01 October 2019

Exclusive: The woman who's dreaming of being the first female F1 driver in 43 years

Jamie Chadwick is used to living life in the fast lane. And as someone who many consider is in pole position to be the next female Formula 1 driver, that's probably a good thing.

In a sport that is currently very much a man’s world, 21-year-old Chadwick is at the forefront of a movement seeing women breaking into racing. Champion of the inaugural W series, the young driver now has her sights set firmly on the big stage.

“I think the sport wants to see a female achieve," she says. "They need to be there on merit. I think putting a female in Formula One just because she’s a woman would do a lot more harm than good, but yeah, I mean, the sport wants a female.

“They want the right people on the grid and that doesn’t matter if they’re male or female and hopefully there is a female out there who is the right person to be in Formula One."

And does she think that could be her? After all, the last one was Lisa Lombardi over 43 years ago - more than double Jamie’s age! 

"Well yeah," she laughs, "that's the aim, but we'll see."

The young driver has time on her side but already leads a hectic life. As we caught up with her she was driving to Belgium. "It's a historic six-hour race and I've not done it before and I'll be doing it in a Jaguar E-Type. It's all historic stuff, so yeah, it's quite cool."

For one so young, Chadwick is seriously level-headed but you get the impression she not only knows what may be around the corner, but is ready to face it head on. 

"I've got a relationship with Williams so obviously I spend quite a bit of time with the two Williams drivers, George [Russell] and Robert [Kubica] but their lifestyles are crazy.

"Those guys at that level, their feet never touch the ground. I always think mine is crazy but Formula 1 is another level. Hopefully I've got that to look forward to."

She has a huge respect for the big names of the circuit, saying: "From a motorsport perspective I look at the guys like Lewis Hamilton and I'm inspired by that."

She reflects on how it all began. To be fair, it wasn't that long ago. "I was 14 when I first started racing in cars, but I first drove a car when I was 13 - around a field with my dad, but not sure if that counts."

She explains her family are not particularly sporty - both parents work in the City - and it was her brother who inspired her to pursue her racing career.

"It's just by chance that I started karting and completely fell in love with it. I followed in my brother's oil tracks so when I followed him I was inspired by him and he motivated me to keep going," she said.

Her family have been hugely supportive of her in the path she has chosen, so would she say they are her number one fans? She chuckles and then gushes: "Well, they'd better be!"

While Chadwick has had no shortage of support from family and friends, she acknowledges that finances are the greatest roadblock to any driver trying to make it on the biggest stage.

“I’ve raced against so many male drivers that have the talent to be involved in Formula 1 but don’t have the financial backing,

“It’s the biggest barrier across the board, men included," she said.

The W Series is a great feeder series for female drivers without causing huge financial pressures as it is a fully-funded series with prize money all the way down the grid.  

It's something the young driver is very grateful for, saying: “It’s a scarily expensive sport and that’s where amazing incentives like the W series really make a difference and that is such a positive thing."

Shortly before we meet, she has learned she is the only female nominee for this year's Aston Martin BRDC Award - set up to reward and recognise young racing drivers in the UK, it comprises a series of fitness and simulator assessments and testing in three different types of car.

Yet again she finds herself up against the men but remains undaunted. "It doesn’t make a difference if I'm the only girl. I’ve done similar stuff before and this is the best opportunity I’ll have to do well or potentially win so I just want to make the most of it," she says.

“I think if more women can make it to the top then that is the proof of the pudding that they can follow and it will encourage more girls to get involved in the sport."

Chadwick celebrates another victory, but doesn't really see herself as a role model(PA Images)

The rising star has not yet finalised her plans for next season. There has been talk of a starting place on the new Extreme E series and she has still to confirm if she will be defending her W Series title. But one thing is for sure, she has her eyes on the Formula 1 starting grid.

“Oh yes, definitely. In the last couple of years it’s been really solidified and yes that definitely is the dream,” she says.

Somehow, you can't help believing it's a dream that's likely to come true.

Dreaming of a starting place on the F1 grid, Jamie has one focus (PA Images)

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