Jamie Chadwick says she wants to rise up through motor racing on “merit” and doesn’t want to land a Formula One role as a “token female gesture”.
Chadwick, 23, has been crowned champion in the first two seasons of the women-only W Series and won both of the opening races of the 2022 campaign in Miami at the weekend.
The W Series was first held in 2019 to give women more of an opportunity to compete in the sport.
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Chadwick's success has seen her linked with a move to the third-tier Formula 3 Championship, with the hope of eventually becoming the first female Formula One driver to compete at a Grand Prix since 1976.
She told Orla Chennaoui and Greg Rutherford on The Breakdown podcast that it was “frustrating” not to get a chance in F3 this year, but she remains determined to get there the "right way".
“I am a big believer that it doesn’t have to be done the same way as everyone else has done it, for me my position is very different," Chadwick said.
“I know if I am going to make Formula 1 I have to be there on talent and merit, I’m not going to be a token gesture female. I think that would do a lot more damage than good.
“I want to be there on merit. I want to be able to do it for the right reasons and progress in the right way, likewise for those coming through and the girls who next have the opportunity I’ve had, to have the same opportunity.”
Explaining why the move to F3 didn’t materialise, Chadwick added: “Every young driver sets their ultimate goal and you know the roadmap to get there, and there’s no cheating that roadmap. The perception of W Series is it’s a higher level than it’s at, so people think if she wins W Series, why isn’t she in a Formula 1 car?
“But the level in terms of the car they drive is below an F3 car, the amount of seat time during the season is quite limited, and while it’s an unbelievable opportunity and has professionalised women’s motorsport overnight, there is still quite a gap to the next level.
“That gap is a little bit of inexperience but also the financial support you need to progress in the sport. Unfortunately to secure a top seat in F3 or F2 you are looking well north of £1m each year, so I think all those factors coming together it just didn’t make sense. I couldn’t secure the backing, I didn’t feel prepared enough.”
Italy's Lella Lombardi was the last woman to compete at a Formula 1 race, where 20 drivers start on the grid each time out.
Susie Wolff, current CEO of Formula E team Venturi, was a test driver for Williams’ Formula One team for the 2015 season. Colombia's Tatiana Calderon competed in the F2 Championship in 2019 for BWT Arden and was also a test driver for Alfa Romeo in Formula One.
Chadwick says there is pressure that comes with trying to be the example that other women can follow.
“I always say if I’m not on pole because I braked too early into turn one for example, that’s not because I’m a girl, that’s because I braked too early. There’s a certain pressure I feel because the wider audience see it as any female driver outside of W Series does reflect on a lot of women in the sport.
“But at the same time as an individual sportsperson I can’t look at it like that. In the sport going forwards it will be nice if we can take away that pressure for the young girls coming through, because the thing I hear a lot is ‘oh she’s good for a girl’. Now going forwards it shouldn’t be like that. It comes because there have been so few really successful female racing drivers.”
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