Alice Powell made the perfect start to the 2021 W Series season by taking the first pole position of her W Series career at the opening round in Austria.

The 28-year-old continued where she left off 685 days ago – when she won the last race of W Series’ inaugural season at Brands Hatch in August 2019 to seal third place in the championship – with a flawless display on Friday at the Red Bull Ring where she topped both the practice and qualifying sessions.

Alice will be joined on the front row for Saturday’s race – which supports Formula 1’s Styrian Grand Prix – by fellow Briton Sarah Moore, who was less than two tenths of a second adrift of her compatriot. Belen Garcia made an impressive start to her W Series career by taking third, and the Spanish rookie will line up on the second row alongside 2019 runner-up Beitske Visser.

Defending W Series champion Jamie Chadwick was eighth fastest and rookie Ayla Agren completed the top 10 who were separated by less than half a second at the end of a fiercely competitive qualifying session.

Five different drivers topped the timing screens during a frantic 30 minutes of action. Emma Kimiläinen set the early pace, before Alice went fastest with 25 minutes remaining. Jamie found some clear air and hit the front two minutes later, but Alice regained top spot on her next run.

Jamie became the first driver to complete a lap in under 90 seconds with 17 minutes of the session to go. Belen went two tenths faster than Jamie as the session ticked past halfway, only for Sarah to take the lead with seven minutes left. But, one minute later, Alice had what proved to be the final say as she sealed pole position by becoming the first and only driver to dip below 89 seconds.

W Series’ highly anticipated return began earlier in the afternoon when the 18 drivers took to the track sporting the new liveries of this season’s nine new teams for a 30-minute practice session.

Alice grabbed top spot with her final flying lap of practice, which was just over a tenth of a second quicker than second-placed Beitske, who was a further tenth ahead of Sarah in third. Rookies Belen and Abbie Eaton made impressive starts to their W Series careers by finishing inside the top 10.

Dave Ryan (Racing Director, W Series) said:
“It was a good result. It was nice to see Alice Powell do a great job as well as seeing Belen Garcia and Sarah Moore up there, so a bit of a change. It looks like Jamie Chadwick may have had a bit of an issue, which we will be looking at tonight. Everyone in the team has done a superb job and everything is working so well, but it has been tough getting ready for this event and really hard work. It has been nice to see everyone step up to the mark and, between them, the drivers have not put a foot wrong.”

Alice Powell, 28, UK, Racing X said:
“It’s been a crazy and very long build-up to this first race after winning the last race of 2019 at Brands Hatch nearly 700 days ago. I’ve been working so hard to make sure I was ready on the fitness side and the mental side, and I hope I can keep that up tomorrow and finish first again. I knew there was a chance of rain during qualifying, so the plan was to do 10 minutes on the old tyres before coming in for fresh ones, but we shortened that by five minutes as I knew it was going to take more time to get the tyres working and I didn’t want to rush that process. We got there in the end, and I was really consistent. Now I need to make sure I do the same again tomorrow.”

Sarah Moore, 27, UK, Scuderia W said:
“I’ve surprised myself by finishing second to be honest. I didn’t finish the 2019 season too well, but I’ve put in so much work over the past 18 months. I just wanted to keep a cool head this weekend and to qualify second at the first race hopefully sets me up well for the rest of the year. I was cool, calm and collected – I tend to work better when I’m in that mindset – and I just tried not to overthink it too much. I did some laps in qualifying where I was probably trying too hard, but I think everyone does that. Maybe this new helmet is a lucky one! Obviously, all the work that went into getting that helmet makes it very special to me and I can’t thank everyone who helped me enough – this result is for all of you.”

Belen Garcia, 21, Spain, Scuderia W said:
“I am really surprised to see myself third at the end of the session. I never expected this at the first race. I knew I had the potential to cause surprises throughout the season, but to do it at the first race is just amazing. There are so many emotions right now and I just want to thank my team for helping me. My recent spell in the Formula Regional European Championship has helped me for sure. It was risky to enter that championship so late and a big effort from everyone to make it happen, but standing here after this result makes all that work worthwhile.”


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