An Overview of the 2023 Williams Driver Academy
Written by Sean McKean, Edited by Sameena Khan
Housing many talents over the years, Williams Racing has proved to have an incredibly successful academy. They have a fantastic track record with Formula 1 promotions, promoting talents such as Lance Stroll and Logan Sargeant. There is also no shortage of talent currently in the junior series.
Perhaps their most versatile driver, British Jamie Chadwick, is the longest-remaining driver of the Williams Academy.
Jamie started her car racing career in 2013 in the Ginetta Junior Cup. Though she didn’t find much success during this year, finishing P10 in the standings, it laid a good foundation for a full-season assault in 2014. During the 2014 season, Jamie would achieve her first podium in the first round at Brands Hatch, and she would taste more champagne throughout the year, finishing P8 in the standings with five podiums to her credit.
In 2015, Jamie made a switch, joining the British GT Championship in the GT4 class as well as participating in the 24 Hours of Silverstone. In GT4, she would win the title overall in her class, finishing the season with two wins and nine podiums. In the 24 Hours of Silverstone, she would win the race overall. 2016 would be less successful, however, as Jamie only did a partial season in GT4.
In 2017, she switched to single-seaters, debuting in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship. This season was decent for a debutant, finishing P9 in the championship with one podium in the round at Rockingham. In 2018, Jamie would take another stab at the British Formula 3 Championship, achieving her first win at Brands Hatch and finishing the season P8 in the standings with two podiums. She also participated in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, finishing P5 in the SP8 class.
In 2019, she would make her biggest career move yet: the inaugural W-Series season. Before this, though, she would take part in the MRF Challenge as well as the F3 Asian Championship for the winter. The MRF Challenge would be a great success, as she would win the title with six wins and nine podiums. In F3 Asia, though, she would only get 18 points in her three-race stint. No one knew what to expect from Jamie nor any other driver in the first W-Series season, but Jamie destroyed the competition, taking two wins and five podiums en route to her second championship in two seasons. To round out her most successful season yet, she partook in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring in the SP8T class, winning the race within her class with Alex Brundle and Peter Kate. On top of this, Chadwick was a Williams Development driver during the off-season.
For 2020, Jamie would continue her ascent, participating in the Formula Regional European Championship with the mighty Prema Powerteam. Before this, though, she raced in the F3 Asian Championship once again for the winter. It would be more successful this time, as she would achieve four podiums en route to a P4 points finish. In FREC, despite starting off her season with a podium in Mugello, she failed to match the pace of teammates Gianluca Petecof, Arthur Leclerc, and Oliver Rasmussen, finishing P9.
In 2021, Jamie returned to the W-Series and raced a partial campaign for Veloce Racing in Extreme E. For her W-Series ventures, she would once again win the title, amounting to four wins and seven podiums. In Extreme E, she faired pretty well with Stephane Sarrazin, achieving a podium in the Oceanic X-Prix.
In 2022, Jamie primarily participated in the W-Series once again. This season, she destroyed the opposition, winning six of the seven races that season en route to a third W-Series title. Even though the folding of the W-Series may have dampened some plans for Jamie, she secured a ride with Andretti Autosport in IndyNXT for 2023. Though her season has not started too great, we are all certain Jamie can bounce back and put on some good runs.
Of those on the European ladder, British Zak O’Sullivan is undoubtedly one of the more hyped drivers from the bunch.
Zak showed promise right away upon his car racing debut in 2019. He participated in the Ginetta Junior Championship, splitting the season with two teams. Despite the team dilemma, he finished the season P2 overall with three wins and 14 podiums.
Zak would join single-seaters for Carlin in 2020, racing in the British F4 Championship. He immediately made an impact as a rookie, finishing P2 in the standings with nine wins and 18 podiums, only behind champion Luke Browning. A championship title would not be a long wait for him as he won the 2021 GB3 Championship with Carlin convincingly, ending the season with seven wins and 14 podiums, beating out names such as Reece Ushijima and Christian Mansell.
In 2022, Zak debuted in the FIA Formula 3 Championship with Carlin. Despite the equipment possibly hindering his pace, he still achieved two podiums en route to a P11 finish in the standings. Zak is continuing in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, this time with Prema, for 2023. Though it’s been a slow start to the season, Zak is undoubtedly a title favorite for the F3 season.
The only non-British driver in the academy, Argentine Franco Colapinto, has no shortage of talent in his arsenal.
Franco started his career in car racing in 2018, taking part in several starts in the F4 Spanish Championship. Despite the short time, he still achieved two podiums and one win in his four starts, finishing P9 in the championship. Franco turned this into a full-time campaign in 2019, and he demolished the competition. He took 11 wins and 13 podiums en route to his first single-seater title. During this season, Franco also participated in some starts in Formula Renault Eurocup and Euroformula Open; however, not much was achieved during this time.
In 2020, Franco began the season by racing in the Toyota Racing Series, finishing P3 in the standings with one win and eight podiums, only beaten by Liam Lawson and Igor Fraga. For the summer, he participated in a full-time Formula Renault Eurocup campaign with MP Motorsport. This season he also yielded great success, earning two wins and nine podiums en route to a P3 points finish, only beaten by Caio Collet and Victor Martins.
2021 was the year Franco would show his versatility, taking part in Formula Regional European, Asian Le Mans, European Le Mans, GT World Challenge, and Intercontinental GT Challenge. In FRECA, he would have a bit of a down year, finishing P6 in the standings with two wins and four podiums. In Asian Le Mans, he would appear on the podium three times en route to a P3 finish in the points with teammates Rui Andrade and John Falb. European Le Mans would show more promise, as Franco ended that season with one win, two podiums, and P4 in the points with teammates Roman Rusinov and Nyck de Vries. Though his starts in the GT World Challenge and Intercontinental GT Challenge yielded little success, he made a start in the 24 Hours of Le Mans to top off a stacked season, finishing P7 in the LMP2 class.
Franco would have much less on his plate in 2022, participating in the FIA Formula 3 Championship with Van Amersfoort Racing. He surpassed his expectations, achieving two wins and five podiums en route to a P9 finish in the points. After an already excellent rookie season, Franco will be continuing in FIA Formula 3 for 2023 as well, this time with MP Motorsport. Given the machinery and experience under his belt, he will undoubtedly be up there consistently this season.
The last driver of one of the smaller junior academies is Brit Oliver Gray. Oliver started his career in car racing in 2021, partaking in an entire season of British F4 for Fortec Motorsport and six races of Italian F4 for BVM Racing. British F4 saw great success for a rookie, taking two wins, two podiums, and a P7 finish in the points. Italian F4 was not as successful, though, scoring no points in his select starts.
In 2022, Oliver began his year by doing eight races in the F4 UAE Championship for Hitech, with the primary highlight being a podium in the first round at Abu Dhabi. For the summer, he ran another season of British F4, this time with Carlin. This season was a massive step up from an already strong foundation, taking two wins and 16 podiums en route to a P2 finish in the points behind Alex Dunne.
For 2023, Oliver will compete in the FIA Formula 3 Championship for Rodin Carlin. Given the success he’s already shown in his short time in single-seaters, it is no question that he will deliver on the hype.