Susie Wolff – Women do have a future in Formula One
By Berthold Bouman
Williams development driver Susie Wolff drove last year’s Williams FW33 at Silverstone yesterday during a Williams F1 Partner event. Wolff, married to Toto Wolff, an executive director and major shareholder at Williams, normally does her job in the simulator, but yesterday her dream of driving a Formula One car came true.
“It was incredible to experience a Formula One car for the first time. I’ve done a lot of simulator work since I joined the team but nothing compares to the exhilaration of driving the real thing,” Wolff said after completing two 50 km runs. About the far from ideal conditions at Silverstone she said, “The conditions were a little tricky as it was quite damp at the beginning of the run but the track soon dried out. The team also did a fantastic job preparing me for today, giving me all the information I needed so that I was always in control.”
The 29-year old Scot, who also races in the German DTM touring car series for Mercedes, stressed it wasn’t a show run or a publicity stunt, and is adamant there is a future for women in Formula One. “I have no doubt in my head Williams would never have let me near the car if they didn’t feel I was capable of it or ready for it,” she said.
Unfortunately, when speaking about a female Formula One driver, the name of Maria de Villota springs to mind. De Villota had a horrific accident in July during straight line tests at Duxford airfield for the Marussia Formula One team, she was seriously injured and lost her right eye, and she has become an inspiration for other female drivers.
“After what happened earlier in the year with Maria, it was important for me to go out for both of us and show everybody that women do have a place in Formula One and can drive the cars successfully,” Wolff said.
“Many just saw a story about a woman driver in Formula One who had a bad accident, lost her eye and nearly died. So it was important for me to go out there and do a good solid job,” she added. “I had Maria’s star on my helmet, it’s with pride I have that, and without a doubt I was driving for the two of us.”
Of course she wants to drive more often, “On my last lap, when I was driving down the pit lane, I said to myself ‘I have to do everything I can to get back in this car’. I hope I have done enough at this stage to prove I can be of assistance to this team. Hopefully I can get some more tests.”
Wolff is one of only a handful of women who ever made it into Formula One, in the past Maria Teresa de Filippis, Desire Wilson, Giovanna Amati, Lella Lombardi and Divina Galica tried their luck in Formula one, but recently female drivers have only been able to test a Formula One car.
In 2002 American Sarah Fisher drove a McLaren during the US Grand Prix, but it was a show run, in 2005 Briton Katherine Legge tested a Minardi at Vallelunga, and de Villota had already tested for Renault in 2011.
Susie Wolff, Williams development driver