Calling it the Super Bowl of Formula 1, this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, with its bustling man-made marina, plenty of palm trees and party invitations galore, will embrace the extra and the extravagance in a way only America can.
It’s also a far cry from the staid and serene beauty of Bath, where two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick was born, and it even feels different from the Hollywood hills, where the 23-year-old’s new team owner, Caitlyn Jenner, made a name for himself on reality TV.
But Chadwick’s Miami mission has little to do with glitz and glamor. It wasn’t exactly her plan to be here this season – the second in the all-female single-seater series’ partnership with F1 – not at all.
The Williams development driver was hoping to raise enough money or sponsorship money to move up to a Formula 3 or Formula 2 race.
“It’s very simple,” Chadwick said. “I just couldn’t secure the budget. The W Series gave me a tremendous head start and helped me along the way. But getting a seat, and to be honest, a competitive seat – especially on these shows – is an extortionate amount of money.
“One that I wish for when I have children one day,” she half-joked, “they don’t want to get into motorsport. It’s one of those things that didn’t work out this time. I’m disappointed but I don’t see it as a missed opportunity because there are still opportunities with the W Series and I could still achieve a lot here this year and hopefully be back next season.”
So Florida is all about the American racing dream for the versatile driver, who also experimented with rallying as part of Extreme E’s inaugural campaign last year.
“I’ve made no secret that America is a place I want to explore more in my career, whether it’s in IndyCar or something else, it’s definitely of interest to me,” Chadwick said.
“This year, I think, the sporting side of things as a fan, over in the States they’re doing so well. I went to the Indy 500 a few years ago and it’s one of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to. COTA (Circuit of the Americas) last year gave me a similar sense of the spectacle and really being a part of it with the fans.
“I’m looking forward to that this year. I hope we can put in a good performance for them and embrace that.”
The W series has seen exponential growth since its debut in 2019, enough to convince Sky Sports to sign the competition to a three-year broadcast deal, leaving a highlights package on Channel 4. Hard Rock International has acted as title sponsor for this weekend, and Chadwick will compete alongside American Chloe Chambers in Team Jenner’s series debut.
Former Olympic decathlete Jenner, whose children include Keeping up with the Kardashians moguls Kendall and Kylie, also had a short motorsport career, racing in the IMSA Camel GT Series.
Chadwick expects her new boss to be “quite hands-on with running the team and making sure we’re doing our best.”
The outspoken Jenner, who is said to have a net worth in excess of $100 million (£80 million), ran as the Republican nominee for governor of California and has sparked much controversy in the US.
That doesn’t bother W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir, a former attorney who argued, “Caitlyn’s politics are Caitlyn’s politics and she’s free to speak out about them.”
What she wants to talk more about is Miami – “by far the biggest race the W Series has ever been a part of” – following Covid restrictions and restricted access for media and fans, which has been a bit “muted” over the past two seasons .
“America will be our biggest fan base by far,” said Bond Muir, who thinks Chambers could be a future champion. Unlike the UK, she said, there was no need to justify the show’s existence to Americans. You have already made a purchase.
“All of a sudden, when I go to Miami, it feels like I’m just taking the lid off the box. An explosion happened. It’s absolutely incredible.”
And whatever happens to her figurehead next season, Bond Muir is adamant that Chadwick served as the show’s ideal first ambassador.
She added: “Jamie isn’t moving on, wait a minute we’ve only had two seasons. The idea that we will change the world very quickly cannot be justified.
“Whatever we do, until we get a champion through us, we will be criticized. But we are a platform that promotes women in motorsport, not just the drivers. We have to keep working on our values.”