Jamie Chadwick on her new adventure in IndyCar and ‘ultimate goal’ of F1 seat

Exclusive interview: The three-time W Series champion speaks about needing a fresh opportunity and the challenges she will face stateside in 2023

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Thursday 08 December 2022 14:48 GMT
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Repetition doesn’t make memories; new experiences do. For Jamie Chadwick, the undisputed queen of W Series having stormed to three titles out of three, 2023 needed to represent a change. It was time for a step into the unknown. So last week’s announcement that the 24-year-old from Bath was driving for the Andretti team and joining the US IndyCar feeder series Indy NXT, formerly known as Indy Lights, represents a complete change of tack. New country, new cars, new experiences.

“There was always that focus to try and step up,” Chadwick says. “What we learned from 2021 was that we were going to have to work hard to find the opportunities. I was fortunate that the conversations were already in place, it was just getting the stars to align which they fortunately did. I had already been out to Indy NXT for testing and it’s a huge chance for me to tick a lot of boxes and go over to the States and have success there. It was a big thing to get an opportunity outside of W Series.”

It was something of an inevitability that Chadwick’s mind would turn stateside. With W Series’ future hanging by a thread after failing to finish the 2022 season due to financial reasons – regardless, a sterner test was desired – and European routes such as Formula 3 proving tricky, the opportunity presented to race in a mixed field in a 14-round competition was too good to turn down. Obtaining the financial backing of global logistics giant DHL, too, was of great significance.

Yet come the first race in St Petersburg, Florida, on March 5, Chadwick will be thrusted into a brave new world of competitive motor-racing: from heavier and quicker machinery to new tracks ranging from ovals to street circuits. Where then does she place her expectations?

“I don’t want to be too black and white about finishing in a certain position,” she insists. “But I want to be competitive. Even if I’m not winning races, I want to be in the position where every weekend I can win races.

“New circuits will be a factor and it’s not like what I’ve done before where you can do countless hours on the simulator. A lot of tracks are on streets where you can’t drive outside of the race weekend. Also the longer races are going to be a challenge, in approach and physically. The fitness regime is going to up around all of that, some of the tracks are brutal with no rest.”

Inevitably, a large chunk of the focus will be on Chadwick competing as a women amongst a field of men. She is the first female driver in Indy NXT for 13 years and has called upon the advice of 2022 IndyCar and Formula 2 driver Tatiana Calderon, five years her senior, ahead of this fresh challenge.

“Her feedback was really interesting,” Chadwick tells. “I liked this a lot: she said it was very physical, very tough, but she’s never enjoyed racing so much. She loved being over there, she loved the opportunity, she loved the weekends and having the opportunity to race in IndyCar. I took a lot from that because there’s a lot to be said for actually being able to enjoy what you do and having that chance.”

Jamie Chadwick is relishing the new opportunity presented to her by Andretti in Indy NXT
Jamie Chadwick is relishing the new opportunity presented to her by Andretti in Indy NXT (Getty Images)

Calderon was limited to the street and road course rounds in the top-tier IndyCar but nonetheless struggled with the circuits, her lack of IndyCar knowledge and adapting to a physical drive. Chadwick will need a period of acclimatisation, that’s for sure. Alongside her participation in the US, she remains in the Williams Driver Academy, maintaining her links to the Formula 1 paddock whenever time allows her.

Yet in joining Andretti – owned by Michael Andretti, son of 1978 F1 world champion Mario – Chadwick is joining a team which has expressed interest in joining the Formula 1 grid, particularly given the sport’s growing popularity in the States with record television and spectator audiences, as well as three races as of next year.

“Andretti are looking at options to bridge that gap between Europe and America in terms of racing,” Chadwick says. “We saw Colton [Herta] trying to get an F1 seat at one point and I think that cross-over between drivers going between the two Championships is something I’d like to see more of in the future.”

Further down the line then, in contrast to years gone by, opportunities and avenues to join the Formula 1 feeder series could well open up for Chadwick.

“There’s no doors that are being closed,” she sensibly concludes. “F1 is the ultimate goal. But I’m very realistic that there’s a long way to go before I get to that point and there’s a lot to achieve. Year-by-year if I perform at each level then of course Formula 1 is something I definitely want to be in.”

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