W Series: Jamie Chadwick wins chaotic season opener at Miami
Two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick won a dramatic and incident-filled first race of the season at the Miami GP after a last-lap pass on Kimilainen.
The first W Series race day of 2022 opened with a maiden pole position for Spanish up-and-coming star Nerea Marti, who surprised Chadwick with a last second effort just before a session-ending red flag. Reigning champion Jamie Chadwick, this year returning to the series with newly-founded team Jenner Racing, was second fastest but will start from pole in Race 2, according to the second-best lap classification. Marti, though, seems to have made a significant step from last year, when she was the best rookie and claimed her first podium in Hungary.
Among the most disappointed drivers after qualifying was 2021 runner-up Alice Powell, who lined up in third place but had set a fast first sector before the red flag halted the action. Alongside Powell, Emma Kimilainen was also hoping to start further ahead, with pace to contest for the top spot.
There was drama right at the first lights out of the season: the pole-sitter Marti stalled and saw the whole pack flying past; similarly, also Alice Powell and Belén Garcia stalled, in what might have been a clutch issue.
Jamie Chadwick thus found herself in the lead at Turn 1, followed closely by the Flying Finn Emma Kimilainen – who had a blistering getaway from fourth – and Fabienne Wohlwend, whose car was repaired in record time after a big crash in qualifying.
Not even one lap had been completed when the second plot twist saw Alice Powell hitting the wall while trying to recover. The British racer’s car slid towards the dust off line and she could do nothing to avoid the impact with the barrier. The incident brought out the Safety Car, before the race direction decided to deploy the red flag to allow barrier repairs. It was the first red-flagged race in the history of W Series.
Cars returned to the pitlane and, with now only 15 minutes left on the clock, the race went back to green with a rolling start.
Emma Kimilainen had another great reaction and tried to attack Chadwick at Turn 1, but she locked up and went deep, allowing Fabienne Wohlwend to close in. The CortDAO driver, though, had to watch her mirrors from her teammate Marta Garcia, who protagonist of an outstanding start from 10th on the grid.
Garcia did eventually get past Wohlwend and soon pulled away from her teammate, who led a train of cars all battling for fourth. Meanwhile, Kimilainen had caught up with Chadwick again and the leading duo opened a gap.
From the back of the field, Nerea Marti started a furious recovery that brought her up to the top-10 after a few laps. Abbi Pulling was also on the move, despite lamenting an issue with her car throughout the opening stages.
When Abbie Eaton couldn’t make a move stick on Jessica Hawkins, she was then forced to give up a position on Beitske Visser – as the Ducthwoman was also making up places after an unfortunate qualifying. Hawkins, meanwhile, passed Wohlwend for fourth – the latter having struggled for several laps. The driver from Liechtenstein quickly dropped down the order and, after rejoining the track, she made contact with Scuderia W’s Abbie Eaton. Both ended their races in the run-off with suspension damages, triggering the second Safety Car.
Crucially, Emma Kimilainen had just found her way past Chadwick for the lead, with 8 minutes left on the clock.
The race went back to green for a final lap shootout – and chaos broke loose: Kimilainen went on the dust on the final corner as she was back up to speed, losing momentum on the main straight. Chadwick and Marta Garcia went three-wide for the lead and, as she tried to outbrake her competitors, Kimilainen went deep and into Turn 1 and lost second to Garcia.
Chadwick was able to break away and witnessed to the fierce battle for second from her wing-mirrors: Kimilainen tried one last move around the outside at the hairpin and the two made contact, with the Puma W Series Racing car ending up with a broken rear suspension with a few corners to go.
Jamie Chadwick crossed the finish line and took her seventh win in the series, the first at debut for Jenner Racing.
"I don't know if I deserved that victory”, said Chadwick after the race. “Emma [Kimiläinen] got a bit unlucky with the restart, not knowing if it was going to be a proper restart or not.”
“I struggled for pace, and she did a good job to get past when she caught me out. I was just trying to get some points as I was struggling.”
“It's a win and I'm a bit surprised by that but I'll take it and I'm happy as it's a great start to the season. We're on pole position tomorrow as well so I'm looking forward to that."
Marta Garcia held on to second and claimed her fourth podium in W Series – showing great speed and determination.
"It was a great race for me!” – said Marta Garcia, back on the rostrum after Spa 2021. “Last year, my starts weren't very good so I wasn't sure how it was going to be this time, but today it was strong”, she continued. “I made a really good move into the first corner, then there was a safety car period which was quite long. At the restart, I was in a big fight with my team-mate Fabienne [Wohlwend], I managed to pass her into third and tried my best to stay there.”
"When the last safety car came out, I wanted to finish the race then because I was in a podium place! On the last lap it was crazy, Emma [Kimiläinen] went wide into the first corner and I overtook her, then she tried to overtake me in the last corner but she was on the outside and I was on my line and we touched. I'm just really happy with the result and looking forward to tomorrow's race."
Behind her, Jessica Hawkins stepped on the podium for the first time with a remarkable third place.
"Today was just about the perfect way to start the season with my first W Series podium” – Jess commented. “It was such a chaotic race, but I managed to stay out of trouble and keep pushing. I'm a bit lost for words, but I can tell you that it feels great and I'm very happy. We've got another race to focus on tomorrow and I'm hoping for another strong performance."
A convincing Beitske Visser and Abbi Pulling were fourth and fifth – both making up several places after a difficult start of their weekends. Very positive first race also for Bruna Tomaselli, sixth across the line, and Chloe Chambers – the best placed rookie and in the point-scoring positions at her debut with a P7.
With an incredible double-pass around the outside on the final lap, Nerea Marti was able to finish eighth after the devastating start, followed closely by her Quantfury teammate Belén Garcia, also scoring points after stalling on the grid.
Rounding out the top ten was Sarah Moore, who had run a solid race until the final lap, when she dropped to tenth.
Bianca Bustamante preceded Emely De Heus, Juju Noda and Tereza Babickova – with the Japanese racer able to sneak ahead of the Puma driver in the final corners.
With 25 points in the bag and three strong contenders for the title out in Race 1, Williams F1 development driver Jamie Chadwick’s consistency is paying off once again. While she probably wasn’t the fastest on track today, the British driver delivered, in a performance worthy of a two-time champion.
But on Sunday, there will be everything to play for once again, as Alice Powell, Emma Kimilainen and Nerea Marti will look to bounce back after a bumpy start: they will have to beat the early leader of the 2022 standings, who will start from pole.
Race 2 is scheduled for 10:35 local time (16:35 CET).