Wolff to become first woman to drive at an F1 race weekend in 22 years

2014 F1 season

Susie Wolff, Williams, Silverstone, 2012Williams have confirmed Susie Wolff will become the first woman to participate in an official Formula One session since 1992.

Williams have retained Wolff as a development driver for 2014 in an expanded role which will see her drive in the first practice sessions at two race weekends. She has been provisionally allocated the British and German Grands Prix.

“Competing in two FP1 sessions, alongside an additional full test day this season will be a big step and I am looking forward to the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the FW36 on a Grand Prix weekend,” said Wolff.

“It’s a challenge that I will relish and it will be a great chance for me to continue assisting the team.”

Chief technical officer Pat Symonds said Wolff has “become a valued member of our driver line-up and 2014 will see her take on more responsibilities as we seek to make a strong step forward in performance”.

“Susie has demonstrated a natural talent for developing a car and providing strong feedback and these sort of characteristics will be key this season as teams seek to quickly understand and refine the radically overhauled 2014 cars.”

The last woman to participate in an F1 race weekend was Giovanna Amati for Brabham in the 1992 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.

Wolff joined Williams as a development driver in 2012 and was the first of the team’s drivers to shake down their 2013 chassis, the FW35.

He husband Toto was a director of Williams when she joined the team, though he abstained from the selection process at the time. He then moved to Mercedes in 2013.

Susie Wolff, nee Stoddart, arrived at Williams via stints in Formula Renault UK and the DTM, spending six years in the latter with Mercedes, achieving a best finish of seventh on two occasions.

2014 F1 season


Browse all 2014 F1 season articles

Image © Williams/LAT

Advert | Go Ad-free

106 comments on Wolff to become first woman to drive at an F1 race weekend in 22 years

1 2 3
  1. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 24th February 2014, 10:03

    I suppose it does help her role as a development driver, she probably does deserve a chance in a practice session or two to see what she is capable of.

    • Dr. Jekyll (@dr-jekyll) said on 24th February 2014, 10:18

      It’s such a “shame” that the first woman that gets this chance (in a long time) is going to have to face the nepotism claims and suspicions… It can really cast a shade on what is or could be an important step.
      Then again, the critics could be right, let’s hope not

      • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 24th February 2014, 13:05

        It’s a difficult one… I look for total equality when it comes to things like this. I really want women to be involved in the sport and I want them to compete at the highest level.

        The problem I have with this is simple however. If Susie Wolff was a man, she wouldn’t get anywhere near an F1 car. It would be kind to say that her DTM record was average and her history before that (other than karting) was a few years in Formula Renault where she best managed 5th in the overall standings. From there, she got a seat in Formula Three but couldn’t race due to injury and then got offered a seat in DTM.

        To put it in context, Max Chilton is much more qualified to be driving an F1 car and you’d struggle to find anyone who feels he deserves his place on merit.

        On one hand, putting Wolff in an F1 car is a great thing because it’s getting women into the sport but on the other hand, putting someone in who isn’t good enough simply because they are a women may do more harm than good.

        If she struggles around a few seconds off the pace, I can’t see how that will encourage women to get involved.

      • socksolid (@socksolid) said on 24th February 2014, 13:27

        It is a fact that Suzie is not even close to be fast enough to be in F1. Of course it would be nice if the first woman in F1 car in F1 weekend was someone who had some real speed and was someone who could theoretically race in F1 some day but even then I’d guess it is important to have a woman drive F1 car sooner than later.

        Even if she will be slower than the average driver in F1 it will at least show a woman can drive in F1. She can show it physically and mentally. After that has been proven (I don’t think it even needs proof, women can drive F1 car just as fast as men) and it is probably little easier for competent women drivers to get a real chance to drive F1 car (danica, de silvestro).

      • spoutnik (@spoutnik) said on 24th February 2014, 13:41

        @dr-jekyll I really don’t see any problem as it is already the case with all pay drivers …

        • There are only 3 true pay drivers in f1 (Maldonado, Gutierrez and Chilton) one of them is a former GP2 champion and the other two placed 3rd and 4th in GP2, all of whom had several years racing in single seaters. Kobayashi and Ericsson I guess are pay drivers too and same thing there.

          Point is even the pay drivers in F1 have to prove that they’re pretty good drivers with experience racing single seaters and are young enough to be worth developing. Wolff fulfils none of those criteria, Di Silvestro fulfils all of them. Hence the outrage at wolff being given a test and the lack of it about di silvestro.

          • funny how one of your “pay” drivers is also one of the only non-WDCs on the grid to also have won a Formula 1 GP!!!

      • MW (@) said on 24th February 2014, 14:08

        Where I disagree with many of the comments here is I don’t see this as an important milestone in the movement to get women competing in F1. I also don’t see it as a reward for a hardworking Williams employee (I like to think F1 is more cut throat than that!) I view it as Williams utilising a valueable resource in Susie Wolff who, as the article points out, gives excelent technical feedback.
        Also, there’s hardly any nepotism in play because if anything Totto’s move to Merc would have woked against Susie getting these drives.

        • Kelsier (@kelsier) said on 24th February 2014, 18:09

          They always say they give excellent feedback. Maybe they do maybe they don’t we wont know. Its always a convenient praise to give any driver.

          I’m not surprised that Williams retained Susie Wolff after Toto left. It would have been pretty obvious and bad for Williams reputation if she was let go right after.

          In the end Susie Wolff still have a lot to prove.

          • Toto still owns 20% of williams and is an important figure for the manufacturer that provides their engines, pretty sure he has a significant say in what goes on there.

        • arent williams using mercs motors??? couldnt it be wolffs husband is pressuring a little that she gets to drive??? i wouldnt be surprised!
          besides: its a good publicity stunt!

      • She’s not Simona. Simona has a reputable career, Susie has performed below the average of her opponents that said I’m very happy that she is getting a chance as I believe that anyone has the skill to drive an F1 car and evolve, grow to understand it, besides women are lighter. For instances Vettel’s F1 career has been much better than his junior career.

        • Cranberry said on 24th February 2014, 23:54

          Women are better at multi tasking and their physique is lighter, so women have advantages compared to men…if Suzie Wolff was a man, however, she would get laughed out of the paddock with her “success” even as a pay driver.

          No team would risk putting someone with such credentials(which I would call sub-par) in an F1 car and expect anything good to come out of it unless struck by rare and unbelievable amounts of good luck!
          Even pay drivers are expected to be good enough not to embarrass the team with their slow driving and be able to bring the car home in one piece.

          There is only one way her opportunity can be viewed in a positive light:
          Women that are more talented can look at her mediocre-at-best success and go: “If she did it…I can do it, and I can do it better.”

  2. Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 24th February 2014, 10:14

    I’m very happy for Wolff and for the sport. It’s been too long since the last woman took part in a grand prix weekend.

    This can only be a positive thing for Formula 1 and for women in motorsport, as far as I’m concerned. Let’s hope this is another step towards seeing greater female participation in Formula 1.

    • I respect your view on this and can appreciate your support for Susie; however I wonder why you think it can only be a positive thing?

      Women should certainly be able to compete, I completely support the equal opportunity. In this case though I question that if the female driver is of a lower standard than another driver who could have driven, is that not actually bad for the sport (in the same way paid drivers are reducing the need for skill)? If we want greater female participation in the sport, we should be encouraging young women to get involved and offering up more support from the ground up.

      The current trend (of trying to put some women/pay-drivers of below-F1 standard in to the fastest cars in the world) in my opinion undermines efforts in lower levels to increase participation and the skill set of young women who wish to be drivers. The 22 drivers on that grid should be the best and it should not matter one ounce what their gender, race or sexual preference is. True equality is all things being equal and “positive discrimination” (which is what this is, as no doubt more competent drivers are missing out on a chance) only makes matters worse in the long run.

      The above said, as that Susie does have this chance I wish her every success and hope the makes the most of it, she’ll undoubtedly enjoy it!

      • Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 24th February 2014, 10:56

        I would be less enthusiastic if she was given a racing opportunity, purely because (like Chilton) I don’t believe her performances in lower racing categories make her worthy of a chance to race in Formula 1.

        But given that Wolff has been a development driver for Williams for a number of years now and is being rewarded with the chance to drive in two practice sessions, I don’t see how that could be considered as something negative. After all, she’s not going to be denying a ‘better’ driver of any opportunity that they may deserve themselves – she is simply being rewarded for her development work with a chance to participate in an official practice session.

        • matt90 (@matt90) said on 24th February 2014, 11:47

          I would be less enthusiastic if she was given a racing opportunity, purely because (like Chilton) I don’t believe her performances in lower racing categories make her worthy of a chance to race in Formula 1.

          Her previous results are so weak that I think comparing them to Chilton is an insult to him, which says a lot considering the general opinion of him.

        • I can see your logic. Breaking down barriers is important everywhere I think, I’m just cautious of the motivations behind the recent push for female talent. Is it because these women deserve seats, or is it simply political posturing? It could be both but I’m not so sure that’s the case right now.

          It concerns me that good drivers miss out due to pay-driver seats, and now potentially because they may be male. Talent should be the number 1 factor for a driver to be strapped into a cockpit. Perhaps I’m being too idealistic, or maybe giving the leaders F1 more credit than they deserve…?!

          • Verdict is out on di silvestro, her background is strong enough that giving her a test is fair enough. But Wolff had her shot and she was pretty slow, and she didn’t even really deserve that shot anyway. The only reason she got the drive was because she was married to toto. Even all of the pay drivers have at least done pretty well in a couple of single seater championships before.

          • Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 24th February 2014, 14:22

            Even though I’m in the camp that considers Wolff a poor choice for promotion to this level, I’d suggest being careful of anyone is “missing out on a seat because they’re male.” I doubt that’s the reason anyone’s missing a seat and when compared to instances in the past where women really were passed over for positions (not just drivers, but mechanics, engineers, leadership roles) any possible “discrimination” against men probably pales against it. I’m all for doing what we can to make sure we encourage female participation, but I draw the line when someone tries to claim men have been discriminated against. Frankly, we haven’t come CLOSE to experiencing what women do while trying to break in to the sport.

          • I’m not sure what I was saying was entirely clear. I was simply trying to say that giving individuals an opportunity based on who they are (rather than whether they deserve it) is potentially damaging to any demographic missing out.

            Men have of course not struggled like Women have in some ways, but that doesn’t mean the solution is to flip it on its head and even things up by offering opportunities to those who may not deserve it simply because they tick the political boxes. I’d just love to see a truly talented women achieve success based entirely on merit on an even playing field.

      • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 24th February 2014, 14:19

        well, she’s a test driver, so there’s a lot more value into it than landing a race seat purely on being a woman or a pay driver. She needs to correlate the information she gets on simulators with reality, so kudos for her and the team.

        I think women should be given the chance. A brand new talent won’t arrive if they keep hiding the genre from racing cars. I mean, we look up to our stars, and want to be like them. The more women that arrive to the sport, the better it will be. Firstly, because it produces interest from that genre, and secondy to mute all those square minded that say “it’s a men sport”, like many racing legends have said in the past.

  3. tonyyeb (@tonyyeb) said on 24th February 2014, 10:18

    Not many 31 year olds have a shot at their first F1 session these days… Well done Susie.

    • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 24th February 2014, 14:32

      Well Damon Hill started aged 32, he didn’t turn out too bad… Maybe not so much in this era but still her age is no reason to shun her.

      • As someone pointed out though damon hill significantly out performed a young ralf schumacher in f1. A ralf schumacher who in turn when old significantly outperformed a young Susie Wolff in DTM.

        Damon and Susie aren’t even close to being in the same league.

      • If I’m not mistaken Hill’s F1 carrer actually started when he landed a drive at Brabham after they sacked Giovanna Amati, the last F1 female driver. Funny coincidence, that’s all…

  4. Calaros said on 24th February 2014, 10:24

    Honestly I would really love to see Susie have a chance at taking part as a race driver, if only because she’s the only woman right now who seems to have a shot at it. Why? Well, one of the reasons we don’t see many female drivers in professional series is because the people who have a serious shot at being pros are the ones who start out at a young age in karting… and how many teenage girls give a damn about cars or motorsport? Not many. It would be cool to see more women taking an interest in motorsport and taking the leap to become drivers, and having a female role model figure to look up to in the pinnacle of motorsport would go a long way to generating that interest among young girls.

    So come on Susie, buck up and drive the wheels off that Williams :D

    • While it would be cool to see more women taking an interest in Motorsports. It should not come from a driver who doesn’t have the results to back up a move to F1. That woman should be the one that works her way up through the ranks and junior formulas just like everyone else. We shouldn’t reward mediocrity just because it would be nice to have more female enthusiasts.

      • I don’t think this is a good argument, even though everyone makes it. It matters to you that Susie “works her way through the ranks and junior formulas just like everyone else”. That doesn’t matter to little girls any more than Ayrton Senna’s early karting career matters to 5 year old Brazillians. It matters that there’s someone they (think they) can relate to.

  5. ME4ME (@me4me) said on 24th February 2014, 10:28

    Great times for Mr & Mrs Wolf .. 2014 should be good for both of them.

  6. Manished said on 24th February 2014, 10:32

    so what?

  7. Call it dubiety but why do I sense that it’s a move to be the first in the race against Simona de Silvestro.

  8. Eddie (@wackyracer) said on 24th February 2014, 10:40

    You go girl!

  9. Force Maikel (@force-maikel) said on 24th February 2014, 10:46

    Good for her, not so much for getting actually talented women into F1.

  10. Richard said on 24th February 2014, 10:54

    Well it seems a bit pointless having a development driver not actually driving the car in real conditions (straight line tests not really the same).

    Best to see if she is up to the task of taking over should one of the primary drivers be unavailable; a lesson I think Ferrari learned the hard way with Luca Badoer.

  11. Valentin (@wally02avg) said on 24th February 2014, 10:55

    I’m sorry but this is positive discrimination and nepotism.Mediocre DTM drivers dont get a shot at F1 even if they’re a young “hope” let alone a 31 year old ” soon to be too old for it”.
    I wouldn’t have anything against a female driver in F1 but it would have to be on merit, through either success in a junior formulae or another very competitive series.
    I feel this is somewhat counter-productive in the whole “women in F1″ mission, but i guess time will prove me right or wrong.
    I wish her luck, but don’t expect her to ever be good enough to compete with Massa or Bottas

    • Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 24th February 2014, 11:01

      I don’t think anyone is claiming Wolff is going to become Formula 1′s next female racer. This is simply an opportunity for her to participate in a practice session.

      Given the exposure that she will get and the message this sends out to other, younger female racers out there of ‘yes, Formula 1 really is achievable if you’re a woman’, that’s got to be an inspiring and positive thing that can only help make the reality of having a female racer in F1 who is truly one of the best drivers in the world that much more possible in the future.

      • davros said on 24th February 2014, 11:38

        The chances of a genuinely talented female driver racing in F1 are already extremely high simply because of the media and sponsorship opportunities it would attract.

      • What massage does this send to young girls, sleep your way to a job! This seems like nepotism to me, her husband owns a % of Williams and runs Mercedes F1 the Williams engine supplier.

        Regarding her ability, the best she ever did in any championship was 5th in formal Renault in 2003, Her racing record in DTM didn’t not set the world alight, 7 championships and a grand total of 4 points in 7 years.

        The other Williams test driver is a double champion in British Fa formal 3 champ & BMW Europe

        Simona de Silvestro is a much more interesting female driver and looking like she will drive for Sauber in 2015

        • Jay Menon (@jaymenon10) said on 25th February 2014, 0:07

          “What massage does this send to young girls, sleep your way to a job!”

          Haha..thats quite cynical…but hey, if it works (and usually does), why not? haha

          Frankly, why bother. If Williams want to give Suzie a couple practise sessions, its their bloody problem. Williams have the most too loose here, so they must see some sort of value in doing this. Thats of course unless there is an unwritten handshake agreement somewhere in the deal between them and Toto…but I highly doubt that.

          Maybe Suzie is like Luca Badoer? Known to be a solid test driver but hopeless as a racer?…never know.

      • In the short term, this may feel like progress, but I really don’t think it is. True equality is only achieved when everyone is measured on the same basis regardless of any differing factors such as race, gender or sexuality.

        By offering Susie a test drive because she is female (I don’t think her results suggest she is good enough for Formula 1) it actually ensures that the true issue is not addressed. The issue being – “is talent being nurtured evenly regardless of a pre-determining factor”?

        Once this is addressed and any imbalances fixed, we would see greater variety of drivers coming through from different backgrounds, cultures, genders etc. We will never achieve equality when we treat individuals different because of who they are (aka ‘Positive Discrimination’).

      • Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 24th February 2014, 12:47

        @magnifficent-geoffrey

        Given the exposure that she will get and the message this sends out to other, younger female racers out there of ‘yes, Formula 1 really is achievable if you’re a woman’

        The message this sends out to younger female racers is that Formula 1 is quite easily achievable – but only if they marry a successful businessman.

      • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 24th February 2014, 17:50

        @magnificent-geoffrey thanks for being the voice of reason amongst otherwise mostly thinly veiled misogynistic comments. I agree whole heartedly with your assessment of the situation.

        • Please add something constructive rather than lambaste individuals whose opinions you disagree with. I’d say the vast majority of individuals commenting would happily see a female driver on the grid, but they’d love to see it on merit, not through positive discrimination or any other questionable path.

          How can we hold a debate when those with differing opinions turn it into a mudslinging match.

    • Baron (@baron) said on 24th February 2014, 12:02

      Given that quite a few “hotshoe” ex F1 drivers fail to go well in DTM, including St. Mika & St. Ralph, I reckon she’s in good company. Anyway, she’ll make sure the Williams’ Mercedes ‘customer’ engines will be running on all six.

    • Beto (@chebeto) said on 24th February 2014, 15:05

      @wally02avg Chill, man. Nobody is saying she’ll ever get a drive in any F1 team (she won’t). But it’s exaclty like if Pedro de le Rosa would get a couple of FP1. They are development drivers, they need this kind of running. So this has nothing to do with her being a woman. She is also not there because of her gender, but because of her “connections” (Toto’s wife *ahem*), but there’s nothing wrong about it. Susie is not fast enough to be an F1 GP driver but nobody is saying she is.

    • Pink Peril said on 24th February 2014, 21:19

      F1 has always had nepotism – how many surnames repeat throughout the years? And does anyone honestly beleive Nelson Piquet Jnr would have gotten a drive except for who is old man was?

      Look, maybe being married to Toto Wolff didn’t hinder her chances of getting the drive. But are we really saying that the board of Williams are so stupid/naive/toadying to Wolff that they gave her the job purely because she was married to him? Come on, they have been around the traps for a long time and are smarter than that. This had to have been a merit appointment. And frankly, I don’t see the problem with her running a few free practice sessions. There are many a test/development driver out there who is excellent at their job but just can’t cut it on the race track (Wurz, De La Rosa, Gene). But at least they have all been given the chance to find out. What’s the worst that could happen? She is a little slow and Williams say thanks, but no thanks and back to testing. But if she does well, even if it doesn’t lead to anything else, that could only be a good thing for women in general and the sport as a whole.

  12. GeorgeTuk (@georgetuk) said on 24th February 2014, 11:02

    Great news

  13. davros said on 24th February 2014, 11:30

    72 races in DTM, two 7th places no other points finishes.
    This makes less sense than having double points at the last race.

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 24th February 2014, 12:39

      Susie Wolff’s record is at best… unimpressive.

      With all due respect, Mrs. Wolff, you are not F1 material. However, congratulations.

  14. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 24th February 2014, 12:03

    I can only hope Wolff inspires female racers rather than embarrass them.

  15. Shame she proved she was slower than a slow thing at the silverstone test last year. Considering the recent signing of Felipe Nasr as the reserve driver this just reeks of wanting to beat Sauber to the punch to be the first person to put a woman in the car because no team needs 2 test drivers. My sister lives near milton keynes maybe I should get her to send red bull an email see if they fancy letting her drive in melbourne practice seeing as they wont be finishing the race anyway.

1 2 3

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.