As a driver working with a Formula One team, Jamie Chadwick is living every aspiring racer’s dream – but she insists that she must earn her spot on the grid when the chance comes, writes Andrew Clayton.
Bath-born Chadwick was snapped up by motorsport titan Williams last year as a development driver, just one highlight for her in a season resplendent with success.
The 21-year-old initially became the first woman to win the MRF Challenge, then went on to clinch the inaugural W Series title, finished first in her class at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring with Aston Martin and bagged a handful of crucial FIA Super Licence points in the Asian Formula Three series.
Through her hard work and mounting trophies, Chadwick is narrowing the distance to her F1 dream. This year’s W Series, the competition purely for female drivers, has Super Licence points on offer which could see the racer not only looking to defend her title, but also taking further, essential steps toward the summit of circuit racing. However, Chadwick tells The Independent that she is not looking for any shortcuts along the way.
“I suppose [F1] is closer than ever,” she said. “You want to be making sure that everyday, you’re edging closer to it, but at the same time I don’t want to rush it.
“I’ve spent time with Williams and realised how much goes into it, and how much I still need to learn before I make that step. Getting the Super Licence points is becoming an increasingly more important part of the process, but at the same time, I don’t want to rush the personal development. In an ideal world, in two to three years that could be something, but at the moment, it’s just doing everything I need to do to justify my spot on the grid.”
At the moment, Chadwick is content to drink in her time with Williams, the nine-time F1 constructors champions whose operations are run by Claire Williams, deputy team principal and daughter of company patriarch Sir Frank.
“It’s been unbelievable – I think it’s every young driver’s dream to get that call up to a Formula One team,” Chadwick added. With me being British, and with Claire [Williams] at the helm of the team, it feels extra special. It’s been amazing, the past year has gone quick, but I’ve learnt a huge amount and been able to utilise the expertise and knowledge they have. I want to continue that journey with them and, fingers crossed, it could one day lead to a race seat.”
In Claire, Chadwick has enjoyed the chance to build a relationship with a woman in a position of power within motorsport.
The 21-year-old is not adverse to breaking down barriers herself, meanwhile, having been the first woman to win the British GT championship, the MRF Challenge and the first to win a Formula Three race. However, Chadwick insists that the labels have little effect on her own racing, as she explained: “It’s a bit cliche, but I am just a driver.
“Everything like the record-breaking, it’s all an added bonus, the icing on the cake, but it’s not what I do it for. In terms of people I race against, and my own racing, I don’t feel that [being a woman] has ever really made a difference.”
Looking ahead to the future, Chadwick is training at home for the first round of the 2020 W Series, scheduled for May 30 at Igora Drive, in Russia, as organisers say that the race is still slated to go ahead despite the threat of Covid-19. Not content with that, the Somerset-born driver has shown interest in Extreme E for 2021, a global off-road competition using electric SUVs.
Chadwick added: “The approach hasn’t changed, if anything I’m training harder. It’s quite nice, in an admittedly backwards sense, given these times, to be able to focus on my training. Even if I had a good year, you constantly focus on the next year and what you can go on to achieve. I’m managed by Veloce Sports, who have the team in Extreme E. It made sense as I joined their driver programme last year and recently they’ve announced that all teams will have one male and one female driver, which opened another door to drive.
“I’m fascinated to see how it will take off so, assuming calendars allow for it, I’d love to be involved. I think I’ve always kind of prided myself on having a versatile career, whether that’s intentional or not, so that adds to it. I’m nowhere near my ultimate targets or goals, so there’s still a lot more I want to do.”