Williams junior Jamie Chadwick says female drivers seeking “commercial support” for racing have more opportunities in the United States than they do in Europe.
Having previously evaluating the F3-level Euroformula championship, Chadwick now is looking at America and recently completed an Indy Lights test with Andretti Autosport. RaceFans asked her about the options she could pursue in the series versus the challenge of progressing up the European single-seater ladder.
“I think the commercial support over there definitely seems to make clear sense,” she replied. “There’s a lot of female drivers that have had opportunities and paid opportunities over there, which is is fantastic.
“Ironically, IndyCar seems to be one of the most physical series there is. [Going] from Indy Lights to IndyCar seems to be really tough with the steering. So it’s interesting, but that’s actually where the most opportunities to come for some of the women.
“But from my side, definitely I see that as being a really positive thing. I see that there are opportunities. I see that there are big brands, big teams that are taking these female drivers and giving them these opportunities, which is fantastic. But at the same time, of course, I still want to make F1 possible.”
W Series’ CEO Catherine Bond Muir agreed that “potentially there is a greater openness to support female athletes in the States than there is at the moment” in Europe. Her championship concluded its 2021 season on the US Grand Prix support bill, opened its current season in Miami and will race at Circuit of the Americas again this year.
Women racing in America
Over the last decade there have been several women, who either raced in junior championships in North America or Europe, who have made it to America’s premier open-wheel series IndyCar.
In eight Indianapolis 500 starts, Patrick has an impressive record of having started and finished fourth on her debut and then been a top-ten qualifier four more times. Her third-place finish in the 2009 edition of the race was one of seven podiums she racked up in IndyCar, all but one of which came on ovals. The three pole positions she won, all in her rookie season, were all on ovals too.
Most of her IndyCar career was more than a decade ago, including her history-making win in the 2008 Indy Japan 300 race at Twin Ring Motegi, but she did contest the 2018 Indy 500. Outside of basketball she has been one of the most recognisable names and faces in American sport since her IndyCar career began, making her a powerful example of the interest a successful female racing driver could generate in F1.
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Simona de Silvestro
Currently the test driver for Porsche’s Formula E team, de Silverstone picked up the “Iron Maiden” nickname while racing in the USA due to her comeback from a fiery crash in 2010.
The Swiss was a frequent winner in the Indy Lights-rivalling Atlantics series in the late 2000s, and her IndyCar career initially encompassed four full seasons which culminated with a maiden podium and 13th in the points in 2013.
Pursuing an ultimately unrewarding Formula 1 test deal with Sauber for 2014 took her out of America, and for 2015 she moved into Formula E and starred again in a brief IndyCar return. She’s now back on the grid more frequently with the Paretta Autosport team. Alongside Tatiana Calderon, she’s one of two women who raced in IndyCar this year.
Beatriz was capable of winning in Indy Lights, coming third in the points as a rookie too, but her IndyCar career failed to deliver. In 29 starts over four years she finished no higher than 11th. Like Patrick, she was more suited to the Indy cars of old.
Mann went up the European single-seater ladder and got all the way up to Formula Renault 3.5, a series just below F1 at the time. She then moved across to Indy Lights, won two races and claimed three poles across two seasons before finding the budget over the coming years to make one-off IndyCar appearances with smaller teams. She has entered the Indy 500 eight times.
A remarkable amount of determination earned Legge a way into American racing and she made the most of it by winning on her Atlantics debut and coming fourth in the championship in 2005. A year later she was in Champ Car (prior to it merging with IndyCar), and performed strongly from the off again, leading in Milwaukee.
After two years she moved to the DTM, then returned to IndyCar in 2012 with an uncompetitive Dragon Racing team but still achieved a top-10 result. Legge has found a lot of other racing opportunities in the USA and has been an IMSA mainstay since 2014.
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