Alice Powell made it back-to-back W Series victories with a decisive performance in the first race of the 2021 season in Austria.
Nearly 700 days after winning the final race of W Series’ inaugural season at Brands Hatch in August 2019, the 28-year-old, driving for the Racing X team, led all the way from pole position to the checkered flag — and recorded the fastest lap — to complete a clean sweep at the Red Bull Ring where she also topped Friday’s practice and qualifying sessions.
The Briton was followed home by compatriot Sarah Moore (Scuderia W), while Liechtenstein’s Fabienne Wohlwend (Bunker Racing) took advantage of a flurry of late incidents to complete the podium despite starting ninth.
Rookie Belen Garcia (Scuderia W) was fourth and Jess Hawkins (Racing X) fifth, while Miki Koyama (Sirin Racing) progressed from 13th on the grid to take sixth. Defending champion Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing) recovered from an early incident to finish seventh and Nerea Marti (Academy) made up more places than any other driver, going from 16th to eighth. Irina Sidorkova (Academy) and Gosia Rdest (PUMA) completed the top 10.
Powell made a clean start from pole position to keep Moore behind, while Garcia retained third despite coming under pressure from Beitske Visser (M. Forbes Motorsport).
After a turbo issue consigned Chadwick to eighth place in qualifying, the 23-year-old made good early progress to sit fifth at the end of Lap 1. However, those initial gains were undone at the start of Lap 2 after contact with Hawkins, relegating her to eighth and Chadwick to 16th. The contact didn’t hamper the pace of either of the British drivers, though, as Chadwick set the fastest lap of the race with 25 minutes remaining and Hawkins passed Marta Garcia (PUMA) at Turn 6 to take seventh place three minutes later.
Moore was under increasing pressure from Belen Garcia for second place, and Cooper capitalized on the clear air at the front to post the fastest lap with a third of the race remaining and extend her advantage to more than two seconds. Belen ran wide at Turn 6 as the race ticked past halfway and returned to the track in ninth, giving Sarah some breathing space and promoting Visser to third.
An issue for Marta Garcia forced the Spaniard to pull off the track on the back straight and brought out the safety car with eight minutes left, bunching the field for a sprint to the finish when the action resumed with less than four minutes to go.
“I saw Marta’s car on the side of the track and I was dreading the safety car coming out, but I managed to keep control,” related Powell. “I knew I had the pace, so it was just about staying consistent and bringing it home. I struggled for the first couple of laps to push but I knew the pace would be there, and I was just focused on going forward. It’s the perfect start and an amazing feeling, better than I had in 2019, so a massive thanks to W Series and F1 for such a great weekend.”
Visser spun after contact with Emma Kimilainen (Ecurie W) on the first lap after the resumption, sending Visser to the rear of the field and promoting Wohlwend to third. Abbie Eaton (Ecurie W) spun on the next lap to drop behind Visser, while Kimilainen fell back through the field as a result of the damage to her front wing. Chadwick was the biggest benefactor from that frantic end to the race, recovering from her early incident to finish seventh.
The Red Bull Ring will once again play host for the second of this season’s eight W Series races next Saturday, July 3, in support of Formula 1’s Austrian Grand Prix.
— W Series (@WSeriesRacing) June 26, 2021