W Series: The fight is on with Chadwick leading Powell in Budapest qualifying
Jamie Chadwick will start alongside her main championship rival Alice Powell tomorrow, having claimed her second pole position of the season by fending off the outstanding rookie Nerea Martí in the final minutes.
Jamie Chadwick took pole position at Hungaroring in a more closely fought qualifying, after topping the Friday practice session by a 7-tenth margin. In the 30-minute qualifying, the 2019 W Series champion was able to position herself once again on top of the timing screens, but had to fend off the outstanding rookies Irina Sidorkova and Nerea Martí, with Alice Powell finding enough speed to move into second place with three minutes left on the clock.
On a very warm day in Budapest, Sidorkova was the first driver out on track and to set a competitive lap time. The 18-year old Russian is back on a track layout that she is more used to, having left behind the difficulties encountered with the fast corners of Silverstone.
Sidorkova was quickly topped by Veloce Racing's Jamie Chadwick, who then responded to Beitske Visser when the Dutchwoman briefly led the timing sheets 10 minutes into the session.
Visser (M.Forbes Motorsport) was also on top form after a competitive practice session, but Chadwick's impressive second sector left little chances to her rivals.
When the drivers dived into the pitlane to change to new tyres mid-way through the session, the reigning champion led Visser, Sidorkova, Powell and Hawkins - the latter having made good improvements since the earlier practice session. Belén García, provisionally in sixth, also seemed to be back in contention for the top-five, after a challenging FP1.
Chadwick's teammate Bruna Tomaselli went for the opposite strategy and went out on new tyres just as the rest of the field pitted - in order to avoid traffic. Veloce's strategy paid off and the Brazilian moved into second place with a series of clean laps that once again highlighted Tomaselli's good qualifying skills after a third place at the Austrian round.
On the fresher Hankook rubber, Sidorkova set the fastest sectors - but then ran wide at the tricky Turn 11 and had to back off. Several drivers battled with track limits - among them, Abbie Eaton, Jessica Hawkins, Sarah Moore and Marta García were briefly in the run-off at Turn 4, as well as Caitlin Wood. The Australian, after a brilliant comeback in practice, reported an issue which was isolated in the rear suspension arm and was unfortunately stationary in the pits in the final minutes.
With 5 minutes to go, W Series Academy driver Nerea Martí topped the times. Chadwick improved by a further six tenths, but the young Spaniard's second lap would close the gap to three tenths, re-claiming second place from the return of Beitske Visser.
When the countdown showed three minutes left, Alice Powell - in 12th position prior to her last attempt - found a clean lap to slot into second place, with a 1:43.004 effort and 2 tenths behind her closest rival in the championship. It will be an exciting front row of the grid tomorrow, with Chadwick leading Powell on the run towards Turn 1.
"That was really good. I'm very happy to get pole position as my lap was actually really horrible, so it was a bit of a relief that no one was able to pip me in the end." - said Chadwick. "The hard work starts tomorrow. I'll need to get a good start at turn one and then it's head down. It's hard to pass here so track position will be really important from the start."
Powell was not very satisfied with her practice pace but managed to adjust the car setup in the right direction and was happier with her qualifying result. "That was better than the practice session, that's for sure." - she commented.
"We found a lot of time after making a couple of little tweaks to the car. I didn't quite catch the peak of the tyres, which was frustrating, so I think there was a little bit more in it."
"Starting second is better than what I expected after practice, so I just need to get it off the line better than I did at Silverstone." - concluded the current championship leader.
Equally exciting will be the second row, as an outstanding Nerea Martí claimed her best qualifying result to date with third place, alongside Beitske Visser.
"I'm super happy because it's my first time on this track." - said 19-year old Nerea.
"In the practice session I had a lot of mistakes because it was new to me, but in qualifying I found the solutions and got my best result of the season. I'm now concentrating on tomorrow."
Martí is emerging as one of the most interesting and consistent rookies this year, together with teammate Irina Sidorkova - who finished fifth.
On the third row will also be Bruna Tomaselli, whose performance dropped towards the end of the session but could nonetheless reap the rewards of the different strategy and will start in sixth position.
Marta García had a strong practice session but couldn't get back into the top five in qualifying, as she will line up in seventh place tomorrow. Alongside her will be another potential podium contender, the always fast Emma Kimilainen. The Finn has been a bit less efficient on Friday, but no doubt she will try to bounce back in racing conditions.
Belén García and Jessica Hawkins round out the top 10, as they precede a solid Vicky Piria in P11. The Italian received a curious 60-second penalty after practice for track limits - which she seems to have served at the end of FP1 and that won't affect her weekend further.
M.Forbes Motorsport's Ayla Agren was P12, one position ahead of two-time podium finisher Fabienne Wohlwend. Having marginally missed out on her first win two weeks ago, Fabienne was back in the top-3 in practice, but the fastest driver in Liechtenstein couldn't do better than P13 in the final minutes after running wide at Turn 4 on her first lap on new tyres and having encountered traffic in the final sector of her last attempt.
Abbie Eaton precedes Miki Koyama, as the Japanese racer pitted early in the session and went out on new tyres - a strategy that left her 15th on the grid.
Sarah Moore, third in the standings, struggled throughout the day and was 16th fastest. She will start ahead of Caitlin Wood and Sabré Cook.
The fourth round of the 2021 W Series season - half-way point of the 8-event calendar - will get underway on Saturday at 16:30 CEST.
You can check out how to watch the live broadcast in your area here.