W Series: Marta García betrayed by mechanical issue in Austrian season opener
She scored a podium at her W Series debut in 2019 and is considered as one of the title contenders in 2021, but Marta García had not the start of the season she expected, with a mechanical issue to cause her first retirement in the series.
At the 2019 season opener at Hockenheim, first race in the history of the brand-new all-female championship W Series, young Spanish driver Marta García stepped on the podium for the first time in single-seaters and positioned herself as one of the top revelations of the inaugural season.
Her champagne fumble on the podium remained among the most iconic images of that race, as García re-gained the international limelight after a season away from the racetracks.
Previously one of the most exciting European karting talents, Marta García was contracted by the Renault F1 Team Academy in 2017 – only to be dropped less than a year later after merely a season in the Spanish F4 championship.
Without proper backing, García's career had hit a major hurdle – at 18 years old. Then W Series came into the picture, giving drivers like García, Powell, Piria, Visser a second chance.
For anyone who followed her karting journey, Marta García's rise in the all-female championship has not been a surprise. But, by going against some drivers with a lot more experience of big single-seaters, she proved to belong in such a competitive field.
Her ultimate breakthrough would be her dominant weekend at Norisring, Germany, where Marta converted a pole position into a race win at the only street circuit on the W Series calendar.
2 years later, at the launch of a new W Series era after its 2020 hiatus, Marta García is in a very different position.
Having trained extensively at the simulator throughout 2020 and with a couple of on-track tests in Tatuus F3 cars, the now 20-year old Valencian entered the Austrian double header at Red Bull Ring as arguably one of the favourites for the championship.
Having finished fourth in the drivers standings, many of García's colleagues and rivals mentioned the Spanish driver as one to watch.
When W Series announced a partnership with Formula 1 to host all its 8 events on the platform of the biggest motorsport series in the world, Marta couldn't be happier to share the track with some of her sporting heroes: "In F1 I admire Carlos Sainz, and that giant that is Fernando Alonso, but for years I have considered Lewis Hamilton as my inspiring example."
Marta – who has also just launched her new brand that will be used on her new website and for a line of merchandise – felt fully prepared to tackle the new challenges ahead of the Styrian GP.
“I will seek the maximum, I have prepared myself thoroughly for this moment and I know that I am in the most crucial year of my sports career." – she explained. "We must take advantage of this unique opportunity to pursue relevance with talent. There is a seat in F1 that awaits us and I want to be part of that historic moment when the moment comes." – she added.
But the first weekend of racing after W Series' comeback on track wasn't surely what García expected: with only one session of free practice unlike the 2 sessions of 2019, Marta was left with only 30 minutes to get acquainted with the track on Friday, as she analyzed telemetry and data together with her new engineer, the Spanish David de la Fuente.
Afterwards, it was straight into qualifying, with only two sets of new tyres. At her first attempt, García was initially second, before a mistake into Turn 4 cost her a tenth – in a field that saw 16 cars within a second. With such a compact grid, the Spaniard still managed to qualify in seventh place, alongside the series reigning champion Jamie Chadwick.
Flying the colours of 'Puma W Series Team' with the introduction of team entities for a transitional year, Marta teamed up with reserve driver Gosia Rdest for the first two races.
She ran in seventh position for the vast majority of the race and battled with Jessica Hawkins and Bruna Tomaselli, before a mechanical issue stopped her race with nine minutes left on the clock. She parked her yellow Puma-branded car to the side of the track, triggering a Safety Car.
Evidently, not the result she hoped – and, with a relatively short calendar of 8 single events, a setback that leaves the innocent driver with some extra pressure coming into the next rounds.
“It has not been our best weekend." – said García. "Obviously, the lack of running can have an influence, but every time I felt more comfortable with the car." – she explained.
"I am looking forward to turning the page to rewrite this beginning of the season, next weekend, on this same circuit "
Marta García wasn't the only front runner with championship ambitions to hit trouble: Beitske Visser was spun around and scored no points, as well as Emma Kimilainen who was involved in the incident with Visser and has received a three-place grid drop for the upcoming race. Jamie Chadwick was crashed out early in the race, but managed to finish sixth and collected some points.
García will now analyze all the data and will get ready for the second back-to-back round of the season, also to be held at the Red Bull Ring circuit next week.