UNDERCUT | Jessica Hawkins: “You have to prove yourself – constantly”
In the latest instalment of our groundbreaking interview series, UNDERCUT, Jessica Hawkins reflects on her first time in the Aston Martin F1 simulator, the success of W Series and the future of women in Formula One.
Jessica Hawkins will never stop pushing.
She has spent two decades relentlessly pursuing her passion for motorsport – and proving people wrong. Forced to park her single-seater career due to a lack of funding, she took to the big screen as a stunt driver in both the James Bond and Fast & Furious franchises, before the launch of W Series provided her with the opportunity to return to single-seater racing in 2019.
Since 2021, she's dovetailed competing in the all-female racing championship with her role as driver ambassador for the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One™ Team (AMF1), and she's used her career as a platform from which to promote greater diversity, equality and inclusion in motorsport and engineering.
Now, at 27, Jessica speaks with candour about dealing with disappointment, inspiring women to pursue their dreams in the sport she loves and why she still has to keep proving herself.
The F1 simulator is a step above anything I've used before.
You recently completed your first session in the team's F1 simulator. What was it like?
I've used simulators throughout my career, but the F1 simulator is a step above anything I've used before. It took a few laps to get used to. I don't know how it compares to the real thing – hopefully, one day, I'll be able to tell you – but if the real thing is anything like the simulator, it's going to be amazing.
Did you pay any attention to your lap times?
It's hard not to look at the times – and they've been competitive. I've used the simulator a lot now, helping the team test different packages and setups, and I'm very happy with how it's going – the team is too.
Were you nervous the first time you stepped inside the simulator?
I wasn't completely sure what to expect but that was probably a good thing. There's always pressure, but that's something I put on myself. Any sportsperson who wants to perform and achieve their ambitions puts that kind of pressure on themselves.
I want to do well for myself and repay the faith the team has in me, but there was never any pressure coming from the team or outside the team.
You mention pressure, but how do you deal with disappointment – when you lose or when things don't go to plan?
There can only ever be one winner – that's the reality of sport. You will likely lose more often than you win and, no matter how hard you try, things won't always go the way you want them to.
It's all about how you pick yourself up and go again. The lows hurt but they make the highs feel even better.
Racing drivers are always trying to prove themselves – prove they're good enough, prove they're worthy of the opportunities open to them.
Even after all the work you've done with the team, all the simulator runs, there will still be critics who say your role at the team is nothing more than a publicity stunt. What do you say to them?
Firstly, I feel just as much a part of the team as anyone else. Secondly, I've been with the team for nearly two years.
I wouldn't still be here, getting time in the simulator, working so closely on the engineering side of things, if my contribution wasn't valuable to the team.
Do you ever feel like you need to prove yourself to anyone?
Racing drivers are always trying to prove themselves – prove they're good enough, prove they're the best, prove they're worthy of the opportunities open to them. This applies to everyone in the sport, not just racing drivers. You have to prove yourself – constantly.
Does it get tiring? That relentless grind. Always pushing, pushing, pushing…
There have been times in my career when I've questioned whether it's worth it. Is it worth the cost? Is it worth the sacrifice? I've questioned my ability, my results, my dedication. I've asked myself, ‘What happens next? Am I just setting myself up for failure?' But I love the sport too much to ever stop.
There are times when the reward doesn't match the effort you put in, but what matters is how you come back from that. It's part of the journey. We're all chasing that feeling – that feeling of winning. I know I am and so is everyone at AMF1.
Can we definitively say that the drivers on the F1 grid are the best drivers in the world? We can't.
What would you be doing if you weren't a racing driver?
I have no idea. I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn't seen a kart track in the distance when I was playing golf with my dad about 20 years ago – I begged him to take me and let me have a go.
If I hadn't seen that track, would my dad have taken me karting? Probably not. He probably thought a girl wouldn't be interested in racing.
But if that's the case for me, I'm sure that's the case for many other girls out there. What if they never get the opportunity to find what they love doing because their parents, or those closest to them, think it's something they won't be interested in?
This is something that needs to change.
Are there drivers who have got the talent and ability to compete in F1 but have never been given the chance?
There are loads of drivers out there who haven't been given the chance to race in F1, even though they've got the talent and put in the hard work.
Can we definitively say that the drivers on the F1 grid are the best drivers in the world? We can't. We can't even say with certainty who the best driver on the grid is because the cars are different.
Are any of the current generation of female racing drivers good enough to win in F1?
Right now, there isn't a female racing driver who's good enough to compete at the front of the F1 grid. That's for many different reasons: there are women who haven't had the funding or backing to develop their talent and climb up the pyramid to F1.
If you can't see it, you can't be it. When girls see women racing, they are going to believe that they too can pursue a career behind the wheel.
Is the race to find the next female F1 driver a numbers game?
It's definitely a numbers game. If we increase female participation at the grassroots and junior single-seater level, then we increase the pool of female talent and the chances of finding women who can go all the way to the top of the sport.
W Series: success or failure – or too early to tell? What will the legacy of the championship be?
W Series has only ever been a positive thing for motorsport – it's been a success. It's given talented female drivers a platform from which to build and develop their careers and it's inspired the next generation of female racers – showing young women that they can compete in high-level, professional motorsport.
If you can't see it, you can't be it. When girls see women racing, they are going to believe that they too can pursue a career behind the wheel and take the opportunity to race at grassroots level.
Have you ever thought about your legacy, Jess?
Not at all. I'm nowhere near finished with my career, there's still a lot more I want to achieve. I'm on an incredible journey with AMF1. We're fully focused on reaching the front of the grid and committed to making a mark on the track and off it.
We want to break down barriers and build a more diverse and inclusive sport where everyone feels welcome.
If I can look back in 20- or 30-years' time and know that I've made a positive contribution to the sport that I love, inspiring women to chase their dreams and pursue a career in motorsport, then I'll be very proud.
Jessica's first ever F1 simulator test
“I’m struggling to keep the smile off my face!”
Join us for exclusive access to a landmark day for Jessica Hawkins as our AMF1 Driver Ambassador gets behind the wheel of an F1 simulator for the very first time.
All in. All welcome. All celebrated. Sign up to open up a world of I / AM benefits and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.