W Series: Jamie Chadwick says becoming the first champion would be 'hugely significant'
Britain's Jamie Chadwick says becoming the first champion of the all-female W Series would "mean a huge amount" in her career as she aims to race in Formula 1.
The 21-year-old holds a 10-point lead over Dutch driver Beitske Visser before Saturday's penultimate race of 2019.
Chadwick will clinch the title if she wins and Visser does not finish in the top four at Assen in the Netherlands.
"It would be a big part of my career if I can seal this title," said Chadwick.
"The odds are in our favour but it's six races in 2019 and with two of them left that's still a third of the way to go.
"We've led from the start so hopefully we can bring it home, but anything can happen. After the first couple of rounds the championship has been our goal and now we have to finish the job.
"It would mean a huge amount. In every race, every championship, you want to win but this one is hugely significant with the way it works with the prize money and exposure."
The champion will collect $500,000 (£400,000) and Chadwick has won twice this season - at Hockenheim in Germany in the first W Series race in May and then again a month later in the third race, held in Misano in Italy.
If Visser does secure a top-four spot at Assen then the title will go to the final race - at Brands Hatch on Sunday, 11 August.
It has also been announced that the series will be introducing super-licence points from next season for the top drivers - a requirement for competing in racing series such as F1.
Dreaming of Formula 1
Only two female drivers have started a F1 race - Maria Teresa de Filippis did three times in 1958 and fellow Italian Lella Lombardi started nine races in 1975 and another one in 1976.
"Ultimately, Formula 1 is the dream and I'm under no illusions how difficult it will be to make it a reality," added Chadwick.
"It's still a few years away and I don't want to rush it but at the same time you can't spend forever to get there. If I can perform in the next two or three years in what I'm doing then I hope it's an achievable goal.
"It's something I want to do on merit, not just as a token gesture, I want to be there because I deserve to be there.
"I don't think too much about being a female in motorsport, I just want to achieve as a racing driver. We are obviously under-represented in the sport and that's not great and if it can change with more girls involved that has to be good."
Learning at Williams
In May, Chadwick joined the Williams F1 team as a development driver, the same role Susie Wolff had from 2012 to 2015, before her retirement.
"With Williams, [deputy team principal] Claire [Williams] and her husband Marc watched the Hockenheim round and conversations escalated as to how we could develop a relationship, how they could help me and how I could help them," said Chadwick.
"Being a British brand and where they are as a team, it felt really important to align myself with them. So far it's a development role, mainly simulator and factory work but the amount I'm learning is huge.
"Robert [Kubica] is a hugely experienced driver and George [Russell] is also incredibly fast and talented so what I'm learning from the debriefs and the feedback they get is important.
"Testing [an F1 car] has to be the aim for next year."
Answering the critics?
When the W Series was launched, it did have critics with Britain's Pippa Mann, who has raced in IndyCar since 2011, writing on Twitter that it was "a sad day for motorsport" as it was "segregating" female racers as "opposed to supporting them".
However, Chadwick thinks some of the critics will have softened their tone.
"The W Series has been really successful," she said. "When it was announced, there was controversy about it but a lot of people have turned their heads to it and see the benefit of what it is.
"It's a higher standard than I expected and the way it's been run has been incredible - I've loved every minute of it.
"Hopefully it does what they set out to achieve and get that female to Formula 1 one day - they want women to succeed in motorsport and rise to the top.
"If I had a doubt if physically I could do it, Susie would show me it was possible to do a race run in Formula 1 as she did in a test and Tatiana [Calderon] showed it was possible to do Formula 2 and Formula 3. If I can do that for the next generation that has to be good."
Chadwick could remain in the W Series for 2020, although the World Endurance Championship, the all-electric Formula E series and the Formula 3 Championship may also be future options.
"Formula 1 is ultimately the pinnacle but one of the nice things about the sport is there's no fixed route how to get there and I want to split myself across everything," she said.
"I want to be racing as much as possible and when I'm ready for Formula 1 then I'm ready regardless of whether I've ticked every box along the way."
|W Series total prize fund for 2019 is US $1.5 million|
|1st place: $500,000|
|2nd place: $250,000|
|3rd place: $125,000|
|4th place: $100,000|
|5th place: $90,000|
|6th place: $80,000|
|7th place: $70,000|
|8th place: $60,000|
|9th place: $50,000|
|10th place: $40,000|
|11th place: $30,000|
|12th place: $25,000|
|13th place: $20,000|
|14th place: $15,000|
|15th, 16th, 17th and 18th places: $7500|