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EXCLUSIVE: Without W Series “I wouldn’t have been racing the last four years, period” – Jessica Hawkins

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Credits: W Series Media

Jessica Hawkins is not only an Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team Driver ambassador, W Series and TCR UK driver, she is also a role model and inspiration to thousands of women around the world. The twenty-seven-year-old hasn’t had life the easy way by far, with the Brit having fought tirelessly for every seat she’s ever had in motorsport.

She’s paving the way for a brighter future for females in racing, with the Brit being a key voice in getting a female driver back into Formula 1. 2022 has been an impressive year for Hawkins on the track, after claiming her first ever W Series podium at the season opening weekend in Miami, where she claimed a brilliant second place. Hawkins even won her first race in the TCR UK championship, by claiming Race Two victory at the season opening weekend at Oulton Park. In doing so she became the first female to win a touring car race in the United Kingdom.

When she’s not driving for Click2Drive Bristol Street Motors in W Series, or for Area Motorsport with FASTR in TCR UK, she’s travelling the world with the Aston Martin F1 Team, proving to women around the globe from all backgrounds that they do have a place in motorsport.

She also finds time to be a stunt driver, having worked on the most recent James Bond film ‘No Time to Die’.

She is back with the team at this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix, where she spoke exclusively to The Checkered Flag. The British side are aiming for their fourth consecutive points finish, after Sebastian Vettel claimed a solid eighth-place finish at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, demonstrating that the team are “making steps in the right direction”. Given how the team were often found towards the back of the grid at the start of the year, it’s been a resounding few months for the team as they’ve made substantial progress into the points places.

Hawkins thinks it’s a “little bit too early” to be highlighting the team as consistent points finishers, but that the entire time has been dedicated to getting improvements out of the AMR22.

“I think maybe a little bit too early to say that but we’re certainly making steps in the right direction, and every time we go out, we seem to have some kind of improvement somewhere. So, I guess that’s been down to all of the hard work and dedication from the whole of the team.”

Credit: Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images

This weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix presents the team with a completely different challenge, with Zandvoort being “such a different track” to last weekend’s host Spa-Francorchamps. Hawkins has raced around the tight and twisty Dutch circuit before, as recently as last season in the W Series where she claimed a brilliant fifth place.

The British driver has a good knowledge of the old-school venue which she believes is one of the “hardest to overtake” at. Qualifying is incredibly important therefore, which could make this weekend particularly difficult for the British racing green side.

Saturday has been their downfall so far in 2022; however, with qualifying being so vital at the Dutch circuit it gives the team a great opportunity to focus more on the area. Nevertheless, Hawkins knows that the whole team will be giving “one-hundred percent”.

“Definitely. I think this is such a different track to Spa in the way that Spa is probably one of the easiest circuits to overtake at, and this [Zandvoort] is arguably maybe one of the hardest to overtake. So, yes, qualifying is always important, but maybe more so here. Going by previously, that probably is an area that we need to work on but of course, that is something that the whole team looks at and we’ll be trying 100% here.”

“I was just a really young child enjoying my racing”

It’s been forty-six years since the last female competed in Formula 1, since Italy’s Lella Lombardi competed in the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix. The belief is growing that this unnecessary wait is getting closer to coming to an end, with the W Series having helped knock down some of the barriers. Not only this, but teams like Aston Martin are leading the charge, with the help of Hawkins, to put the measures in place to bring the forty-six year wait to an end.

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali discussed the matter last weekend in Belgium, with the Italian explaining that he can’t see it happening in the next five years, unless a “meteorite comes into the earth”. Whilst his wording was odd and labelled as “a very unlucky choice of words” by Vettel, Domenicali meant good by what he said, something Hawkins recognised, whilst many haven’t.

“Yes, he did say that, but he also went on to say that he and everybody else needs to come together to ensure that isn’t the case and to get a female into Formula 1, which I agree with, to be honest.”

Domenicali’s words have in a way been taken out of context by a number of people in the media, with his interesting terminology perhaps to blame for that. With social media being as impactful as it is on the younger generation, in regard to their life choices, it’s a highly probable guarantee that many young women who are aspiring of a career in motorsport would’ve seen Domenicali’s comments, but not from the supposed meaning.

With this in mind, Hawkins thinks that actually when a comment like Domenicali’s is taken out of context like it has been, it may drive the younger generation “to want to prove them wrong”, rather than push them away from their dreams.

“I don’t think it disheartens the younger generation. Maybe when something like that does get taken out of context, it may give more room for the younger generation to want to prove them wrong, something like that. Especially as a younger kid as well, I was just a really young child enjoying my racing and I think that probably is the same for many a young child who’s coming up the ranks. I don’t think it will affect them.”

Credit: TCR UK

With Domenicali believing that the ongoing wait won’t end for at least another five years, just when will it end?

It’s a question that nobody knows the answer to, unless they have a “crystal ball”, something Hawkins wishes she had. The twenty-seven-year-old still sees some areas that need to change before it can happen, with the mentality around it seemingly one of them.

Hawkins recognises that it is “going to be a milestone” when a woman is back competing in the pinnacle of four-wheeled motorsport, but that actually the goal isn’t achieved until women in motorsport is the norm.

As the British driver said herself, “it needs to be normal to have a female in Formula 1”, something that will be a true representation of equal rights in motorsport and give any talented young boy or girl the belief that not only they could race in Formula 1, but that their gender won’t determine what’s possible or not.

“I don’t know,” Hawkins said when asked how long it’ll be until a female driver is back in Formula 1, and what barriers needed to be overcome.

“In my eyes, it’s not going to happen immediately. We’re not going to see a female race in Formula 1 next year. Maybe I’m wrong, I hope I am wrong, but I think a few things need to change. Of course, it’s going to be a milestone when a female makes it to Formula 1, but until it’s not a huge thing that a female is racing in Formula 1, that’s when we’ve achieved our job. Like, it’s all great having one female, but it needs to be normal to have a female in Formula 1.

“I wish I had a crystal ball. I wish I was able to tell you when it will happen, but I think that there are a few things that I think need to happen before it is truly easier than what it is now.”

“W Series has been a huge driving force”

Hawkins isn’t the only female driver part of a Formula 1 team, with fellow W Series competitor Abbi Pulling being part of the BWT Alpine F1 Team‘s Affiliate programme, which aims to recruit up-and-coming stars of the future. She is also, therefore, part of Alpine’s Driver Academy, something that two-time W Series World Champion Jamie Chadwick is in at Williams Racing‘s equivalent.

The teams themselves are playing an instrumental role in getting more female drivers into the realm of Formula 1, something which will hopefully go on to result in potential track time going forward.

Hawkins praised both the W Series and Aston Martin for being a “driving force” that is “gathering momentum” in the ongoing quest of getting more women in motorsport in general. Hawkins herself has played a huge role too, with the Brit undoubtedly having inspired thousands of women around the world of all ages to pursue a career in motorsport.

She’s spoken at a number of events and schools, most notably the British International School of Jeddah back in March, something that in all honesty probably wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.

The Aston Martin ambassador likened the aim of getting a woman into Formula 1 to the recent UEFA Women’s European Championship, which of course the utterly superb Lionesses’ won in front of a record crowd. It was the first major title ever won by the women’s team, and something which Hawkins believes goes to show that the work done by female footballers ten years ago, has allowed the female footballers today to have the stage and the opportunity to perform.

Credit: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team

She believes a similar story explains the situation with women in motorsport, that things that are currently happening have been made somewhat possible due to the work done by female drivers in the past. Not only this, but that the work herself and other female drivers are currently doing today, will benefit women in the future.

“I think, first of all, W series has been a huge driving force behind the amount of women that we’re seeing in motorsport. I also think that Aston Martin for one team has been a huge pusher of that same subject, and it’s gathering momentum. We’re a lot further forward than what we were a few years ago.

“We’ve come so far in such a short amount of time, the only thing that I can compare it to, right, is the Euro 2020 women. A couple of weeks ago, they did an amazing job and they are incredible. But ten years ago, or ten years before that, or however long it was, those ladies weren’t even allowed to play football. And it was the ladies that were playing football some time ago that put in the work to allow those females to play football.

“So, it’s the hard work done of those some time ago that we’re seeing the rewards from now. And I think the same goes for motorsport. We’re working so hard now and there are so many different areas trying to work on a female getting into Formula 1, but it may just take a little bit more time before we get that reward, if that makes sense.”

W Series has played a huge role in helping raise the conversation for getting women back into Formula 1, with the championship having given so many women the opportunity to perform in front of a global audience. The championship is free to enter, something which is unheard of in the world of motorsport. The series rewards talented women with an incredible opportunity, without the financial barriers which they usually have to overcome.

The series also uses identical cars, something which means it’s the talent of the driver, rather than the machinery underneath them that determines where they finish. Hawkins is incredibly proud to be part of the series, one which she is of course highly competitive in.

The series has gone from strength to strength, with the category having boasted a record one million UK TV viewers during its British Grand Prix, a sign of the growing interest people are having in the fantastic championship.

It’s also allowing women to have their voices heard on a much greater platform, something which will only inspire the next generation of female drivers even more than before.

Despite only being in its third season, the series is growing exponentially, with its rapid rise not looking like slowing down anytime soon. Hawkins believes that the championship just needs to “keep doing what it’s doing”, with it consistently making “major steps forward”, in order to propel itself into the future.

“I think it’s just got to keep doing what it’s doing, to be honest. There are obviously things going on in the background that I don’t know about. The next series has never come into the next year without major news and without a major step forward. So, yeah, that’s something that we can look forward to, and W series has been amazing for me.”

Without W Series “I would not be racing”

Whilst discussing the W Series, Hawkins incredibly explained that without it, she “wouldn’t have been racing in the last four years”. This further proves the impeccable job the series is doing to not only promote women in motorsport, but also to give deserving drivers the seat that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

Hawkins’ story shows just how challenging motorsport can be, with the Brit admitting that if it wasn’t for the W Series then a full-time seat simply wouldn’t have been possible. Her skillset is unquestionably and quite simply, brilliant. She is able to perform to the highest of standards in both W Series and TCR UK, despite the two having virtually zero similar characteristics.

Credit: W Series

Hawkins has proven that perseverance is met with rewards, a lesson that can be taught to all ages in regard to never giving up. This is one of the many reasons as to why she’s a role model and inspiration to female drivers across the world, and a credit to Aston Martin.

“I wouldn’t have been racing the last four years, period. I would not be racing, maybe. I mean, I’ve been racing in a UK championship again this year, maybe I would have been able to get a few races in that or something, but certainly I would not have been, I definitely would not have been in a full time seat, if that makes sense, that W Series is providing. I wouldn’t be.

“I’d probably be trying to find the budget for one race to do something here and there, or one race in BTCC, and then one race in TCR, and then a random other thing that came up. So yeah, they’ve secured my seat, I guess, for three seasons that I wouldn’t have without them.”

“I can’t tell you how intense!”

Not only Formula 1 but a number of championships have recently come back from their summer break, a time to “switch off and relax”. With many series’ increasing their calendars, having a couple of weeks off has arguably become more important than ever before, both for the drivers and the rest of the team.

Hawkins is possibly one of motorsports busiest drivers, with her schedule being full of racing in the W Series, TCR UK, attending sixteen Grand Prix’s with Aston Martin, and then other roles outside of the endless amount she already does.

The importance of the summer break really isn’t given enough respect, with Hawkins telling TCF that she “can’t tell you how intense” the year is! Hawkins highlighted how she actually took the sheer volume of travelling around the world “for granted”, with the W Series star revealing that “just the travelling alone” demands “sheer dedication”.

“I can’t tell you how intense! So, I think I do eight weekends with the team, and then we have eight W Series weekends, so that is 16. And then I have eight TCR races, but the TCR races aside, I only come to 16 Formula 1 races, which isn’t anywhere near the full amount and even that it is a lot of traveling. It is a lot of traveling and I cannot put into words how much I took for granted.

“Obviously, I knew the drivers had to be fit, I knew they had to be physically fit, mentally fit. But just the traveling alone and the sheer dedication that you have to put into it, it’s tough. And not just the drivers, on the whole team, the whole team are going through the same thing. So, yeah, hats off to the drivers because it is stressful, and they need not just the drivers, the whole team need a couple of weeks to switch off and relax and keep their energy.”

Credit: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team

The summer break has of course been followed by the only triple-header of the season, meaning that all the teams are straight back to working at one hundred percent and beyond.

The intensity that Hawkins discussed is simply something unimaginable, especially at a time when the world is reopening from being completely closed due to the pandemic. With the world now having learnt to deal with the Coronavirus and international travel being all but back to normal, the Formula 1 calendar is booming with interest.

Las Vegas and Qatar (previous race was a replacement Grand Prix) will be joining the calendar next year, with a return to South Africa also looking likely in the near future. Travelling around the world continuously throughout the year at the speed of which all the teams do comes with its own pressures.

Mental and physical health is a topic that truly isn’t spoken about enough, and with the calendar continuing to grow exponentially, the question has to be asked whether it will reach a point where those involved in the championship simply can’t cope.

Hawkins doesn’t believe the sport’s hierarchy “would ever let it get to that stage”, especially with the budget gap being as difficult to stick to as it currently is ( the budget cap has already been increased by $5 million due to the rise in costs around the world).

“I don’t think Formula 1 would ever let it get to that stage, to be honest. I’m not involved in Formula 1 discussions or anything like that, but I’d say that they’re at their maximum as to what’s probably possible as well, especially with the budget caps as well. I can’t see it increasing, but I’m not savvy to those conversations. So genuinely, I have absolutely no idea.”

“As he is in the press is exactly how he is in real life”

For 2023 it’s one great in and one great out at Aston Martin, as BWT Alpine F1 Team‘s Fernando Alonso will be replacing the retiring Sebastian Vettel. The thirty-five-year-old isn’t only a four-time World Champion, he is in many people’s opinion the ‘People’s Champion’, and rightly so.

The German has dedicated an incredible amount of time and effort in using his impressive position as one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers in the history of the sport, to raise awareness for a number of worthy campaigns and communities.

Vettel has used not only his voice, but also acted upon it, something which could be learnt and admired in all ways of life. There is no doubt that he is a ferocious competitor, but also an “incredible” person.

Whilst many have been afraid of standing up against important matters, such as environmental change, Vettel has led the charge in making not only Formula 1 more sustainable, but the world.

He has faced an onslaught of calls for supposedly being a ‘hypocrite’; however, the German will be the first to admit that whilst that may be the case, he is doing his utmost to act upon it.

Credit: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One Team

A number of these calls came during his appearance on BBC political programme ‘Question Time’, where Vettel was asked by the audience how he can be fighting areas such as climate change and environmental change yet be playing a part in causing it by driving in Formula 1.

It takes a decent person, like Vettel is, to respond by agreeing with the audience member that perhaps it does make him a ‘hypocrite’; however, it takes an amazing person to do something about it.

It would be easy to understand why drivers perhaps wouldn’t be honest about their opinion on global matters, as Hawkins explained, though, the way Vettel is seen in the press and on TV, is exactly how he is in real life, “passionate” and “incredible”.

“We’ve obviously had a great few years from Seb. He’s been fantastic for this team and he’s been crucial for the building of this team, so we’re very sad to see him go and to get to work with him has been amazing. As he is in the press is exactly how he is in real life. He’s very passionate about the things that he thinks, he’s extremely passionate about what he says, none of it is for show. He’s incredible.

“He gives me so much time, more time than he ever needed to. But when it’s your time to retire, I guess, you know, if he knows that he’s done, he knows that he’s achieved everything he wanted to achieve and it’s his time. Who are we to say otherwise? He’s been great to have.”

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