Fasten your seatbelts…
Susie Wolff is set to become the first woman to drive at a Formula One Grand Prix race weekend in 22 years. Wolff, 31, will get behind the wheel in the first practice session at the upcoming British and German Grands Prix, the racing team Williams announced yesterday. Wolff is a development driver for the team, meaning she tests cars and could potentially work her way up to taking part in Formula One races.
You don’t often see the phrases ‘woman’ and ‘Formula One’ in the same sentence…
Not unless you’re referring to the ‘pit babes’ – models whose purpose is to titillate the crowds. The profession is dominated almost exclusively by men. The last woman to take part in any stage of a grand prix weekend was Italian Giovanna Amati in 1992 and the last woman to race in an F1 car was fellow Italian Lella Lombardi in 1976. Wolff has said: “Some people are against women breaking into F1, but it’s not about gender for me. I want to race and be the fastest on the track, not just the fastest woman.”
What’s the reaction been like since she started racing?
Initially some people viewed her as a stereotypical “blonde girl walking around the paddock dreaming of being a Formula One driver”, she has said. Even in the paddock a lot of people assumed it was just a marketing ploy from Williams. However, Wolff said: “There was no way Frank and Claire [Williams] were going to let me near an F1 car if a) they didn’t think I was ready and b) they didn’t think I could bring performance to the team.”
So what’s her, ahem, track record like?
The Scottish driver has devoted much of her life to the sport. She grew up in Oban, Argyll, but now splits her time between Thurgau, Switzerland, and Grove, Oxfordshire, where Williams is based. She began go-karting when she was eight years old and has been going full throttle ever since graduating to significantly more powerful vehicles. From 2006 she spent six years competing in the DTM, the German Touring Car Championship, and in April 2012 she was appointed development driver for the Williams F1 team.
How did Wolff respond to yesterday’s news?
“It’s an incredible opportunity they have given me and it’s one I am going to grab with both hands,” she said. “Each step of the way, I proved myself, did a good job, gave the team what they needed in terms of feedback and that then led to more opportunity within the team,” she added.