Beitske Visser (Sirin Racing W Series Team, 27, NED) secured the first pole position of her W Series career at the fifth race of the 2022 season at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Jamie Chadwick (Jenner Racing, 24, UK) had edged out the 2019 runner-up by just one hundredth of a second with 90 seconds of qualifying remaining. But the reigning double champion was given a two-place grid penalty after the session for crossing the white line at the pit-lane exit in the closing stages.
That deprived Jamie of a fourth consecutive pole and promoted Beitske – whose sole W Series victory came in the second race of the inaugural 2019 season at Circuit Zolder, Belgium – and Nerea Martí (Quantfury Racing W Series Team, 20, ESP). Jamie will now start Saturday's race in support of the Formula 1 Lenovo Grand Prix De France 2022 from third on the grid as she chases her seventh straight W Series victory – a run of success dating back to 23 October 2021 in Austin, Texas, USA. Her four wins from four so far this term have seen her build a commanding 47-point lead over nearest challenger Abbi Pulling (Racing X, 19, UK), who was 12th in qualifying in south-eastern France.
Marta Garcia (CortDAO Racing W Series Team, 21, ESP) will line up alongside Jamie on the second row and start one place ahead of her compatriot Belén García (Quantfury Racing W Series Team, 22, ESP). Abbie Eaton (Scuderia W, 30, UK) recorded her best qualifying result of the season in sixth, and Fabienne Wohlwend (CortDAO Racing W Series Team, 24, LIE) was seventh. Jessica Hawkins (Click2Drive Bristol Street Motors Racing W Series Team, 27, UK), Sarah Moore (Scuderia W, 28, UK), and Emma Kimiläinen (Puma W Series Team, 33, FIN) completed the top 10.
Qualifying was delayed by five minutes due to a red flag in the previous on-track session, but the track temperature was still more than 45 degrees Celsius when the drivers left the pit-lane at 19:30 local time (CEST).
After five minutes, all of the drivers had posted a competitive time and Marta's was the fastest. The Spaniard and Jamie traded quickest laps on their next runs, before Nerea and Belen beat Jamie's time but not that of their compatriot, meaning Marta headed an all-Spanish top three with 22 minutes remaining.
Nerea briefly held top spot with a third of the session gone, but shortly after crossing the line she had her lap time deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 12. Undeterred, Nerea regained first place with her next effort when she went faster than anyone in the final sector.
All of the drivers had pitted for fresh tyres as the second half of the 30-minute qualifying session began. Marta was the first to take advantage of the fresh rubber, going eight one-hundredths of a second faster than Nerea as the clocked ticked below 10 minutes.
Marta, Beitske, and Jamie became the first drivers to dip below two minutes and three seconds for a lap with seven minutes left, and all three improved again on their next runs. Nerea leapfrogged Marta by two one-hundredths with three minutes remaining when the top four were separated by less than one tenth.
Jamie failed to improve in sector one on her next run, but a purple middle sector saw her overtake Nerea by one tenth with 90 seconds left on the clock. That looked to be good enough for pole position as Beitske fell agonisingly short on her final flying lap, but the stewards had the final say.
Jamie had topped the previous seven W Series sessions – including practice, qualifying, and races – but Beitske broke that run with a best time of 2:03.744 in Friday morning's practice. Her final flying lap of the session saw her narrowly regain first place from Marta, who was only six one-thousandths of a second adrift. All three Spanish drivers were in the top five, as Nerea came third and Belen fifth. Jamie split the Quantfury team-mates in fourth place, and the top five were the only drivers to post times within half a second of Beitske's benchmark.
Jamie Chadwick (Jenner Racing, 24, UK) said:
"The penalty was justified, it was my mistake and I knew I'd done it straight away so I was a bit nervous about it in the session. It wasn't anything intentional, with the low light and the way the white lines are with the reflections it was a bit hard to see. I was looking in my mirrors and made the correction but by that time the damage had been done. After that, I just tried to get my head down, do the lap and get pole, and I knew whatever will be will be afterwards. It's a bit frustrating as usually it's just a reprimand, but they judge it on a case-by-case basis and I'd crossed it by quite a bit.
"The race will be tough because the two in front of me are pretty quick, but I've got the pace to challenge them so hopefully we'll get a good start. It's a track where you can overtake, but it's going to be a long, hot race so I'll get my head down and see how it goes."
Beitske Visser (Sirin Racing W Series Team, 27, NED) said:
"I'm delighted to get pole position now, but it was a bit of a double feeling at the time! Yes, I'm back up there but it was only one hundredth to Jamie [Chadwick]. Practice was also good this morning, so the confidence we have in the race pace means we can fight for the win tomorrow. After practice, we looked at the data and a couple of points where I could improve as the track is very different to this morning when we were the first ones out. For qualifying, the track was fully rubbered-in and the temperature was higher, so it changes the balance and you have to adapt your driving a little bit. The race is going to be hotter so that will be tricky, but I’m starting from the best place."
Nerea Martí (Quantfury Racing W Series Team, 20, ESP) said:
"I'm happy with my lap but, to be honest, I wanted more. When we put new tyres on I was confident with the feeling of the car and everything was okay, but it was third place by only one tenth. I'm happy to be starting on the front row now and I think I'll have good pace for the race tomorrow."
For full W Series results and session timings from the fifth race of the 2022 W Series season at Circuit Paul Ricard, France, click here.
W Series' schedule for this weekend continues tomorrow (Saturday 23 July) when the race of 30 minutes plus one lap will start at 14.50 (local time, CEST). British fans can watch the fifth race of the 2022 W Series season live from Circuit Paul Ricard on Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports F1, Sky Showcase, and Sky Sports Mix from 13.30 BST. Highlights of the race will be on Channel 4 at 09.00 BST on Sunday 24 July. The action can also be seen across W Series’ digital and social channels, as well as being broadcast in more than 175 territories with a full list available here.