Driven Jamie Chadwick eyes Formula One but on her own terms

Chadwick has been signed up as a development driver by F1 outfit Williams and needs 40 Super Licence points to qualify for a drive in Formula One.

Jamie Chadwick of Great Britain celebrates winning the W Series championship in August.   -  REUTERS

Jamie Chadwick's ambition is to race in Formula One but with conditions attached -- she wants to secure the drive on merit and not because someone pays for her to do so, she told AFP.

The self-assured 21-year-old Briton took potentially a big step towards achieving that goal in winning the inaugural W Series title -- an all-women single-seater six-race championship raced over 30 minutes and one lap -- this year.

Chadwick is fully aware of the challenges facing her in a sport not renowned for female participation. The last woman to line up on the grid of a Formula One race was Italy's Lella Lombardi in the Austrian Grand Prix in 1976.

“I want to be there on merit. I don't care if someone pays for me to be in Formula 1 tomorrow, I won't do it as I am not there on merit yet,” she said after appearing at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London.

“I know if I jumped into an F1 seat tomorrow I would not do women in motorsport justice and I feel morally loyal to that.”

Chadwick, who has proven herself racing against male rivals, says she wants to know that she at least gave it her best.

“If I have the opportunity, which I believe I do after this year, to race at all levels and I am successful in all of them then I deserve a seat,” she said.

“If am not then I do not deserve a seat but so long as I have had the opportunity I cannot say I did not have the best shot at it.”

Chadwick said she was being tapped up in her teens by F1 teams -- but there was a very expensive catch to their solicitations.

“As a young driver you get phone calls every day,” she said.

“I had calls from three or four and I sat down with a team when I was 14 years old.

“I could not believe they were interested in me and could not understand why an F1 team would want to take me ahead of anyone else.

“The contract came through and the zeroes were ridiculous.

“I thought for a very brief moment maybe they are going to give me this. But quickly I realised, no this is what they want me to pay them!”

Chadwick's parents work in finance, which she says counts as a blessing as her desire to drive comes from within her not due to their ambitions.

'Heating the zeitgeist'

She has been signed up as a development driver by the once-dominant F1 outfit Williams.

“I was so lucky the Williams thing came about,” she said.

“I told them that I could not pay for anything.

“I don't think F1 teams should benefit from young drivers constantly being given false hope and led in all sorts of directions throughout their career.”

Chadwick, who needs 40 Super Licence points to qualify for a drive in Formula One and hopes to accrue some of them by successfully defending her title next year, equates W Series with boarding school in a positive sense.

“So in all the racing I had done previously you are in a team but you are an individual. You have your little team round you but it is very lonely.

“W Series was the same for everyone.

“All the drivers travel together, stay in the same hotel, use the same transport to the track, you spend all your time together and race against each other so there is an element of boarding school.”

The W Series is the brainchild of former banker Catherine Bond Muir, who in her banking days played a pivotal role in Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich buying Chelsea football club.

She believes it is constantly evolving and presenting different challenges.

“The W Series has been like getting to the top of a series of mountains. But every time you get to it a new bloody range is in front of you,” she said.

“The best success off the track is what we achieved with TV sales. It is heating the zeitgeist.

“It is an interesting story as no one has seen it before - women racing each other in single seaters and also demonstrating when they put helmets on they are just the same as the men.”