While Danica Patrick lines up on pole position for today’s Daytona 500, over 20 years have passed since the last time a woman even attempted to start at round of the Formula One world championship.
But Williams test driver Susie Wolff believes it’s a question of when, not if, that will change – and the issue has support at the highest level:
“I know many people want it to happen,” she told media at last week’s test in Barcelona. “Bernie Ecclestone for one is massively pushing that it happens at some point I think in the future we will definitely see it happen.”
Wolff sees the shortage of women drivers in top-flight motorsport as a chicken-and-egg problem.
“There are more male drivers which is why possibly it’s even tougher for a female because there aren’t as many of us trying to get into Formula One,” she said.
“But I think it’s difficult for any driver to get here and then to stay here because it’s a very, very competitive world. You see how quickly the driver line-ups can chance with circumstance, with economic environment.
“So I think it’s very tough for anyone, I think the fact that there hasn’t been a successful female in Formula One maybe makes people wary over whether it’s possible or not. I fully believe that it is possible but it’s just going to take time for it to happen.”
Wolff joined Williams as a development driver in April. She had her first run in a contemporary F1 car in October and was the first driver to shake down the team’s new FW35 earlier this month.
She says she is treated “the exact same” as any other driver. “Of course I had to come in, I had to earn respect from the team members but any drivers has this responsibility. But I must say I had no issues at at all.”
But she isn’t getting ahead of herself when asked about her chances of racing an F1 car: “I’ve done more time in the car now. I feel even more comfortable in the car, it doesn’t seem like it’s an unrealistic dream.
“The tests in October last year, I was very unsure how the tests would go and what I would be capable of. But the tests went very well, there was no issues physically, there was no issues with not being able to handle the car.
“So it’s not unrealistic but I think we all know how competitive Formula One is, how many drivers are fighting for a chance to be on that grid. And I don’t want to come out with any bold statements or dream of saying ‘yes, I want to be on the grid next year’.
“Everything happens, it has its flow, I’m in the right direction, I’m taking each step at the time, I’m showing the guys in the team what I can do and what I’m capable of and for sure that was one of the reasons from the test last year I was able to drive the car for the very first time. You can see that it’s not out of my capabilities.
“But let’s see how it goes, I’m taking each step at a time, for sure a superlicence is the next thing on the to-do list, so let’s see.”
“I think Williams is incredibly lucky that we have some fantastic women in the management positions. Claire [Williams], for example, we have another lady on the board – Lousie Evans, CFO – and I think we are a glowing example of diversity within what is quite a male-dominated sport.
“And Claire is only in the position she’s in because she’s good at what she does.it’s not because she’s Frank’s daughter, you can’t run a team just because your family name means that you could be up for the job. She is incredibly good at what she does, I think she is definitely the future of the team and she is and should be a role model for many people.”
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