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Opinion

How Jamie Chadwick is aiming to make a difference in 2024

OPINION: Former W Series star Jamie Chadwick had a trying time in her first season in the States, but she plans to step up in 2024 – in more ways than one

Jamie Chadwick, Andretti Global, Sebring testing

Photo by: Penske Entertainment

Andretti Global driver Jamie Chadwick is adamant that podium results are possible in her sophomore Indy NXT campaign, which gets under way this weekend in St Petersburg. Chadwick finished 12th in last year’s drivers’ standings and was the fourth-best-placed rookie, recording a best finish of sixth in Portland towards the end of the campaign.

After a slow start to the year, the three-time W Series champion established herself as a regular in the top 10, finishing five of the last eight races in the higher points-paying positions, albeit well behind team-mates Hunter McElrea (second), fellow Briton Louis Foster (fourth) and James Roe Jr (seventh).

“The thing that I like most about Indy NXT is that you know you’re rewarded if you have success,” says the 25-year-old. “It’s quite clear that, if you have a good year, there is an opportunity to progress into the big series [IndyCar].

“I want to be on the podium, I want to be trying to win races. It’s still a reasonable step from where we were last year. I just think that the progress we made throughout the year and with what I was able to learn, I’m confident that with the team that I’m in, that opportunity is there for me.”

This season 12 rookies will join the series, including British former Formula 2 driver Josh Mason. Of the continuing drivers, six finished ahead of Chadwick in the 2023 rankings.

“Honestly, I think we’re capable of being on the podium,” adds Chadwick. “Pre-season testing, the pace that we had, there’s a little bit of a step still to make to be committed to being constantly in the top five, but we’re floating around it.

Chadwick is embarking on her second season in Indy NXT with the Andretti Global team

Chadwick is embarking on her second season in Indy NXT with the Andretti Global team

Photo by: Penske Entertainment

“The progress that we made last year definitely gives me the confidence that we can make the step again. And I think the way the series is with the different formats and the different kinds of racing, it really does allow the opportunity to get results. It’s a season I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick recently launched The Jamie Chadwick Series in partnership with karting chain Daytona Motorsport. As part of the initiative, girls aged eight and over could enjoy a day of free karting at venues nationwide on International Women’s Day (Friday) before the championship officially begins. Chadwick will act as a mentor throughout the year, with the winner receiving financial support to climb to the next level of their career.

“When I look back to how I started in the sport, I really did fall into it by accident,” explains Chadwick. “I started at this kind of arrive-and-drive set-up and I never thought that it was ever going to go beyond that. But I enjoyed it.

"There are a lot of female drivers who have the possibility to experience karting for the first time, but don’t know what possibilities there are, that could potentially have the talent" Jamie Chadwick

“I never really knew what possibilities there were in the sport beyond that. Even just going from arrive-and-drive karting to karting at a higher club level, without being from a racing family, we didn’t really know how it worked.

“I like to think that there are a lot of female drivers who have the possibility to go to places like Daytona and experience karting for the first time, but don’t know what possibilities there are, that could potentially have the talent and now have the opportunity to feed through to the next step.”

For the younger generation of drivers, Chadwick is one of only a handful of female role models. While the increased visibility of the F1 Academy this season will add new names to those already in the public eye, it remains the case that the final season of the W Series in 2022 was the last concerted effort to promote female talent in open-wheel racing.

Further, Susie Wolff remains the most recent female driver to have taken part in an official F1 session – lapping during first practice at the British and German grands prix in 2014 – and Lella Lombardi was the last woman to start a grand prix, this final outing coming at the 1976 Austrian race.

Chadwick will serve as a mentor in 2024 for Williams junior Block in F1 Academy, the successor to W Series

Chadwick will serve as a mentor in 2024 for Williams junior Block in F1 Academy, the successor to W Series

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

It should be noted, however, that former W Series driver Jess Hawkins took to the track in modern F1 machinery in Hungary last year, drawing international attention. Hawkins will also serve as Aston Martin’s head of racing for F1 Academy this year, expanding on her existing ambassadorial role.

When her Indy NXT schedule allows, as part of her role as a Williams Academy driver, Chadwick will be on hand to offer guidance to Williams-backed F1 Academy driver Lia Block.

“I’m sure a lot of these girls that are going to the karting track aren’t looking at Formula 1 and thinking, ‘That’s something I can do and will do’, because there isn’t anyone for them to aspire to be like at the current stage,” says Chadwick. “I was out at the test in Jeddah and it’s impressive to see what F1 Academy are doing.”

Chadwick hopes to make a step forward in 2024 in Indy NXT while also helping young females through her new karting initiative

Chadwick hopes to make a step forward in 2024 in Indy NXT while also helping young females through her new karting initiative

Photo by: Penske Entertainment

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