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Jamie Chadwick: ‘Formula One does want a female racing driver – but they’ve got to be there on merit’

Jamie Chadwick has already written herself into the history books twice at the tender age of 21.

Aged 15, the Bath-born racing driver was the first woman, as well as the youngest person ever, to win the British GT Championship.

She reinforced her status as one of motorsport’s rising stars and also made history for a second time in her fledgling career earlier this month when she became the first ever person to win the inaugural W Series – the first all-female single seater series – at Brands Hatch.

Chadwick celebrates on the podium at Brands Hatch after winning the inaugural W Series Championship

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Chadwick celebrates on the podium at Brands Hatch after winning the inaugural W Series Championship

But for Chadwick, there’s a quiet determination to go one step further, which, in the process, would not just make her a history-maker for a third time should she pull it off, but a role model for women across the world.

Her target now is to become the first female to compete in Formula One in over 40 years and you sense it may just be a matter of time before that happens, given her recent W Series glory as well as her relationship with Williams, for whom she is a development driver.

However, Chadwick doesn’t want to make it on to the F1 grid to be purely a gimmick. Instead, all she wants is equality and to be handed a drive in motorsport’s most renowned series because of her talent.

Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, she said: “It [making it to F1] would be unbelievable. It’s the ultimate goal. It’s every young driver’s dream.

“That dream becomes a little bit more of a closer reality with the relationship I have with Williams. I really want to achieve it for myself. I really want to be there on merit and because I deserve to be and fingers crossed that happens soon.

“[Working with Williams] has been unbelievable for me. Getting that kind of experience with an F1 team has been awesome. For it to be Williams, a British team who have so much history, has been extra special and I’ve learnt a lot from them so far.

“Now I’ve done the job that I needed to this year by securing the W Series Championship, I’m hoping that I can go to them with a bit more of an argument to do some more stuff for them next year.”

Chadwick, currently driving in the W Series, is part of the Williams Racing Academy

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Chadwick, currently driving in the W Series, is part of the Williams Racing Academy

F1 has a reputation for being a male dominated sport and you have to look back to Italian Lella Lombardi in 1976 to find the last women to compete in the worldwide series.

The sport’s former chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, was widely criticised back in 2016 when he claimed women were physically unable to drive an F1 car and that a female driver ‘would not be taken seriously’ should they be handed a drive.

However, the Championship is very much in a new era under the ownership of Liberty Media and Chadwick believes there’s a real desire from within for that 43-year wait to come to an end.

“The sport’s obviously heavily male dominated but in my view, I don’t think there’s a reason for that,” she explained.

“I think the sport is desperate to see a female succeed. The sport does want a female racing driver but they’ve got to be there on merit.

“Some of the most influential people in motorsport are women. For example, my team boss at Williams is Claire Williams.

“We’re starting to see more and more. It’s a numbers game and we just need more women to rise to the top in all degrees of the sport and hopefully, that will end this male dominance that we’ve got.”

Despite her achievements, a career in motorsport never really crossed the 21-year-old’s mind until she was a teenager, though.

A talented skier and hockey player growing up, Chadwick admits she fell into racing by ‘accident.’

Her family didn’t have any background in the industry and it was only when her brother took up Go-Karting that she decided to put on a crash helmet for the first time.

“I had my first go and fell in love with it quite quickly,” she says. “One thing led to another and I progressed into car racing at 14. It’s been a whirlwind ever since. As soon as I took my hand in motorsport, I realised that was the one I wanted to pursue more than other sports.”

Not only has it been a whirlwind few years for Chadwick, but it’s been a crazy few days for the 21-year-old as well.

Her feet have barely touched the ground since she sealed the W Series title last week, bagging £400,000 in prize money in the process.

Chadwick celebrates being crowned the W Series champion at Brands Hatch

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Chadwick celebrates being crowned the W Series champion at Brands Hatch

The Bath racer had been on the podium in each of the previous five rounds, winning twice in Germany and Italy respectively, meaning she took a 13-point lead into the final race at Brands Hatch.

However, the finale didn’t quite go to plan for the Brit, as despite qualifying on pole, she ended up crossing the chequered flag in fourth at her home race.

A third-place finish for her nearest rival Beitkse Visser wasn’t enough to close the gap though, meaning Chadwick became the first ever W Series champion since its inception.

An ever perfectionist, Chadwick admitted she would have liked to have secured the Championship in better circumstances, but the 21-year-old was quick to say that she’ll remember the celebrations for the rest of her life.

“I’ve got a whirlwind of emotions and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” she explained.

“Honestly, I couldn’t be happier and it’s what we’ve worked so hard for all year. To finally have that title and accolade official is a dream come true.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the goal to go out from the off to win the title. I didn’t realise how tough it was going to be. All year, it might have looked like we had control over it at times, but behind the scenes it wasn’t that easy.”

On whether she could enjoy any of the race, she added: “I think the way I described it after the race was the worst 30 minutes of my life followed by the best 30 minutes of my life.

“I did enjoy bits of the race. I mean it wasn’t the race I wanted and it was stressful and tricky.

“Ultimately, when that chequered flag fell, there was a little bit of mixed emotions as the race wasn’t great, but the feeling of just winning the Championship was unbelievable. To celebrate with my family, my friends and the home crowd was unbelievable.”

Chadwick is eyeing a spot in Formula One

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Chadwick is eyeing a spot in Formula One

A well-deserved break is now on the cards as she tries to come to terms with her achievements this season.

While competing in F1 is the ultimate ambition, Chadwick hasn’t ruled out a second campaign in the W Series, although she is also open to the idea of branching out into other competitions as well, much like her idol Fernando Alonso.

“I’m open to a lot of things at the moment,” she explained.

“Motorsport is a fantastic place for a young driver to be at the moment. I’m really lucky that I’ve also got a relationship with Aston Martin and they’ve got a really cool hyper car project coming to Le Mans next year. That’s something I’d really love to get involved with.

“Formula E is exciting. There’s a lot to be interested at the moment and there’s DTM obviously, too.

“Formula One is the ultimate goal but there’s a lot more to be excited about as a young driver.”

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