British Grand Prix 2014: Susie Wolff the first woman to take part in a Formula One race weekend in 22 years

Wolff may have made history but it only lasted a disappointing four laps

The vexed question of women in motor sport went neither for nor aft at Silverstone, but, rather appositely, stalled four laps into a disappointing debut for Susie Wolff.

Her big moment in the first practice session of the British Grand Prix became a minor detail all too quickly when her Williams suffered mechanical failure. The timed lap she had set was two seconds down on her nearest rival and almost nine behind the early pace-setter Nico Rosberg – cue iron-age jokes about women drivers.

Just as well there is no reverse gear in an F1 car, sparing Wolff the standard automotive sexism associated with parking failures. “Really tough day but that's F1 sometimes,” the 31-year-old Scot said. "We had an oil-pressure problem, which cut the engine off.

"First of all a huge thank you for all the support I've had. Going out on the track was just the best feeling, because although there has been a lot of media around my run, when you put your helmet on that's the best..

Read more: McLaren all need to work harder, Button tells Dennis
Ricciardo says it's a shame Red Bull dominance ending coincides with his promotion
 

"I had a good feeling out there in the car and I was looking forward to it. It turned out to be a very short run, but I have to keep my head up and look forward to Hockenheim. I felt very ready for today; the team had done a fantastic job of preparing me."

Once retired the camera went back to the more conventional embrace of women, the shot of the driver’s girlfriend standing dutifully at the back of the garage beneath oversized ear defenders while her man goes about his work.

These girls are unfailingly pretty inviting sociological questions about what is really going on when a woman is assessing a mate. The issue of appearance, the evidence suggests, matters more to the man of the species than the woman.

Whenever a female takes to a motor circuit there is inevitably a whiff of tokenism. Wolff, who will run again at the German Grand Prix in a fortnight, was the first on an F1 track since Brabham’s Giovanna Amati. She would take down any boy racer at the lights and, given the same exposure to car and circuit as those she was running against all-too briefly, would be more or less competitive. World Championship leader Nico Rosberg was the fastest in practice World Championship leader Nico Rosberg was the fastest in practice

 

But that message is not the one conveyed. The big problem for women is the lack of numbers at the base of the pyramid, stymied at the outset by cultural norms that do not encourage participation and that old chestnut, cost.

Wolff’s participation at a grand prix weekend extends the list of women drivers in the sport to six, but of them only two contested races, Maria Teresa de Filippis in the Fifties and Lella Lombardi in the Seventies. 

Over in the United States Danica Patrick does a marvellous job of proving the viability of women as racing beings, regularly taking the fight to the men in the Nascar. That she is the only one is not a question of talent but opportunity.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test