W Series confirms 17 drivers for 2022 including youngest-ever racer Juju Noda

W Series

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An influx of new young talent has entered the W Series for 2022, with five of the 17 seats going to teenagers.

Nine newcomers have been selected by the promoters to join the eight returning drivers who automatically qualified for the new season, which will start in May.

The series has run 18 cars per round in previous years. However the line-up for 2022 has been cut to 17 drivers. Russian racer Ira Sidorkova, who was present at the Barcelona test but replaced by Jem Hepworth, “will not compete in W Series until further notice”, the organisers said in a statement.

Sidorkova was guaranteed a seat for 2022 as part of the W Series Academy programme. However Russian drivers have been excluded from competing by several national motorsport federations, including the UK.

Russian Formula 3 driver Alexander Smolyar competed in last weekend’s F2 races in Bahrain after entering as an Authorised Neutral Driver and signing the FIA’s drivers agreement for Russian competitors. It remains to be seen if he will be able to take part in the remaining races.

Of the new drivers to the series there is a notable slant towards younger recruits. Juju Noda, the 16-year-old daughter of former F1 racer Hideki Noda, will contest the series as its youngest-ever driver. Tereza Babickova, Bianca Bustamante, Chloe Chambers and Emely de Heus are also teenagers.

W Series held pre-season tests in Spain and the USA
W Series racing director Dave Ryan, who makes the driver selections, said: “As the profile of W Series grows, the talent pool and standard of our driver line-up increases, and the 2022 W Series grid is the strongest yet.

“This year we expanded our driver search and testing programme by staging pre-season tests in both the USA and Europe, and that decision has paid dividends. The class of 2022 represents 10 different countries, and more than a quarter of the grid are new talents making their W Series debuts.

“The five rookies are well-prepared and join a group of proven W Series performers who know what it’s all about. In the spirit of W Series, they will all drive each other forwards.”

Abbi Pulling, who impressed last season with her performances despite not having a full-time drive in the series, returns with a confirmed race seat this year. Double champion Jamie Chadwick and previous runners-up Alice Powell and Beitske Visser also return, as well as race winner Emma Kimiläinen.

Abbie Eaton, who is continuing her recovery following spinal injuries from her car launching up over sausage kerbs at COTA, does not appear on the list.

Tereza BabickovaCzech Republic18
Bianca BustamantePhilippines17
Jamie ChadwickUK23
Chloe ChambersUSA17
Emely De HeusThe Netherlands19
Belén GarcíaSpain22
Marta GarciaSpain21
Jessica HawkinsUK27
Emma KimiläinenFinland32
Nerea MartíSpain20
Sarah MooreUK28
Juju NodaJapan16
Alice PowellUK29
Abbi PullingUK18
Bruna TomaselliBrazil24
Beitske VisserThe Netherlands26
Fabienne WohlwendLiechtenstein24

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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22 comments on “W Series confirms 17 drivers for 2022 including youngest-ever racer Juju Noda”

  1. On the one hand I’m glad to see Noda in W Series. I think there’s good evidence to suggest that she might be the most talented female driver in a generation. Having her in W Series will make it much easier to follow her progress. As opposed to say, Danish F4, where it was kind of hard to explain why she was either winning races, or getting DNS, DQs, DNFs, etc. From the outside it kind of seemed like her career was being mismanaged, but without much information to go on, who could really tell?

    On the other hand, she was supposed to have been the one female driver who might not have needed W Series. Plus, with how much experience her competitors now have, it will be difficult to prove herself. I’m sure she has more potential than Chadwick and Powell, but it’s going to be really hard to beat them just because how well they know the cars by now. But Pulling also managed to show something last year, so here’s hoping Noda will do even better.

    1. @aestro
      For me, I think W series has proved that it’s less about furthering these drivers careers, and more about encouraging the next generation of women.

      Motorsports is a pyramid – only the best (say) 1% of drivers progress to the next level. There are few women in motorsport to begin with so a very small chance they’ll be in the 1%. W series shows young girls that they too can race, hopefully flooding the bottom of the pyramid with girls who can then progress up the ladder.

      Getting Juju Noda, probably one of the more famous female racing drivers, only serves to help this cause.

  2. Juju might be getting those sponsorship deals which Jamie hasn’t. She has (with or without her own will) made herself a name in motorsport. That’s the first thing you need to get sponsors. It seems like winning W series isn’t enough. Even though Jamie is “only” 23 Juju has that advantage as she is 16.

    This seems a bit rough but if she fails in this or the next season it might be that he will end up in the same career path as Jamie is now going through. But if Juju manages to do well in W series she might be the first women to compete in F2 in a long long time.

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      22nd March 2022, 16:03

      @qeki Juju’s Rokit sponsorship probably took a big hit after last years Danish F4 performance! I’m hoping she does better. Something was off about that withdrawal from US F4 and her performance in Danish F4 compared to her maiden season. It was like watching two different drivers.
      Regarding Jamie, I can only imagine a third year in W series is a financial decision.

    2. But if Juju manages to do well in W series she might be the first women to compete in F2 in a long long time.

      @qeki 2019 is not THAT long ago?

      1. @mattds for my memory it is..

  3. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    22nd March 2022, 15:53

    Fascinated to see how Juju Noda does. She had a great first season in Danish F4, then a mysterious and sudden pull out of US F4 followed by a disastrous second Danish F4 season. Flashes of brilliance but didn’t make the Ferrari young female program. She’s a bit of an enigma. I look forward to watching her this year, and Abi Pulling.

    Not sure why Jamie Chadwick hasn’t moved on yet. She’s already done Euro F3 with Rodin Cars’ backing and had a “meh” season. If she could get another backer, she’d be better served getting in the mix with them again IMHO. A third season of W series can’t be teaching her that much more. She’s already demonstrated she can compete at the top of this series consistently. Time for a new challenge.

    1. Isn’t that the point of being in the Williams driver academy? I thought they would be funding her F3 campaign

    2. Jamie hasn’t moved on because of insufficient sponsor money (and not for lack of trying – Plan A for this season was F3, then F4 when it was realised that wasn’t going to be financially viable. W Series was Plan C when it became apparently winning 2 seasons of W Series doesn’t net a F4 seat these days). Williams is unlikely to be able to help fund it very much as it was historically a pay program and doesn’t appear to have pivoted fully to the new post-cost-cap environment yet.

  4. I could see Pulling or Noda use this as a stepping stone to a full season in FRECA. Here’s hoping they can do well.

  5. Really disappointing (although not surprising) that Irina Sidorkova isn’t taking part this year. She showed a lot of potential in the races she contested in 2021 and I hope this doesn’t derail her career.

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      22nd March 2022, 16:39

      @georgeod A lot of lives outside of this situation are going to be wrecked. Best thing they can do is spend their new gained time campaigning vigorously for the end to this madness. Gotta say, my opinion of Danny Kyvat has gone through the floor! Having left Russia to race in Italy his early career, I would have thought he’d have some perspective.

    2. Guess w series is like every other series.

  6. Super excited to see how Juju does in W Series against some of the more ‘known’ racers :)

  7. Excited to see the younger drivers coming in. The point of this was to establish a feeder series for female drivers who would not get the exposure/funding in other series where the 342nd rich kid gets to drive without hard look of whether he’s F1 talent.

    Pulling showed steady improvement over the three weekends she got to drive last year. A lot of good things to expect from here in due time.

    Also excited to see Marta Garcia back. She must have went through some dark times last season from what little was said, but her brave drive at Spa in the conditions we all now was a drive to remember for me from last year.

    As for Jamie Chadwick, she was remarkably honest about not getting the funding together for a F3/F2 drive this season. For reference: https://twitter.com/JamieChadwick/status/1496908814834147328. She would have wanted to do another program, she said as much pretty much immediately after having won the series last year.

    1. The point of this was to establish a feeder series for female drivers who would not get the exposure/funding in other series where the 342nd rich kid gets to drive without hard look of whether he’s F1 talent.

      That’s a bit skewed. Sure, there are rich drivers bankrolled all the way into the higher feeder series. That happens.
      But the real talents, they are absolutely noticed by sponsors and thus progress as well.

      People always talk as if drivers like Latifi are talentless hacks who are only there for the money. Or Stroll. “Put a woman in his seat, it can’t be worse”. Lots of those people though never follow the actual feeder series to form a proper idea of how even most mediocre F1 drivers were doing pretty good things throughout their junior careers.

      Stroll won F4, F3 championships. That is way higher than any woman driver has won. Latifi, who I absolutely agree shouldn’t be in F1, won races in F2.

      To come back to the money thing. The reason why female drivers aren’t progressing is because they just aren’t getting the results in the lower feeder series, and they get the exact same sponsor attention as the male drivers with similar results in those lower series – which is not a lot. Some are calling for Chadwick to get a go in F1. Honestly, if Jamie Chadwick had been James Chadwick, nobody would know him and he certainly would not be associated with an F1 team. For those guys, it’s just as hard and frustrating to see that there are rich boys being bankrulled up, but ultimately they just are not good enough to have attracted sponsors.
      By the way, being bankrolled up into the higher series doesn’t just happen to male drivers. Recently we had Calderon being promoted as high as F2, despite having performed downright terrible in all of her feeder series racing.

      1. This is well articulated @mattds, but is the lack of results the only reason?

        I remember Anthony Hamilton stating that chasing sponsors for the young Lewis was hard, with CEOs laughing at the idea of sponsoring a black boy in motorsport. In their mind, it was a waste of money despite Lewis’ junior achievements.

        For a lot of sponsors, it’s easier to fund James’ carrier rather than Jamie’s. If your selling car parts, putting a woman driver will draw criticism from some of your clients, werehas a dude in a race car is just another day under the sun.

        And I think this true for anybody who doesn’t look like a typical racing driver (ie a young white dude).

        1. I would have thought in the current era of “socially conscious” companies falling over each other to pretend to be the most virtuous, that a female racing driver would be hot property to have your brand associated with. Strange that hasn’t materialised tbqh.

          Doesn’t the Williams connection exist in part to fund a junior drivers career?

  8. I hoped Jem Hepworth would make the cut. What a bummer.
    Having followed her 2021 britcar season with Jimmy Broadbent, I want to see what she can do when she has the car for herself. Finger crossed she can land a good drive so we can watch her full potential.

  9. Looking forward to seeing how Juju Noda does,
    So far she’s probably the only female driver who’s shown potential and at the same time very young that she has a high ceiling

  10. Great to see Noda in Formula W. I will definitely keep an eye on the races/results now.

  11. Having Juju Noda join the W Series has stoked my interest again. I read great things about her a couple of years ago when she was only 14, so I’m keen to see how she’s getting on. Interesting to read all your comments about the dismal performances in various F4 series. Let’s see…

    It sounds crazy but Chadwick is so old now (23) to be not even in F3. I’m still rooting for her but it’s not looking great.

    I am very keen for the girls to start mixing it with the boys. It will come. But maybe it will take a few more years. At least we are moving in the right direction with women now getting serious attention in all sports. A woman will one day win the F1 driver’s championship. Will it be in the next 10 years? Probably not. In the next 20? Yes, possibly.

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