W Series driver and Formula 1 hopeful Jamie Chadwick has conceded that she is not sure that he has the physical attributes to make it to the pinnacle of motorsport.
Chadwick is the defending W Series champion having won both of the first two titles in 2019 and 2021, and leads the way this year having taken a podium in Miami and victory in Spain.
The 24-year-old is part of the Williams system, and is aiming to get into Formula 3 and Formula 2 to compete with the guys and test her strengths as she aims to propel herself up to F1.
However, the young Briton wonders women have what it takes physically to compete in the premier class.
“I have set myself a goal of competing in Formula One but I don’t know what is actually possible,” Chadwick said in conversation with PA News Agency.
“To get into Formula One you have to go through the feeder series – Formula Three and Formula Two – and it is extremely physical.
“Formula One is extremely physical, and we don’t know exactly what women are capable of in the sport.
“If you are aged 15 or 16, and go into car racing, without power steering and driving big heavy cars, a lot of women do struggle, even though they have been successful in go-karting.
“We like to think that women can make it – and I am happy to be the guinea pig and will do my best to push and explore the options to Formula One – but we don’t know.
“There hasn’t been a woman in the recent era that has done it. I am trying to understand whether that is to do with the physical side of it.
“If it is physically possible, and women can compete against men, how do we make that happen?
“However, if it is physically too hard, but the sport wants women to compete, then we have got to bring it back and understand why.”
Chadwick indicated that some changes may be needed to the cars to make the sport more accessible to female drivers, as getting in the gym and hitting the weights is not the simple solution many might think it is.
“I don’t think it is just as straightforward as getting stronger in the gym and jumping in the car,” she added.
“Although our sport is incredibly advanced with a lot of things, the physical human performance side is misunderstood.
“In Formula Two and Formula Three, the steering wheels are all identical and they have a thick grip. How can we make them thinner because women’s hands are not necessarily that big?
“How can we make sure there are no restrictions on how close the pedals are so you can get the right leverage?
“And some of the newer tubs in the cockpit are really narrow; women with bigger hips can’t fit into them comfortably.
“A lot of these things have been overlooked for obvious reasons but now we need to see whether that does make a difference to performance.”
Susie Wolff contested a practice session as Williams’ reserve driver at the British Grand Prix in 2014, but was left out by the team at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix when Valtteri Bottas was forced to miss the race through a back injury, so the Grove-based outfit opted to race with only Felipe Massa.
Wolff had seemed an obvious choice to race with the team that weekend, but Williams’ decision not to include her left the feeling that that there was still a way to go for female inclusion in motorsport.
Chadwick remains hopeful that, be it her or someone else, there will be a woman in F1 in the near future.
“I would like to think in the next three to four years we will see a female driver in F1,” she explained.
“There is a lot of talent that is younger than me coming through that could have great success, but there are details within the sport that have been a limiting factor previously.
“Trying to understand those and changing them – even if that is not for me but for the next generation coming through – is going to be important.”
Chadwick leads Abbi Pulling and Alice Powell in the W Series Drivers’ Standings, with 42 points covering the top three as they head into the third round of the season this weekend in Silverstone.