Jamie Chadwick is prepared to battle from behind for just the second time this season after being handed a two-place grid penalty in Friday’s qualifying session at Circuit Paul Ricard.
By Rachel Steinberg
The reigning W Series double-champion, aiming for her seventh-straight win across two campaigns, was punished for crossing the white line at the pit lane exit in the final stages.
Sirin Racing’s Beitske Visser, who Chadwick had pipped by just one one-hundredth of a second, will now take her maiden pole at Paul Ricard, while Quantfury Racing’s Nerea Marti completes the front row.
“The race will be tough because the two in front of me are pretty quick, but I’ve got the pace to challenge them so hopefully we’ll get a good start,” said Chadwick.
“It’s a track where you can overtake, but it’s going to be a long, hot race so I’ll get my head down and see how it goes.”
The Jenner Racing driver took full ownership of the incident which cost her a fourth-straight pole and opened up more potential for someone other than Chadwick to top the podium for the first time since Alice Powell’s victory at Zandvoort on 4 September 2021.
The penalty was justifiedJamie Chadwick
“The penalty was justified,” she said. “It was my mistake and I knew I’d done it straight away so I was a bit nervous about it in the session. It wasn’t anything intentional, with the low light and the way the white lines are with the reflections it was a bit hard to see.”
“I was looking in my mirrors and made the correction but by that time the damage had been done. After that, I just tried to get my head down, do the lap and get pole, and I knew whatever will be will be afterwards. It’s a bit frustrating as usually it’s just a reprimand, but they judge it on a case-by-case basis and I’d crossed it by quite a bit.”
Visser, meanwhile, has her best chance so far this season to leapfrog Abbi Pulling and claim the second spot in the championship. The Dutch driver enters Saturday’s race 12 points behind the 19-year-old Brit, who qualified a disappointing 12th.
“I’m delighted to get pole position now, but it was a bit of a double feeling at the time!” admitted Visser.
“Yes, I’m back up there but it was only one hundredth to Jamie. Practice was also good this morning, so the confidence we have in the race pace means we can fight for the win tomorrow.”
Neither Visser nor Pulling has a chance of catching Chadwick in the overall standings this weekend, with the 24-year-old carrying a commanding 47-point lead into the W Series’ French debut.
Abbie Eaton qualified in a season’s-best sixth, while Alice Powell’s run of bad luck continued as she struggled with rear locking to qualify P11 but promised to “give it her all” on Saturday, despite sounding pessimistic earlier in the week about an incident-riddled season that never seems to go her way.
Powell is amongst the drivers who will race Paul Ricard for the first time while a sizeable contingent of the competition have experienced the circuit before.
Spaniard Belen Garcia, who qualified P5, called Saturday’s venue “her second home” after experiencing the track with both Spanish F4 alongside Marti in 2019 as well as racing in Formula Regional at the French circuit last year.
It means, lamented Powell, “I’m on the back foot and expecting it to be one of the toughest races of the season.
“It looks like one of the hardest tracks on the calendar because there are lots of corners, a wide range of corners – fast, medium, and slow speed – and lots of things to learn.
“I can’t say I’m looking forward to the next two races because things have been going poorly, and just when I think I’m moving forward something else comes along and kicks me back down, so it’s tough. Winning the championship is going to be difficult now.”
Conditions could also play a factor on Saturday with track temperature exceeding 45 degrees Celsius when the drivers left the pit lane at 7:30pm in qualifying and the mercury in Le Castellet expected to hit the low-30s mark on Saturday.
Powell added: “The weather will be hot, and, after France, we go straight to another hot race in Budapest, so the next couple of weeks will test our bodies, and fitness will be important.”
Header photo credit: W Series
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