Formula 1 hopeful Jamie Chadwick talks Extreme E, W Series and more

Jamie Chadwick (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Jamie Chadwick (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) /

We had the chance to speak with Formula 1 hopeful Jamie Chadwick ahead of what is slated to be quite a busy 2021 season for her.

Jamie Chadwick will forever be seen as a glass-celling figure in motorsport as the first champion of the W Series, the all-female single-seater racing series. But come 2021, Chadwick will be a part of something else, which will quite literally change the face of the earth.

The 22-year-old from Bath, Somerset, England has decided to compete in the all-electric off-road racing series, Extreme E, for 2021 with Veloce Racing. Extreme E intends to use motorsport to educate people about climate change by racing in some of the most extreme environments.

This will be one of three roles to which she has already committed in 2021 alongside a W Series title defense and her duties as the Williams Racing development driver.

The coronavirus pandemic certainly does not seem to be slowing Jamie Chadwick down…

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Nathan Hine, Beyond the Flag (BTF): Why did you decide to enter Extreme E in the first place? It is quite an unusual championship compared to what you are used to.

Jamie Chadwick: Yes, definitely. It is nothing like I have done before so it is a slightly unusual direction to go in. But I have had my ear to the ground for quite a long time with Extreme E given the relationship I have with Veloce, and them getting in quite early on in the championship. So I heard about and the progress of the championship and the format evolve and everything that I saw from day one made me eager to get involved with it. But like you said, it is very, very different to anything I have done before, so it wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice for them to take me or me to necessarily want to do that alongside the other racing that I am doing. So it took a test down in France before really committing to the idea of me racing in it but I absolutely fell in love with the car, format and everything that the championship stands for. So it was a bit of a no-brainer.

BTF: Extreme E will be very different to circuit racing that you are used to. What do you anticipate to be the biggest challenge?

JC: Hard to state one. I would say the change of discipline. For me it is going from circuit racing to obviously off-road racing is probably the biggest challenge, learning about that, learning the different skills required to optimize that I think. It would be nice in an ideal world to have a lot of time to test and practice. But the way Extreme E works is we turn up and we really don’t have that much time, so adapting that quickly is going to be pretty tough.

As someone who is used to forging her own path by competing in a male-dominated industry, Chadwick is offered a seemingly more equal footing in Extreme E, which is something she definitely approves of.

BTF: Extreme E has a unique concept of running one man and one woman per entry. What do you make of the idea?

JC: Yeah, I really like the idea. I think it is a really good step forward for gender equality in sport, and yeah, it is an equal way of doing it. It is the same for everyone. All the teams have the same driver pairings in the sense of one male and one female driver, so yeah, I think it is a really good step forward. I really like the dynamic, it is proving to have the relationship that is required between the male and the female driver. It makes the championship massively a team game. It will be about the best pairings as opposed to the best one driver. I really like what they have done there and I think it is going to be an exciting year as a result.

BTF: What is most appealing about Extreme E to you?

JC: It is hard to game-pick on one thing there. For me, just the shear enjoyment I get of driving the car. And the amount of fun I’ve had in the two tests we have done already is the standout thing. Obviously, after the first test I fell in love with the concept, and obviously the style of driving required for the car. That is the standout. But yeah, you know raising awareness for climate change, gender equality, you know, locations we are going to. It is really hard to just pick on one thing. It is why it is exciting me so much.

But do not think that this means that Extreme E does not have the big names, with endorsements from both modern-day Mercedes Formula 1 world champions Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. The two drivers who have won every title since 2014 each have a team on the grid, and with nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb joining the grid, the drivers are not bad, either.

BTF: What do you make of prominent names such as F1 world champions Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton entering the series?

JC: Yeah, I think it is great for the series to have, like you said, prominent names you know involved in the sport. I think yeah it is a great step to showcase, you know, it is going to be an exciting series. By Lewis and Nico getting involved, I think it showcases that they have a similar vision to what we have and yeah it is great, and Lewis’s team has a driver in Sebastien Loeb who is the greatest rally driver of all-time. So yeah, they are definitely putting the big names in and I think that is a great thing to help the championship stand above the rest.

Chadwick is once again set to contest the W Series Championship. After securing the title in 2019, the series was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. But despite contesting the Formula Regional European Championship last year, she will be back again in 2021.

Here is her take on the matter…

JC: Obviously, the championship is now going to be on the Formula 1 package — gives all drivers a huge leg-up and extra level of exposure, so that is going to be a big factor. Superlicence points as well. I think it is just a great opportunity for all female drivers to be a part of. For me, it was a bit of a no-brainer to try to dovetail W Series alongside at least another program in Extreme E and maybe another one as well. So the main thing at this point of my career is to get as much seat time as possible and maximize every opportunity I can, and I think W Series gives me even more opportunity to do that.

BTF: How confident are you that the W Series and Extreme E races will happen and are you ready to adapt if needed?

JC: I think if last year taught me anything it was definitely to be adaptable to any changes, whether that is in, you know, timings or how the year is going to pan out. I don’t anticipate it to be smooth sailing again, but I think the way that the Formula 1 calendar adapted last year was incredible. No other, I can think of in the world, managed to adapt their sport as much as Formula 1. So yeah I think it is great reassurance to be on that package so that whatever happens, even if there is movement, I am hoping that the season goes ahead and we have eight successful races this season.

As for Formula 1, Chadwick will be back at Williams again as development driver. She has big ambitions for where that might lead.

JC: That role gets a bit more exciting for me because I am going to be at a lot more Formula 1 races this year. I think it is the same thing in being fully immersed in the team. Obviously, simulator work as I have done before, so I think it is a really, really important role for me to continue to develop and learn from the team and to make sure that one day when I hopefully get that opportunity to drive the car that I am as prepared as possible.

With Chadwick in Extreme E and the W Series for this year, she is more than keen to leave all options on the table at this point in her career and is excited for where the future might lead.

BTF: Where do you think the future of motorsport lies?

JC: Honestly, I would love to know the answer to that myself. I would love to know the future of where the sport is. I think with what Extreme E and Formula E, for example, are doing with electric technology, I can see that taking off with a lot of manufacturers potentially wanting to get involved in something like Extreme E. I think from a personal perspective, I think it is important to maintain driving in all types of car, whether that is combustion engine, electric cars, hybrid, whatever it might be. To gain that knowledge and experience within whatever the car and whatever the powertrain. I think it is important to have that experience. Wherever the future goes, hopefully I will be ready for it.

BTF: Where will that future be for you?

JC: Ultimately, the goal is still Formula 1. So, I would like to say Formula 1, but also with Extreme E, I would like to not close the door to any off-road opportunities that might crop up as well.

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Charming, brilliant and motivated, Jamie Chadwick is relaxed and ready for another season. With Extreme E, the 22-year-old Brit is certainly dipping her toes into the world of electric and off-road racing while continuing her progression to Formula 1. We will watch with anticipation as her journey to get there continues to progress.