The W Series will crown their second champion at the Circuit of Americas in Austin Texas this weekend as they compete alongside the FIA Formula One world championship to decide who will collect the title and the £500,000 that goes with it. Alice Powell and defending series champion Jamie Chadwick head into the doubleheader season finale and championship decider level on points with 109 apiece.
W Series Race Director Dave Ryan reflected on the 2021 season saying:
After the longest break between races this season, it’s great to be in the USA for the final round and W Series’ first races outside of Europe. The team has done a great job to get everything prepared and it’s all set up perfectly. The drivers should be recharged and ready to go after seven weeks out of the cars and there are close battles all the way through the field, none more so, of course, than the one at the top between Alice [Powell] and Jamie [Chadwick] who have been rewarded for their consistency this season.
“Having two races on the same weekend is a new challenge this year, but the drivers have learned a lot over the course of the season and it’s time to put that into practice and take this final opportunity to deliver. COTA only opened in 2012 but it has quickly become a favourite among drivers and fans. It is an anti-clockwise track with 20 corners and there are none better than the opener – a sharp hairpin after a very steep uphill start-finish straight – where I’m sure there will be plenty of action as the drivers give it everything.
Speaking ahead of the final rounds of the season, Alice Powell commented saying:
After Zandvoort, the final round of the season seemed so far away, but it’s flown by and here we are at COTA. The past seven weeks have been busy for me with coaching, working with my dad, TV work and a break in Cornwall with the family. It was nice to get away, even though we filled the holiday with lots of activities, including some karting! I’m desperate to get back in the car and get on with the job now.
“Before the 2019 season, I’d had a few years without racing so that year was about blowing off the cobwebs. Coming into this year, my approach was clear – to take it one race at a time – and that has helped me. There’s still a long way to go, a quarter of the season over the final weekend, with lots of points to be won and lost so I will treat it like any race weekend because if you change too much you can lose your way. With the extra practice session at COTA, we’ll have longer to develop the race set-up. Qualifying will be more important because it will determine the grid for both races, so you need to be on the pace throughout the weekend.
“I’ve only driven COTA on the simulator but it seems to be quite similar to the sweeping, flat-out sections at Silverstone in the first sector. That’s obviously a track I enjoy driving having won there earlier this season, so I’ll try to draw on that because nailing the first sector is going to be important. The other key is getting a good run on to the really long back straight. If you’re battling in the race, you don’t want the car behind you getting your tow, and that could have a big impact on qualifying too.
“I’ve known Jamie [Chadwick] for a long time. I knew her when she was in Ginetta Juniors, and we played hockey together when we were younger because her family home is not far from mine. We get on well and have respect for each other. I know how talented and fast Jamie is and I’m looking forward to a good fight at COTA.
“Whatever happens, my journey won’t end at W Series. W Series exists to create opportunities for talented female racing drivers and it’s done that for me. I’d like to think that winning the title would propel me into a good career in motorsport which, after running out of funding a few years ago, I didn’t think I would have. I owe W Series a lot and to become the champion, on a huge weekend when we will support F1’s United States Grand Prix, would be very special.
Defending W Series champion, Veloce Racing Extreme driver and Williams Racing development driver Jamie Chadwick commented saying:
I can’t believe the final round of the season is here already. I’ve been quite busy in the seven weeks since Zandvoort, really getting stuck into my training and preparing hard for COTA. I’m happy to be going into the last weekend in the position I’m in because, after the first race of the season in Austria, I wasn’t sure that was going to be the case. Alice [Powell] and I are going toe-to-toe, so I need to up my performance level this weekend. The last few weeks have been spent working out how best to do that to make sure I go to COTA with best chance of winning.
“This is the first time I’ve been in this position, level on points going into the final round, but I kind of like the fact that I’m neither ahead or chasing because, mathematically, there’s nothing to think about. The focus for me is simply to outscore Alice and the easiest way for me to do that is to win both races.
“My only experience of COTA has been on the simulator at Williams over the past few weeks. It’s intense, technical and the surface seems to be getting bumpier so it’s going to be tricky. But having two practice sessions this weekend gives us a good chance to get up to speed.
“It’s great that Alice and I have been pushing each other so hard this year. I’ve got an enormous amount of respect for her and she’s proved this season what she was capable of doing in 2019 when she had some misfortune. It’s great to be fighting with her and I know she’ll come out strong at COTA, so I’m looking forward to the fight and it’s great for W Series to have this championship battle between us.
“It would mean everything to defend my W Series title, especially this year when I’ve been really hard-pushed for it. You can’t underestimate the opportunity we have with W Series, particularly this year being on the Formula 1 support bill and the Super Licence points on offer. So the stakes are much higher and I definitely need to do the business at COTA, but that’s a nice pressure to thrive on and a massive incentive for me to go out there and try to win.”
It is a big weekend for American Sabre Cooke and U.S based Ayla Agren as they prepare for their home events this weekend. Bunker Racing’s Cooke says:
The Circuit of the Americas will always hold a special place in my heart. I raced in the SCCA Formula 4 U.S. Championship there, gaining 25 places across two races, on the same weekend in 2018 when I won the Renault Infiniti Engineering Academy competition. I love the people at COTA so it will be great to go back there again.
“COTA can be quite a tricky circuit to get right because lots of sections are very rhythmical. If you start a section incorrectly, you’re in a bad spot for the next few corners so maintaining good track position and rolling speed is key to putting a good lap together.
“W Series is the biggest opportunity I’ve had in my career and this season, supporting Formula 1, has been amazing, so to have the final round at home is very special. I’m extremely proud to be the only American on the W Series grid. It’s a great honour to represent the USA and doing so at COTA will be incredible. Lots of my friends and family will be coming or watching on TV and I’m excited for them to see what W Series has achieved in just its second season.
“Having W Series here is massive for the series and women’s motorsport in the USA. So many young American girls have started following W Series and lots of them have been in touch with me to say they are planning to go to COTA, and I know families who are taking their daughters to see W Series that weekend too. For those girls to see us on track is going to be really special and I hope we’ll inspire them to stick with it and continue to climb the motorsport ladder.
Agren who is Norwegian but is based in the U.S is looking forward to competing with M.Forbes Motorsport at the Circuit of the Americas saying:
I’m very much looking forward to W Series racing at COTA, just a couple of hours’ drive away from Houston which has been my home for the last five years. Putting on a show is what it’s all about in Texas, so I know that W Series will have great fun this weekend and that everyone here will embrace the series and what it stands for.
“Racing with W Series at COTA in support of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be the highlight of my career so far. It will be a real pinch yourself moment and I can only compare the excitement and rush I’m feeling in the build-up to 2014 when I was fighting for the F1600 Championship Series title. Prior to this season, I’d never been to an F1 race before, so to now be part of that show and sharing the stage with them at COTA, a home race for me, is incredible.
“Qualifying will be really important this weekend. There are some overtaking opportunities around the lap, but the longer corners make it difficult to get by, so I think we’ll see some more aggressive driving, particularly as it’s the last round of the season and we all want to go out on a high.
“This could be a huge moment for women’s motorsport in the USA. Every time I come home, people ask me about W Series and everyone is open-minded and intrigued and by it. Racing outside of Europe for the first time will be a big boost for the series, and for the fans here to be able to engage with it, see the racing up close and see that it is proper racing will amplify the support for the series and women’s motorsport which already exists here. We can’t wait to put on a show!