F1 German Grand Prix: Susie Wolff quick in Williams to silence doubters
Williams test driver continuing her target to reach the grid after Friday showing at Hockenheim
Saturday 19 July 2014
Susie Wolff admits that for an agonising moment on Friday morning she thought the nightmare of Silverstone had returned.
There, two weeks ago, she had been due to drive Valtteri Bottas’s Williams FW36 in a practice session, making her the first woman to run at an official grand prix since Giovanna Amati in 1992. But her Mercedes engine lost oil pressure after four laps – ironic, since her husband, Toto, still a shareholder in Williams, is the head of Mercedes Benz Motorsport.
Now, at Hockenheim, she found herself creeping pitwards again, this time on her first lap. “I just thought, ‘Oh no, not again!’ she said. “There was a problem with the electronic throttle pedal, but when I got back to the pits the boys said, ‘It’s only electronic, we can fix it’. ”
When she got back out on track she set a fastest lap. Of course, many of the real hotshoes were still in the pits, but Kevin Magnussen was out in his McLaren and she beat his time. His presence validated her lap, rendered it respectable.
Was it a stunt by Williams to garner publicity? Absolutely not. This was no dog-and-pony show. Her job was to go out and drive fast, to get as much feedback to provide to the team to help them set up the cars.
“I just made sure that I got that feedback,” she said. “That was where knowing the track helped so much because I knew which corners I could push hard in, and those in which I had to take care.
“I wasn’t quite sure in myself just how quickly I could get up to speed, but it felt good and I did get there quickly. I knew that I could do it, and I did.”
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After all the big players had come out she finished the session in 15th place. Felipe Massa, who took pole position for Williams in Austria, was 11th, only two-tenths of a second quicker. She was three-tenths ahead of the target Williams had set her. And when Bottas took his car back in the afternoon, he was three-tenths off the Brazilian.
Can Wolff reach the next stage, and race in F1? She certainly has the talent, but money is the key; there are a lot of hungry racers with big budgets. Look at Pastor Maldonado and his $40 million (£23m) bag of Venezuelan boodle.
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