Chadwick sees ‘fantastic opportunities’ for female racers in US after test

W Series

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Williams junior Jamie Chadwick says female drivers seeking “commercial support” for racing have more opportunities in the United States than they do in Europe.

The two-times W Series champion is currently in her fifth season at the Formula Regional level, and could win a third W Series crown this weekend. After a Formula 3 seat slipped through her fingers this year she has been evaluating options to race elsewhere to rise up the single-seater ladder.

Having previously evaluating the F3-level Euroformula championship, Chadwick now is looking at America and recently completed an Indy Lights test with Andretti Autosport. RaceFans asked her about the options she could pursue in the series versus the challenge of progressing up the European single-seater ladder.

“I think the commercial support over there definitely seems to make clear sense,” she replied. “There’s a lot of female drivers that have had opportunities and paid opportunities over there, which is is fantastic.

“Ironically, IndyCar seems to be one of the most physical series there is. [Going] from Indy Lights to IndyCar seems to be really tough with the steering. So it’s interesting, but that’s actually where the most opportunities to come for some of the women.

“But from my side, definitely I see that as being a really positive thing. I see that there are opportunities. I see that there are big brands, big teams that are taking these female drivers and giving them these opportunities, which is fantastic. But at the same time, of course, I still want to make F1 possible.”

W Series’ CEO Catherine Bond Muir agreed that “potentially there is a greater openness to support female athletes in the States than there is at the moment” in Europe. Her championship concluded its 2021 season on the US Grand Prix support bill, opened its current season in Miami and will race at Circuit of the Americas again this year.

Women racing in America

Over the last decade there have been several women, who either raced in junior championships in North America or Europe, who have made it to America’s premier open-wheel series IndyCar.

Danica Patrick

In eight Indianapolis 500 starts, Patrick has an impressive record of having started and finished fourth on her debut and then been a top-ten qualifier four more times. Her third-place finish in the 2009 edition of the race was one of seven podiums she racked up in IndyCar, all but one of which came on ovals. The three pole positions she won, all in her rookie season, were all on ovals too.

Most of her IndyCar career was more than a decade ago, including her history-making win in the 2008 Indy Japan 300 race at Twin Ring Motegi, but she did contest the 2018 Indy 500. Outside of basketball she has been one of the most recognisable names and faces in American sport since her IndyCar career began, making her a powerful example of the interest a successful female racing driver could generate in F1.

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Simona de Silvestro

De Silvestro returned to IndyCar this year
Currently the test driver for Porsche’s Formula E team, de Silverstone picked up the “Iron Maiden” nickname while racing in the USA due to her comeback from a fiery crash in 2010.

The Swiss was a frequent winner in the Indy Lights-rivalling Atlantics series in the late 2000s, and her IndyCar career initially encompassed four full seasons which culminated with a maiden podium and 13th in the points in 2013.

Pursuing an ultimately unrewarding Formula 1 test deal with Sauber for 2014 took her out of America, and for 2015 she moved into Formula E and starred again in a brief IndyCar return. She’s now back on the grid more frequently with the Paretta Autosport team. Alongside Tatiana Calderon, she’s one of two women who raced in IndyCar this year.

Ana Beatriz

Beatriz was capable of winning in Indy Lights, coming third in the points as a rookie too, but her IndyCar career failed to deliver. In 29 starts over four years she finished no higher than 11th. Like Patrick, she was more suited to the Indy cars of old.

Pippa Mann

Mann went up the European single-seater ladder and got all the way up to Formula Renault 3.5, a series just below F1 at the time. She then moved across to Indy Lights, won two races and claimed three poles across two seasons before finding the budget over the coming years to make one-off IndyCar appearances with smaller teams. She has entered the Indy 500 eight times.

Katherine Legge

A remarkable amount of determination earned Legge a way into American racing and she made the most of it by winning on her Atlantics debut and coming fourth in the championship in 2005. A year later she was in Champ Car (prior to it merging with IndyCar), and performed strongly from the off again, leading in Milwaukee.

After two years she moved to the DTM, then returned to IndyCar in 2012 with an uncompetitive Dragon Racing team but still achieved a top-10 result. Legge has found a lot of other racing opportunities in the USA and has been an IMSA mainstay since 2014.

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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25 comments on “Chadwick sees ‘fantastic opportunities’ for female racers in US after test”

  1. Nice read thanks. I have to confess my ignorance of many of these racers. And also to thinking when watching the development of women’s sport or women in sport generally, that I was a “nah, need more development and less exposure “. How wrong I was! As the TV exposure continued I was flabbergasted how the development increased exponentially CF exposure. Like everyone just need a chance, support and fair dinkum assured finance. To state the obvious some will make it, some won’t for any number of reasons. Of those some will find fulfilment in other areas of the sport, many great coaches weren’t very good at the sport themselves. And they probably don’t need men to tell them how to do it, or how to get there. I’m they do they’ll probably hang around more we experienced people and ask a million questions, take it on board then do it their way. Jamie will “keep on punching”. Whether she’s looked upon later as a “winner” (which she already is), I believe she will be acknowledged as a trailblazer for whom those who follow should be thankful for.

    (If any of this comes out wrong I am not trying to be condescending r patronizing.)

    1. @jjohn

      Of those some will find fulfilment in other areas of the sport, many great coaches weren’t very good at the sport themselves.

      Sarah Fisher is a great example of this. She raced in IndyCar and had some success (1 pole, 7 top 10s, 2 podiums) and then became a team owner. After she sold her stake in the team she went on to purchase a local track. The team she ran started the IndyCar career of Josef Newgarden.

      1. Thanks for that @gfunk. It’s great to learn something new, and that is seriously impressive stuff!

    2. Only “de Silverstone picked up the “Iron Maiden” nickname” is unknown.

  2. I still want to make F1 possible.

    Jamie Chadwick is just 8 months younger than Max Verstappen and has yet to compete successfully at a level above Formula 4.

    1. Proesterchen: “Jamie Chadwick … has yet to compete successfully at a level above Formula 4”

      So winning the first two W series titles and being well on her way to winning the third doesn’t count for anything in your view? Nor does being the first women to win a British F3 race? Or being the first female driver to win in the F2000 MRF, in 2019, taking the title comfortably, when the other 15 drivers were all men, and included Linus Lundqvist who the previous season had won the British F3 title and who, I think, this year is the Indy Lights champion?

      1. You make good points, but I think the answer to the first question is a resounding No. Winning Formula W meants absolutely nothing. She is going to win Formula W a third time and it will matter little. It’s a bit like someone winning an F4 level championship category 3 times in a row. It’s good, but also raises a lot of questions like, “why aren’t they graduating to more senior categories?”

        I think Chadwick is the best female driver we’ve seen in a very very long time. I very much look forwared to see what she can do in a category like Indy Lights. I honestly don’t get why she hasn’t gotten too many opportunities outside of Formula W until now. I do know now, that Formula W is probably considered by pros as a level below the World Karting Championship. As a category I consider it an abject failure. I think it accomplish the opposite of what they set out to do. I don’t think any talented girl would want to waste time at Formula W after seeing Chadwick get stuck there, absolutely owning the championship every year. A talented girl will want to follow the path every talented driver follows.

      2. So winning the first two W series titles and being well on her way to winning the third doesn’t count for anything in your view?

        It counts for exactly what it is: Competing successfully at the Formula 4 level.

        a British F3

        Again, Formula 4 level.

        F2000 MRF

        This series was lapping Sakhir in 2:00 minutes flat in qualy. FIA Formula 3 did the same in 1:46 min. More Formula 4 level.

        1. I’m not talking about objective analysis. I mean 100% subjective perceptions. Formula W isn’t well regarded. It’s well structured, extremely well-sponsored, it gets a decent amount of media attention. It’s backed by some notorious figures in motorsports.

          I think that it’s likely hard to assess someone’s performance when competition is limited by gender. Chadwick vastly superior to any of the women in Formula W. She has proved it over and over. But the fact she has been so utterly dominant almost hurts her, because competion is so weak. This year she’s won every race but one where she came second. She is leading the championship by 75 points.

          We don’t have boys only categories. We shouldn’t have women only. Especially women, because they have more to prove in a sport that has been dominated by man. So lowering the bar and letting them win only among women has only exacerbated some prejudices: no driver should win by the margin Chadwick is winning where cars are the same. That would rarely if ever happen in F1, F2, F3, or even lower categories. Not only because lack of car equity, but especially because talent is very very high.

          1. W series is there to inspire and get more girls into karting. The competition might not be great now but it is giving valuable car time to up and comers who might not have the money to get a seat elsewhere. If it sticks around for say another 3 or so years you will see the skill level increase (the pandemic slowed it down as well). I hope Jamie goes to Indy lights next year and proves competitive.

      3. Formule W should be for beginning drivers who want to race professional but if you win it the winner should join the rest in F3 and continue further there.

    2. Jamie Chadwick is just 6 years younger than Damon Hill, WDC and 20-time GP winner, and despite being the first women to win a British F3 race or being the first female driver to win in the F2000 MRF, she still has not been taken seriously by the usual European white male gatekeepers.

      There… i fixed it for ya

    3. And there are thousands of other male drivers the same age as Max that haven’t gotten as far as Jamie. What is your point exactly?

      1. My point is that any talk of Jamie Chadwick making it to Formula 1 on merit is pure fantasy.

        I recon based on recent history that her best odds for getting there anyway would be forming a close personal relationship with a part owner of a Formula 1 team.

      2. I think overriding any potential ‘point’ is the fact that he’s Proesterchen. He seems to exist in this entire forum space only to make the most braindead, negative, awful, pointless observations possible on a consistent basis. He has a notable reputation for this (2nd only to one other guy whose user-name thankfully escapes me, with Roger Ayles a close 3rd but he at least appears to have a brain and try to articulate a well-founded point even if it tends to be wrong). If you see he’s the one behind a comment you can just ignore it without reading it pretty much as a gospel rule.

        1. No amount of attacking fellow racefans will make Jamie Chadwick any more experienced for her age.

    4. Jamie has had no F1-dad or/and mom with a racing savvy family and a limited financial reach. Please compare apples to apples, or don’t compare at all.

      1. Jamie Chadwick has been racing F4-level machinery since 2017.

        Someone’s been paying for that.

  3. Something needs to give, Chadwick is clearly a talented driver but W Series is now boring because it’s easy for her to win. There needs to be a clear fixed path for the championship winner to rise up to the next category.

  4. So what’s missing here? Surely any F2 team would be more than happy to sign her and the accompanying tons of female sponsorship money and exposure. Something doesn’t add up and it’s certainly not sexism.

    1. Maybe it’s a Pascal Wehrlein type thing, one day he was hot property and the next he was a hot potato

    2. List “the accompanying tons of female sponsorship money”.

  5. FIA being made to look like hypocrites by the Indy feeder system.
    Is that why they’re punished with poor super license points, to try keep the F3 & F2 pay driver male dominated system in place?

  6. If Jamie is going to get a better opportunity to race at a higher level in the States then she should take it and good luck.

    W Series won’t make it beyond the end of the season, maybe not even beyond the end of the weekend. Not sure what the success criteria were, but as a launchpad for female talent it has failed.

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