Maria de Villota joins Marussia as test driver

2012 F1 season

Maria de Villota, John Booth, 2012

Maria de Villota, John Booth, 2012

Marussia has announced Maria de Villota has joined the team as a test driver.

De Villota, daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, drove a Renault F1 car at Paul Ricard in France last year.

The 32-year-old raced in Spanish Formula Three from 2001 to 2005, recording a best finish of fifth. In the last three years she has raced in Superleague Formula for Atletico Madrid as well as in Spanish GT racing.

Team principal John Booth said de Villota will get to drive the team’s car later this year: “We are pleased to welcome Maria to our test driver programme, which will enable her to be integrated into a Formula One team environment and gain a vast amount of experience that will be useful to her career progression.

“We will also provide Maria with the opportunity to sample F1 machinery later in the year, further adding to her racing credentials”

De Villota said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a Formula One team and gain important experience to help me progress my career, including the chance to drive the new car later in the year at the Abu Dhabi test.

“I will be joining the team trackside so I?m looking forward to working alongside them at the first race next weekend and this can only help my future ambition to step up to Formula One racing.”

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119 comments on Maria de Villota joins Marussia as test driver

  1. AbeyG (@1abe) said on 7th March 2012, 19:13

    A 32 year old woman joins as the reserve driver for the 12th(last) placed team, which is of course a marketing stunt, but fans still see the negative side of things. Its not as if she is the test driver for Williams or FI or any of the mid-field teams and robbing a drive from some of the ‘young talented drivers out there’. Honestly, how much would being a test driver for Marussia or HRT be of any help. I hardly doubt anyone would notice. If there are better women drivers, and i am sure there are, then i hope they atleast get a drive in a better team to show their talent. Till then it doesnt matter if Maria is “utterly useless”. Its not going to make any difference.

  2. Look, I’m a huge believer in bringing more women into traditionally male roles in motorsport, including race seats. When my site was active, we were outspoken cheerleaders on the subject. I believe one of the F1 circus’s biggest lost opportunities was letting Simona de Silvestro slip away to American racing, and if I had a few spare millions down the back of the sofa I’d be investing it in Alice Powell.

    But Maria de Villota has as much business being sat in an F1 car as I have. If you watched Superleague you’d have seen she was embarrassingly bad. Slow, stubborn when being lapped, and prone to hitting other cars. Some Superleague drivers were very good indeed, but the tail of the field was weak or inexperienced or both – and she was worse than the worst of them by quite a margin.

    Yesterday when the press release went out from Mark Blundell’s 2MB that they were representing her, it was a real shocker. This goes a long way to explaining it.

    But, please, no-one get the idea that this is the long-awaited and (for me at least) long hoped-for arrival of a female challenger in F1. She’s not up to the job. It’s not her age, it’s not her gender, it’s not even that money is certainly involved – it’s what she’s like behind the wheel.

    As the old saying goes, she couldn’t drive a nail into a plank of wood.

  3. davros said on 7th March 2012, 20:40

    Bring back Chanoch Nissany!

  4. Bendanarama (@bendana) said on 7th March 2012, 20:53

    I love how so many people on here are acting like the four horsemen of the apocalypse rode up and kicked their puppies over this. De Villota’s only doing son free practice runs and test driving, and if she brings some money to Marussia all the better for it. On top of this, far from ruining chances for female drivers coming in, if anything this proves that yes, they do have a place in the F1 Paddock, rather than feeling they have to go to the states because the environment in Europe just doesn’t offer them any opportunities. Say hat you will about De Villota’s ability – And I see that most already have – but this can do nothing but open doors

    So, thats a glass half full perspective. feel free to go back to decrying this news as the start of the End Times.

    • Yes — well said!

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 8th March 2012, 7:43

      I think you overstate it a bit, but I agree that it isn’t so bad. Sure, she doesn’t seem to have a huge talent and the last we saw of that was with HRT in 2010, so it is valid to be worried about her, and not someone else getting a role. But Marussia can use the money, publicity for all.

      But the way this team works, next year they’ll have entirely different drivers (apart from poor Glock) pumping money into the team in an effort to get somewhere.

      I hope De Villota and Clos get something good out of it too for their money. And who knows if it will persuade a few people that feel a bond with them to take up, or keep pursuing motorsport, I hope so!

    • coefficient (@coefficient) said on 8th March 2012, 10:07

      I’m sorry but that is rubbish! Maria is god awful and the european girls that have sought refuge in the IRL etc aren’t good enough either. Basically, IRL is similar in quality to GP2 so if you aren’t winning it you aren’t good enough for F1. Katherine Legge and the American Danica Patrick are both seriously underwhelming in the American Categories. The idea that no top flight euro motorsport gives women an opportunity is true, but only because there hasn’t yet been a woman that could cut it. No-one deserves an F1 seat to be gifted, male or female. You’ve got to get results! Look at Lewis, he wouldn’t have got anywhere near a Mclaren unless he’d won every category he contested. What we really need is a female that has had the same nurturing on the junior ladder as Lewis that can make an explosive impact in F1. The culture would change overnight then but, as long as the F1 machine keeps making these ridiculous platitudes towards the idea of female drivers the idea will never attain credibility.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 8th March 2012, 18:19

      I agree, as everyone in their right mind knows she will never do more than a few laps or some staight line running in the real car her real value is in being with the team, just as it is for quite a big share of the other so called “test-/3rd-drivers” who are in deals with F1 teams.

      Showing there’s a female driver in the paddock can only be considered as a (albeit small) step forward for F1.

  5. maxthecat said on 7th March 2012, 21:11

    Cools news, there have been a few female F1 drivers in the past, most recently in the 70’s i think and with that haircut i think she’s come straight from there ;)

  6. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 7th March 2012, 21:29

    I wonder what Villota will expect to get out of this deal. One day in the car at young driver’s test at the end of the year, and getting to hang around the F1 paddock sounds like a year of doing nothing.

    This will only get interesting if Pic or Glock for some reason can’t drive for a weekend, and Marussia decide to let her have a proper go. However, judging by the comments here so far, it sounds unlikely that she would qualify anyway.

    For me, this news only reminds me how nice it would to have a female championship contender on the grid. Will the next Jesse Button, Liana Hamilton, or Sebastiana Vettel stand up please?

  7. Kjuna said on 7th March 2012, 21:35

    Another 30+, rookie yeah!

  8. I don’t know how to react this; having a woman racing driver in F1 is a great step but she isn’t cut out for F1 in my opinion however, it’s been such an abysmally long time since we had a female racing driver that having one in a minor role to boost publicity that this may be a good thing. Yes, talent has to come first but let’s face it this roles is pretty pointless. In the days of testing it would have meant more but it’s not really like she’s taking a seat from a potential young star because this seat doesn’t really mean anything at all. I’m not really for this kind of cynical promotion but this is an area of F1 that needs some serious work so it’s better than nothing I feel.

  9. Tim said on 7th March 2012, 22:05

    “De Villota, daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, drove a Renault F1 car at Paul Ricard in France last year.”

    That reads totally different if you don’t know Paul Ricard is a circuit…… :-/

  10. James (@jamesf1) said on 7th March 2012, 22:33

    People, forgive me for saying this, but I actually think this is a good thing?

    It works on a couple of levels. Lets start by being appearing intelligent.

    For the first time this century, as far as I can recall, there is a woman in a driving role in an F1 car. In a world where we are trying to promote equal opportunities both genders and chances to represent themselves, is this not a good thing? A woman in what is very much a man’s man’s sport. Granted there are probably more tallented and deserving up and coming women who deserve a chance more than Maria. But on the flip side, Maria’s appointment could be the first step on the path to there being a female competitor in the championship.

    It’s been said many times that a female would be ideal to have an F1 car. Generally they’re lighter and smaller, allowing for a lower centre of gravity meaning teams have more chance to play with ballast in the car to get the balance of a car spot on. Women are supposedly better at multi tasking too, which comes with the job description nowadays in F1!

    Furthermore, females maybe more drawn to the sport now for the above reasons? Or perhaps further down the line should a female achieve a full time seat.

    Are these not good reasons?

    Now, on a slightly different note. Maria is a very good looking woman. There, I said it. A pretty blonde in an F1 car, I’m not going to say no! We live in a very materialistic society, where looks count for a lot. This may attract more male viewers for this reason. Perhaps not a massive ammount, but it may help to increase the sprots coverage, reach and viewing figure.

    I appreciate that pretty much the only reason she has landed this role is because of her financial backing, but an offer like this would be impossible for a low budget team like Marussia to turn down. The marketting potential will help them no end.

    Just a few thoughts anyway.

    • Joel Holland (@jholland) said on 7th March 2012, 22:50

      You raise some valid points. My worry is this: she gets a race deal and does dreadfully – and I believe, having watched her race, that she would do that. She’d be way, way off her male team-mate andprobably not qualify. People watching – particularly the fly-by-night fans you suggest would be attracted by such an inclusion on the grid – would take the view that women are rubbish at racing cars. Negative gender stereotypes would be reinforced etc etc and young female racers with talent would face an even more difficult time breaking into the sport. I think that’s a genuine scenario.

      A woman getting into F1 because she has money does nothing for female racing drivers unless she can back it up with pace in the car.

      • James (@jamesf1) said on 7th March 2012, 23:13

        So what about the men that get into F1 because of money? The cash cows of Maldonado, Karthikeyan, Chandok, d’AMbrosio and Pic (to name a few) havent contributed anything to the credibility of the sport.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th March 2012, 23:23

          Probably should let Pic start at least one race before we write him off…

          • Joel Holland (@jholland) said on 8th March 2012, 8:29

            Indeed! I’d also say that Maldonado is a GP2 champion; Pic, Chandhok and d’Ambrosio are GP2 race winners and Karthikeyan was a British F3 and Superleague race winner. That’s a lot more than de Villota has shown. I mean, it’s infinitely more.

            It’s also an entirely different issue. It’s not about the credibility of the sport, it’s about gender stereotypes/politics and the place of women in F1. If Karthikeyan is slow there’s no pre-existing belief to jump of that says ‘Indians are rubbish at driving'; if de Villota is useless there is a stereotype that some will see as validated.

          • James (@jamesf1) said on 8th March 2012, 21:21

            My expectations are so low, I think I’ve got a bit of vertigo from looking down.

  11. William Wilgus said on 7th March 2012, 23:26

    I’m somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned that the skills required of a test driver are at least partially different than those required of a race driver.

  12. sesku (@sesku) said on 8th March 2012, 1:54

    Even Yuji Ide CV look more promising!

  13. GT_Racer said on 8th March 2012, 2:03

    I was part of the tv team for some Superleague formula races back when de Villota was racing there & she was pretty useless.

    I remember an incident at Jarama where she spun at turn 1 & then decided to drive back onto the track directly infront of oncoming cars & caused a near head-on collision with Sebastien Bourdais who had no way of avoiding her.
    It was the most ridiculous thing i’ve ever seen & Bourdais was furious with not just the fact he’d been taken out but also because of the fact she went unpunished & was still allowed to race in the series.

  14. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 8th March 2012, 2:24

    Will she get to drive the car in the later part of the season in Practice session, & will they give her a ride on the race seat for a weekend or two?

  15. Mike the bike Schumacher (@mike-the-bike-schumacher) said on 8th March 2012, 3:57

    pfffffft hahaha

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