January 19, 2020
No woman has raced in a Formula 1 grand prix since the 1970s. Does the 21-year-old Williams driver have the talent and ambition to change all that?
‘This is my adrenaline fix’: Jamie Chadwick, F1’s first female hope in 43 years
Even if you’re one of the most promising young racing drivers of your era, you still have to take your driving test. Shortly after she turned 17, Jamie Chadwick thought she’d better get on with it. She had been driving competitively since she first raced a go-kart, when she was 11. “Obviously I knew how to drive a car,” she says. “But driving on roads, knowing everything about road driving, is very different.” She’d planned to have lessons, but only managed “sort of one and a half” before a cancellation meant she had a chance to take the test. “I was, like, I’ll just do it and if I fail, I might never live it down, but I just have to give it a go.” To her great relief, she passed. “Somehow. But I was never taught to park, so I still can’t. Then I found myself as designated driver and I was, like, this isn’t worth it either.” She laughs. “So a lot of regret in that whole situation.”
Chadwick might not be able to park, but in Formula 1, she’s not going to need to. If all goes to plan, that is exactly where she’ll end up, breaking a 43-year dry spell for women on the starting grid. Last year, she won the inaugural W Series, an all-female championship that ended at Brands Hatch in August. She is gathering firsts at quite a rate: at 17, she was the first woman and youngest driver to win the British GT Championship. In 2018, she became the first woman to win a British F3 race. Last February, she became the first female winner of the MRF Challenge series in Chennai. She is competing now in the Asian F3 Championship.
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