Jamie Chadwick: Breaking the glass ceiling

Jamie Chadwick: Breaking the glass ceiling

British racing star Jamie Chadwick races full-speed towards making history as a female motorsports icon.

Photo credit: imago images / Matrix

If you look at the present situation and back in the history of motorsports, women racing alongside male competitors is a rare sight. In fact, there are only two women who have ever qualified and started a race in a Formula 1 Grand Prix, with the most recent in the 1980s. Nonetheless, there are female drivers who seek to break stereotypes and prove that racing does not need any segregation. One of these up-and-coming powerwomen is Jamie Chadwick.

Talented in various sports โ€“ accelerating on four wheels

Jamie Laura Chadwick was born in Bath, England, in 1998, making her 22 years old today. Starting her education in a small school, she was used to being the only girl in sports, as she told Kartxpress: “I was at a really small prep school which had only four girls in my year so that meant that in break times weโ€™d all play football with the boys”. She finished her education at Cheltenham College with A-levels in chemistry, geography and sports science.

Her mother is an Indian-born businesswoman, whereas her father worked in property โ€“ as well as in farming. Growing up on a small farm, Jamie was allowed to drive around with her dad in their Land Rover Defender. Her real entry into racing was when she started karting at the age of around 12, following her older brother Oliver. As most people with siblings know, pursuing the same interests and competing against each other can also cause issues.

Jamie recalls in her interview with Kartxpress that they only participated in one official race together โ€“ and tells a fun story: โ€œIt was in the wet. I overtook him [my brother] on the last lap and, when I drove into the pits, I got a massive hit from behind. It was him. There was a three-hour journey home and it was all kicking off in the car with poor Mum and Dad trying to mediate.” Now as adults, her brother naturally is one of her biggest supporters.

The sporting ace has always been interested and exceling in various disciplines. Apart from karting, the Briton was a talented skier, equestrian and hockey player where she even received an invitation for a trial with the England under-18s team. This variety also helped her with her future path, as she explained in an interview with The Daily Telegraph: โ€œI didnโ€™t specialise too early, and that was crucial. Those sports bring a lot of transferable skills. Even though I branched into motorsport relatively late, when I was 12, I was able to pick it up quite quickly.โ€

From karting against her brother to becoming a champion

However, once she made her decision to focus on car racing, she lived in the fast lane: in 2013, the youngster scored a scholarship for the 2013 Ginetta Junior Championship season. Two years later, she advanced to the 2015 British GT Championship, racing for Beechdean Motorsport in the GT4 class. By winning the Silverstone 24-Hour race, Jamie became the first woman and youngest ever champion of the British GT Championship.

Her career lifted off even faster when she switched to single-seaters. In 2018, Jamie joined Douglas Motorsport and became the first ever woman to win a British F3 race at Brands Hatch. The circuit in Kent, England, is quite symbolic: it is the same track where South African racer Desirรฉ Wilson was crowned the first and so far only woman to ever win a Formula One race of any kind, claiming victory in the short-lived British Aurora F1 Championship in 1980. Jamie followed her achievement by winning the 2018โ€“19 MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship, making her the first woman to win this series.

In 2019, Jamie shifted up another gear. She was announced as an official junior driver for Aston Martin Racing, competed in the inaugural season of the all-female W Series and in the 2019 F3 Asian Championship. By winning the first W Series championship, Jamie wrote headlines all over the world: one of the fastest women alive, a new hope for the motorsports world and the potential first female Formula 1 star in 40 years.

Her victory awarded her $500,000 in prize money โ€“ a perfect base for funding her next steps. The victory was also a springboard towards the ultimate goal of driving in Formula 1: she became a development driver for Williams. Former CEO of the racing stable Claire Williams had an eye on Jamie for several years, as she revealed in an announcement video: “She is such a trailblazer and she can play an enormous part in ensuring that we continue this momentum of gender inclusivity in Formula 1”.

Practicing with simulators

As a development driver for Williams, Jamie spends much time practicing with the team’s simulator. The setting is quite different from her Formula 3 experience and prepares her for racing in the highest class of motorsports. But even before this professional environment, Jamie used sim racing to practice and made it part of her routine.

In an interview with the Gran Turismo TV channel, she explained how she uses simulators to prepare for races. They are especially useful for circuits she has a limited amount of time to race on, so driving off the track virtually helps her get to grips with the course. It also helps to learn where to brake and go at full throttle. For those tracks she knows inside out, she notes that she actually brakes at the same spots in-game as in real life.

Jamie adds another benefit of having esports as part of her routine: it keeps her sharp mentally. When racing in a real car, reflexes, reaction and concentration for a longer period of time must be on point โ€“ something that can be practiced with simulators as well.

The future as a potential Formula 1 star

For Jamie of course, the ultimate goal is to race in Formula 1. Williams are opening a pathway where she is already preparing intensely for this job. She practices in their simulator, goes to race weekends, studies the data, and learns from existing drivers and engineers. For her, there are no disadvantages in being a female racer and she believes that women can be just as fast as men, as she told Sky Sports:

“When the helmet is on, you don’t notice a difference.”

But the rookie is also aware that she has to train hard to write history. Her next steps include her participation in the 2020 Formula Regional European Championship, as well as competing in the inaugural series of Extreme E in 2021. She has already claimed her first 10 of the 40 points needed to qualify for a FIA Super License, which is necessary for her dream of racing in Formula 1.

Jamie is a diligent fighter with the right skills and mindset to achieve her goals. The rising star is determined to re-write the history of motorsports, as she told The Guardian.

โ€œI want to do it on merit. I donโ€™t want to do it because Iโ€™m a token female racing driver. I really feel that given the right opportunity and the right support, it is possible, not just for me, but for women, to race competitively in Formula 1. Ultimately, I want to be the one to prove that.โ€

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