't have enough laps to pass." - explained Emma. "It's been a long time coming for me because I didn't do any racing last year and my last race was the last race of the 2019 season at Brands Hatch. Last week wasn't great, but I had a good chat with the engineers to figure out the car and get it working better for me to match my driving style and that’s what we did." Sarah Moore was fourth, in another momentous performance. She is now second in the championship standings, just three points behind Chadwick. Bruna Tomaselli was fifth across the line and scored her first points of the season, preceding Abbie Eaton and Nerea Marti. Alice Powell slips to third in the points table with today's eighth place and will have to work with her crew to fix the technical issues that have hampered her weekend after such a dominant performance a few days ago. Belen Garcia was once again in the points and had a solid race in ninth - one place ahead of Styrian podium-finisher Fabienne Wohlwend, who recovered from 14th. Beitske Visser managed to make up some places in the final minutes but was 11th: the Dutchwoman incredibly sits with no points on the leaderboard after two rounds. In a similar situation, Marta Garcia was P12 but is currently under investigation for the contact with Rdest. Cook, Agren, Piria and Hawkins battled hard in the positions just outside the points and led Gosia Rdest and Miki Koyama at the chequered flag, in a clean race with no retirements. Koyama fought with mechanical issues throughout the weekend and stopped in the pits at one point during the race, but was sent out again and finished 1 lap down, clearly unable to repeat last weekend's recovery with no fault of her own. The first W Series double-header has certainly been action-packed and full of talking points and emotions. Three British drivers now lead the classify divided by four points, as the battle between the established stars and the impressive newcomers is likely to set the tone for the remainder of the season. The British Grand Prix at the iconic venue of Silverstone hosts the third round of the all-female championship in two week's time, on 16/17 July.