In conversation with Jamie Chadwick, Development Driver for the Williams Formula One team ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2022
Born of sibling rivalry, Jamie Laura Chadwick’s career was perhaps not something she had envisioned. Three wins (two of them consecutive!) at the W Series later, one can argue that she was born to race.
The 25-year-old British racing driver has several records under her belt, most noteworthy of them including most wins, podiums, pole positions and points in the W Series. However, it’s her sunny disposition and down-to-earth demeanour that keep her such a favourite among fans and racers alike.
As a woman in a largely male-centred sport, one is predisposed to assume certain challenges. Contrary to popular opinion though, chasing her brother Oliver into the sport made things much easier.
“Honestly, actually, I ended up having slightly more opportunity. You know, he was one of many boys trying to break through and while our parents supported us initially, after a point we were on our own. I found a couple of doors and opportunities opened for me. And then as my career kind of was coming to a bit of a close, the W series came about, which was a big, big leg up,” she says.
Having learned from her brother’s trial and error combined with several opportunities, her illustrious career is a testament to the potential of women in motorsports. As the gender balance continues to right itself over time, she speaks of the need for it to happen faster as well as tackling various stereotypes off the track.
She explains, “I’m just focused on doing what I can in the sport, personally. But that said, I think the stereotype is women aren’t necessarily competitive in the sport yet. So yeah, there’s one thing being in racing, and another being competitive, trying to change those perceptions.”
As an emerging role model herself, Jamie speaks of how she didn’t necessarily have any growing up. While that initially stemmed from her not following motorsports, a glaring lack of such figures also contributed to the same.
Things did take a turn for the better as she delved into things on a more professional level, where she witnessed other ladies in the metaphorical pole position.
“I was lucky when I joined Williams, Claire Williams was at the helm. So she was someone I aspired to. And obviously, Susie Wolff was testing at the time. So yeah, at the time I had a lot of female role models,” she adds.
It goes without saying that success on the track, especially at a young age, calls for an exceptional commitment. Jamie echoes the sentiment, speaking to the growing need to remain disciplined and train harder as she levels up.
Add to that the challenges of it being an extremely physical sport, external factors like the car itself, and racing alongside men means it isn’t the easiest thing to do. And while she remains firm on the responsibility for success lying squarely on her shoulders, she also highlights the massive team nature of the sport.
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While the driver remains the face for the cameras, there is a huge pit crew working not so far behind the lines that significantly contributes to the success of a driver. As women continue to work their way up on the front, the need for inclusion is just as dire at the back.
For Jamie, it’s also about hiring a team that works well together, “I think everyone has to have, you know, a good working dynamic. For me, that working dynamic revolves around having different characters, different types of people. With that, I feel like to get more out of a group, if they are all at the same kind of person, you’re gonna get the same result versus when you have lots of different people.”
“And often women, in my opinion, add to that dynamic. I was lucky enough to work with a female mechanic in the W series. And now she’s got a role in Formula One, which is fantastic. So I think I’m open to having all sorts of different individuals. But the key is to get everyone working together as a team.”
Ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2023 coinciding with the COP28, there remain major eyes on the pressing need to tackle sustainability. Does the onus then fall on the driver or the team behind them?
“I think both I mean, I think obviously the upper management can have a big impact in terms of what we do with the cars in the future, the locations we raise these things, etc. But the drivers are often the ones behind the microphone, behind the camera, and the audience is watching them. So I think it is important that the right messaging is conveyed in a sport that has a lot of eyeballs on it now, and using that for the right reasons,” she says.
From no background in motorsports to being one of the faces representing women today, Jamie’s come a long way. Fingers crossed, the future’s looking wheely bright for this racer!
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