W Series: Marta García returns to pole position in wet Singapore qualifying
In extremely wet conditions, Marta García claimed her second W Series pole position - her first since 2019 and in another street circuit - beating Beitske Visser by 87 thousandths of a second. Championship leader Jamie Chadwick will have to recover from eighth on the grid.
After the first ever session under the lights, W Series contested its first fully wet session of the year, as Singapore's Marina Bay Street Circuit challenged the 18 drivers with heavy rain on Saturday. Conditions had seemingly improved just before the start of qualifying, scheduled for 16:45 local time - but once the cars hit the pitlane, rain was falling down at increasing pace. Most of the drivers immediately went out to set a lap, fearing conditions would worsen - with exception of the Quantfury drivers Belén García and Nerea Martí, championship leader Jamie Chadwick and Emma Kimilainen. Alice Powell gained track position and, with a clear track, she could set the first lap time of the session in 2:31.411 - which would remain her fastest effort. Conditions had in fact worsened in the final sector, with water spray more and more visible. Despite the increasing rain, Marta García and Beitske Visser did manage to improve: the Spanish CortDAO driver signed a 2:30.762 on her second lap, beating the Dutchwoman by 87 thousandths of a second. Belén García was also finding her rhythm and moved into fourth place with a spectacular lap in really tricky conditions. Eyes were on Jamie Chadwick, but despite two personal best sectors, the two-time champion got stuck behind a slower car in the final corners and couldn't do better than eighth. Belén García - who also had a very positive practice session on Friday - continued to push but was caught out by aquaplaning as she approached Turn 3 and spun. Luckily, she managed to keep her #22 Quantfury car away from the barriers and rejoined, but the red flag was shown soon after. The clock was reset to 15 minutes remaining, with F1 third practice session getting priority over support series. Confusion reigned when cars were sent at the end of pitlane but the green light did not appear, as the rain fell heavier and heavier. The session did indeed resume with 10 minutes to go and drivers headed out again - right at the time when the track was in its worst conditions. With no improvements across the sectors, drivers miraculously kept their cars off the walls and the session was called when Abbi Pulling and Bruna Tomaselli went deep into the run off at Turn 18. Marta García therefore claimed pole position - the second of her W Series career and the second on a street circuit, after Norisring in the inaugural season. "I like the rain. I am really, really happy with P1." - said Marta. "This is an amazing track and I already loved it yesterday during practice." "It looked as though it was going to be dry at the end, but it was quite wet. I went out early and was trying to find the limit on the first laps. I pushed on the first lap trying to put in a good time. I felt really comfortable out there in the rain, it was quite stable, and I had so much fun." "I hope it rains tomorrow as it looks like I have the pace to be there and I’m looking forward to the race." The Spaniard, who went on to win the race from pole in 2019, will line up alongside Beitske Visser. The Dutchwoman is currently tied on points with Alice Powell - third in today's qualifying - and both can still mathematically win the title, although chances are slim. "I was surprised the session even restarted as you could probably swim from Turn 5 to Turn 7. " - Powell commented. "I had really good track position and just made a mistake when I needed to not make a mistake. I struggled even before it started to rain with traction, but that is something to talk about tomorrow if it rains again, so I have a little bit of work to do." "I don't really mind whether it is wet or dry as there is no room for error here – in either case, if you go off, you're going to hit the wall." Belén García was fourth in another really strong qualifying and preceded Jessica Hawkins, with two Bristol Street Motors in the top five. Abbi Pulling - another driver that math still doesn't rule out from the championship fight - will start from sixth, ahead of compatriots Sarah Moore and Jamie Chadwick. For the reigning champion, who looks to seal her third title tomorrow, it was the worst qualifying of the year and the first time outside the top five. In order to wrap up the championship in Singapore, she will have to finish ahead of Visser, Powell and Pulling - with all three of them starting ahead of the Jenner Racing driver. Fabienne Wohlwend had a great practice run on Friday, having been hampered by a yellow flag in her final attempt - but she couldn't finish higher than ninth in qualifying. Emma Kimilainen was tenth fastest, after completing only three laps in practice due to a scary brake failure. Chloe Chambers was the fastest of the rookies with a promising eleventh place, ahead of Abbie Eaton and the returning Ayla Agren, as the Norwegian replaces the injured Tereza Babickova. With a good effort from the young Dutchwoman, Emely de Heus will start from P14 - while Nerea Martí finished 15th after a messy qualifying, sharing the eighth row of the grid with Bruna Tomaselli. W Series Academy drivers Juju Noda and Bianca Bustamante rounded out the field and were both outside the 107% of Marta García's lap time, but they are expected to make the start having shown good pace in practice. Weather conditions shuffled the grid - on a track where overtaking is certainly tricky and with not a big margin for errors: the seventh round of the 2022 W Series championship is expected to deliver once again great racing action.