A guy turned to his mate last Sunday. “That Jamie Chadwick did a great job winning the MRF Championship, didn’t he?”
His companion replied, “Yes, SHE did!”
There’s no two ways about it, Jamie’s achievement is huge. Over 15 races she beat fellow hopefuls trying to follow the footsteps of previous MRF champions, including F1 reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi and IndyCar’s Conor Daly. Another hot shot F1 reserve driver with an equally famous name, Mick Schumacher, only placed third in the 2017 MRF series.
Let that settle in, then digest Jamie’s achievement in the broader sphere.
I have, quite deliberately, sat on the fence over WSeries, the new female only championship. I am close to, have worked with, respect and love the people involved and have the highest regard for them all. But…. there is still this nagging feeling their ‘pulling power’, experience and connections could have served better.
Chadwick is one of the WSeries nominees and is rightly elated to be in the next stage. Yet, having been part of the Indy scene for a while and witnessed the determination and skill of Ayla Agren in the Road to Indy, to see her miss the cut, and potentially end her career as a result, feels wrong. She is one hell of a racer, but is now branded not good enough to beat other women, like a personal black flag.
In 2014 I had the privilege of making a film with Simona De Silvestro and her sponsors, who were determined to take her to F1. She tested a branded Sauber at Fiorano and we made an endorsement video. It was never released.
But in making it, with Race of Champions guru Jim Hancock, we interviewed the IndyCar paddock about Simona. Tony Kanaan said, “When her helmet is on, she’s someone to beat. In your mirrors or ahead, she is another racing driver.” While current Indy 500 champion Will Power added, “I couldn’t keep up with her on cold tyres out of the pits in Brazil for qualifying. I wanted to be ahead for my run but could not keep up! Helmet on, she is the deal.”
In short: she = he.
WSeries is great and will rightfully earn its media space. But surely a Staircase of Talent such as Jackie Stewart had, that brought winners without budgets like David Coulthard, Gil De Ferran, Jonny Kane, Dario Franchitti from junior ranks, would create more reward? Imagine cars run by recognised staff in ladder categories, and the news they’d generate, possibly even with an all-female crew. Isn’t that more relevant than a series with one champion and half budget prize to race in the real world? That’s without thinking of the 54 losers….
Racing is one of the few sports that is equal. If you communicate with your engineer well, and make a difference, it’s down to skill. I know many males who can’t do that, but there are many females who can – and they don’t need their own series to show it. Just as Jamie has shown.