EXCLUSIVE: Jess Hawkins on Aston Martin, W Series, and the new James Bond movie

FormulaNerds had a chat with Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team driver ambassador and W Series driver Jess Hawkins ahead of the Italian Grand Prix weekend about her role in the British team, her career, being a role model, and ambitions for the future. 

You started go-karting when you were very young and one of the problems was that you were told that you were too small. Can you talk us through the early stages of your career and the difficulties that you had to face?

“I started when I was 8 and it wasn’t something my parents pushed me into. I was always a really sporty child and I was just really athletic, anything running around I was really into. I was playing golf with my dad one day, which was one of my least favorites, but I still enjoyed playing it nevertheless, and in the distance, there was a go-kart track. I begged my dad to let me have a go and so he took me over. Luckily for him at the time I was too small as there was a height restriction as I wouldn’t have been able to reach the pedals. Then, a few months later, I kept pestering and pestering, asking him if we would go back and when we went back they had moved the restrictions down as they might have got some karts that were a bit smaller for children. That was my first experience and I kinda gave up on the other sports because that’s what I fell in love with. I guess neither I nor my parents ever expected to still be here so I had a great journey. “

This is your second year in W Series after 2019. How do you think W Series has changed since then and how did you evolve as a driver?

“For sure, W Series has changed. It’s now obviously following Formula 1 and we are now support races here and that is the only place it could go after such a successful 2019. It was great to race in the DTM package but it did an amazing job and it’s making ways to motorsport that Formula 1 was to only place for it to go so that speaks a lot for itself. Certainly, for me one incredible experience, and never would I ever have been able to race in a Formula 1 support series. It’s really an incredible experience for me and one I’ll certainly never forget. “

With F1, it comes a lot of attention in the media. How do you think that changed and provided more representation?

“For it to be accepted on an F1 weekend already says a lot in itself. I feel like F1 has taken us under their wings and promoting us as well as if the pinnacle of motorsport is onboard then, I can’t think of a better appraisal. I hope we are inspiring more females to join us along what we love and we are proving that motorsport isn’t just for men and we are starting to see more females in the sport which is great. “

Talking about F1, you have a partnership with Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team. Can you talk us through that?

“This is something that has been on the cards for quite a while now. When it first was a possibility, I thought “there is no way for it to happen” and then a few months later, it went from just something that was loosely spoken about in a conversation to a “this might actually happen”. Obviously, I spent a very long time not sleeping and hoping and praying for it to happen. I’m obviously very proud of my role at Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team and I hope that the role only grows. As long as I’m doing a good job, I see this going on again certainly for another year, so we can continue to work together. My goal is obviously to be driving the car but I know that I need to walk before I can run and there are more important things to help with at the moment. “

How do you think Aston Martin and your work for them is helping you on the driving side, considering the team features an experienced driver like Sebastian Vettel?

“Firstly, Seb has been amazing with me. He has been showing interest in my racing and has been asking questions about W Series and stuff, so has really been showing interest and Lance as well, who has been great. Everyone in the team has been amazing so I felt like part of the team. A Formula1 car is very different from the car that I’m racing, Tatuus F3. So, actual individual specifics are really difficult to compare the two. It’s very difficult to compare Seb’s front wing to my front wing, or the floor, or the engine as they are nothing alike. What I can take away are things that Seb and Lance pick up on the track or things that they discuss in their engineering briefs. It’s amazing to know what they support, what they don’t support, what they work hard on, what they don’t put so much effort into. That’s something most drivers couldn’t even pay for and I get to work with arguably the best people in the business and Seb obviously has an amazing CV so I work with the best people.”

Did the work with Aston Martin change the way you go into the W Series weekend because for example that’s how Seb and Lance go into their weekend?

“It hasn’t really changed the way I approach it but it has given me confidence knowing I am doing the right things. Maybe it has changed a little bit, I don’t know. I have quite a few different sequences I have to do like a new pair of socks on race days. It’s kinda cemented in my brain now “would Se do that? Would Lance do that? Yes, they would do that.”, just silly things like that.”

Congratulations on your best-ever result in W Series in Zandvoort. How do you think you managed to achieve that? And what would be the key to reach the higher positions?

“So obviously I was expecting a tough start to the season, just because it’s been so long since I was racing. It was 2019 since I was racing, and actually, it finished halfway through 2019 so it was a good two years until I jumped back in the W Series. It’s obviously a highly competitive championship and I was competing against people who have been racing since, competing that have been out a lot, which obviously I wasn’t able to do. So I was expecting a tough start to the season and I was expecting my results to get better and better throughout the season, which I guess is actually what happened. So from here, I’m just going to have to continue to work hard. I’ve had a sixth, a fifth and what I would really like until the end of the year is a podium. In Zandvoort, I could smell it. It was touchable. So I do wanna try and make that happen, that’s my goal. But things don’t always work out, there’s now a big break and I know a few of the girls are going to go testing so who knows. I don’t know but I’m going to work as hard as I can.”

Do you have any plans for the break to stay focused on the rest of the season?

“The normal things really. I spend a lot of time in the sim, spend a lot of time training. I’m obviously here with Aston Martin Cognizant this weekend and it’s nice to be back and be part of that family for the weekend. I’ve chatted to some of the engineers and they said they’ve been watching, so I really feel a sense of support in the team for me which is really lovely. So, I’m just going to keep busy. I’m not very good when I have nothing to do, I need to keep busy, and my mind needs to be focused on something. Nothing wild. Unfortunately, I can’t give you an exciting answer to that one.

Obviously, Aston Martin and Vettel have become role models, regarding what has been happening in Hungary, and role models for the LGBTQ+ community. Obviously, you are very open about it, so how important do you think it is to have people like yourself and Vettel take a stand and say, ‘This is what it is and it is absolutely normal?

“I think certainly within the last few years it has become more accepted. Sebastian obviously, and Aston Martin Cognisant, have been at the forefront of that fight for change and diversity, and inclusion. So obviously it’s great for me. Everybody should feel like that nobody should be shy.  And if it gives just a few people the confidence to … I don’t know what the right wording is … to accept themselves and be themselves, then that’s amazing. That’s what Seb and everybody stand for: happiness. There’s a lot to be said for happiness and I think if it helps people be happy, then, of course, I’m up for it. I’m up for taking a stand.”

For the next years, do you plan on still racing in the W Series, or do you see yourself trying something else? Obviously, you do a lot of stunt work in movies as well… 

“Yeah, you know what, I’ve always said I’d never say ‘no’ to an opportunity. I would always consider any opportunity. I would love to do W Series again, and if the opportunity arises where I am able to do W Series again, then I’d take it. But nothing is guaranteed, so who knows. I don’t know. I’d like to think that I’ll be racing in W Series but if that door closes, I’m sure there’ll be many more that open. I don’t know if I’m going to be in W Series again. Maybe. I would love to.”

And what are the plans going forward with your role in Aston Martin? Any specifics you can talk about? What’s on the cards?

“Same as this I think. As I said, the next goal for me would obviously be driving the car, but I’m not deluded to think that… you know, I don’t have any super license points so it certainly won’t be in an FP1 session or anything like that, but I would also say ‘never say never’ for any shows or anything like that. Again, there’s nothing planned but never say never and providing everybody is happy, it’ll just gradually grow and grow and grow and I’ll become more and more part of the team. I’m here now, can’t get rid of me!”

Completely unrelated maybe, but obviously we’ve seen all over social media that Aston Martin is gearing up now for the Bond premiere. You were obviously a stunt driver in the No Time To Die film so how was that experience?

“Honestly, it was one of the most incredible, surreal experiences that I will ever experience. And… whilst I can’t say much more than that, all I can say is that I’m extremely excited to see it for the first time and I think it will exceed all already extremely high expectations. So… it is a must-watch.”

Any hints on where we can spot you in the movies?

“It’s no secret actually, I was in one of the Defenders. So when you see Defenders, one of them will be me. The other bits I can’t tell you, but that is public knowledge.”

So how are you finding Monza, and watching the Italian GP this weekend, being with the team?

“It’s been a good few weeks that I’ve been with the team so it’s… As soon as I came in this morning, just seeing everybody again it was like “Oh, we haven’t seen you in ages!” And they were just as excited as I was. Well, that’s probably a lie, I was probably more excited, but it was a very warm welcome this morning. Just catching up with everybody and tomorrow obviously when stuff starts to get real on track, so I look forward to it. Obviously, we’ve got the sprint race this weekend, and the last time there was a sprint race was at Silverstone. The W Series raced in Silverstone so I wasn’t able to pay much attention to the sprint race, whereas this time I’m going to be able to watch it and enjoy it with the team, and hopefully experience some good results.”

What do you think about the sprint race format actually? Because we have seen this year F2 and F3 experiment with another format, so do you think a weekend with two races in W Series would make sense? Would that be too much?

“For W Series, yeah. I think at the moment, I don’t actually know why, but I’d say we struggle with track time. So I think going forward… If I’m completely honest, I don’t actually know about that one. I think another race would be welcomed by the drivers if it was possible, but I’m not sure it is possible.

Next year, F2 and F3 will probably go back to the two-race format instead of three, so maybe there’ll be space.

“Yeah, then there might be space for us to have another race. Maybe. I don’t know.”

FormulaNerds would like to thank Jess Hawkins and Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team for their kindness and time and wish all the best for the future. 

Jess Hawkins will be back behind the steering wheel on the 22nd of October in Austin, Texas during the W Series weekend. Meanwhile, you can catch her on the screen in the latest James Bond movie “No Time To Die” from the 30th of September.

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