CLAIRE Williams is the most prominent woman in F1 — in fact, the only one — but she wants to change that.
There have so far been only five women who have made it to F1 since the inception of the World Championship for Drivers back in 1950.
But thanks to Claire, a sixth is just about ready to tackle Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo and Co.
She’s English girl Jamie Chadwick, who has just turned 21 and is the current leader of the inaugural women’s W Series.
Jamie could not have had a better 21st birthday present: she got a call from Claire, who has taken her on as a development driver for the Williams F1 team.
Jamie is clearly a lass with a great deal of racing talent.
She started racing in karts at age 11, progressed through various other categories, and last year she became the first woman to win a British F3 race.
Then, in February she won India’s MRF Winter Series, a formula with a host of international drivers in 2.0-litre single seaters.
And back in 2015 she was the first woman to win a British GT championship, an incredible achievement, as anyone who has seen any of those incredibly competitive rounds will know.
She drove an Aston Martin Vantage V8.
“I am delighted to confirm that Jamie Chadwick has joined the Williams Racing Driver Academy,” Claire announced after watching Jamie win the W Series race at Hockenheim.
“Promoting women in motorsport is extremely important and having a female role model as part of our Driver Academy will hopefully inspire young girls to take up racing at a young age.
“We hope to show that motorsport is inclusive and exciting, be that as a driver or on the engineering side. Jamie is a great talent and I look forward to working with her.”
It’s an important move for the vivacious 42-year-old at the head of the iconic British engineering company and F1 team.
“You look at F1 and you just see a swathe of men,” she said.
“I am invariably the only woman in the room and it can be very off-putting and somewhat intimidating.
Her dad, Sir Frank Williams, set up the Williams F1 Team in 1977.
The team’s first win came in 1979 when Clay Regazzoni drove the Cosworth-powered Williams FW07 to victory at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Their first Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships both came in 1980, with Australian Alan Jones winning the drivers’ championship and the team winning the constructors’ title by 54 points.
Between 1979 and 1997, the team won seven drivers’ championships, nine constructors’ championships and a total of 113 wins.
It’s battling at the moment, trailing at the back of the F1 pack, and even with the undisputed talents of drivers Robert Kubica and George Russell, it faces a battle to become competitive.
Claire said Jamie would be ‘fully immersed’ in the team with a busy simulator program.
She’ll also attend three European races, starting at the British Grand Prix in July.
Jamie will join Canadian Nicholas Latifi, the team’s reserve driver.
Of her birthday gift, Jamie Chadwick said it was a great honour to be joining the Williams Racing Driver Academy.
“I look forward to spending time in the factory at Grove, immersing myself within the team and assisting wherever I can. Being a part of the Driver Academy is an amazing platform and I’m excited to get started.”
No woman has started an F1 since 1976, however Williams employed Susie Wolff as a development and test driver from 2012 to 2015, with the Scot taking part in some Friday practice sessions at grands prix — but that’s as far as Susie went.
The woman who competed in the most grands prix is Italy’s Lella Lombardi, with 17 entries and 12 starts.
South Africa’s Desiré Wilson became the only woman to win an F1 race with victory at Brands Hatch in the British Aurora F1 championship in 1980. A grandstand at Brands Hatch was named after her.
Italian Maria Teresa de Filippis entered five races in the 1958 and 1959 seasons, with a best result of 10th in the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix.
Lella Lombardi competed in 12 grands prix and her best result was 6th in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.
In 1976 the Briton Divina Galica was entered for the British Grand Prix, but failed to qualify.
The last woman to try to compete in F1 was Italian Giovanna Amati in 1992, but she too, failed to qualify for the three races she entered.
Williams does, however, have a great history of cultivating talent.
Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, David Coulthard, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas all started their F1 careers at Williams.
Let’s hope Jamie Chadwick gets there too.
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