Susie Wolff, Williams, Silverstone, 2012

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

2014 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

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

Jump to comment page: 1 2
  1. 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.

    1. 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

      1. 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.

        1. “If Susie Wolff was a man, she wouldn’t get anywhere near an F1 car”.

          I couldn’t put it better myself and I agree with your comment. I too want to see equality, but I don’t think this is a move to encourage it.

        2. Putting Susie Wolff in a F1 car would only “prove” that women are not good enough for F1 and therefor do harm to other more skilled female drivers chances.

        3. @petebaldwin

          If Susie Wolff was a man, she wouldn’t get anywhere near an F1 car.

          Was Ma Qing Hua really that much more qualified?

          1. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
            24th February 2014, 19:52

            @keithcollantine – Not anymore (or less) qualified than HRT was to be in F1.

          2. @keithcollantine – Well yeah fair enough…. Kinda backs up what I said a bit cause for me, it’s exactly the same thing. Two drivers who are no where near good enough for F1 but brought in anyway for other reasons…

          3. @keithcollantine Yeah but he wasn’t made to hang around a F1 team for years.

        4. +100

      2. 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).

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

        1. 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.

          1. 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!!!

      4. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

        2. 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!

      5. 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.

        1. 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. 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.

    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!

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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…?!

          1. 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.

          2. 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.

          3. 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.

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

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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. 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

    1. 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.

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

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

    1. That’s exactly what I thought as well. Must be getting cynical in my old age…

      1. I thought that too.

  7. You go girl!

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

    1. In DTM she finished all her races at the back of the pack (there were races she didn’t finish). So where is her talent?

      1. Read it again, I don’t think you got it.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. No, they’re extremely low due to the general lack of talented female drivers in any racing series in the first place.

      2. 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

        1. “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.

      3. 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’).

      4. @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.

      5. @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.

        1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. @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.

    4. 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.

  11. Great news

  12. 72 races in DTM, two 7th places no other points finishes.
    This makes less sense than having double points at the last race.

    1. Susie Wolff’s record is at best… unimpressive.

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

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

  14. 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.

  15. I’d be more than happy to give my support to susie if she’d got the on merit alone but this is just not the case.

    She was a below average F3 driver and a rear of the field runner in DTM @ Mercedes for a few years. Then she marries Toto Wolff (49% share holder of German HWA AG the company that runs Mercedes DTM teams) who then purchases 16% of Williams F1 in 2009 and is given the title of “executive director of williams F1” in 2012, the same year in which Susie is signed as a development driver. Toto then in the same year sells his shares in Williams F1 to join Mercedes F1 as “executive director.” Its then announced the Williams F1 has signed a deal with Mercedes to be there engine supplier from 2014 onwards. This is then shortly followed by the annoucement the susie will be driving for williams in the 2013 “young drivers test.” (very convienient) And we get to current events Williams having now had 12 days of very positive testing using the new Mercedes power unit has “all of a sudden” announced that Susie will be driveing in FP1 and the British and German GP’s this year.

    This is all very convenient in my opinion. I believe there is many behind closed discussions that has led to Williams making these choices.

    I have nothing against Susie and know for a fact that shes a very nice person as have had the pleasure of having a good chat with her at a DTM weekend (when she was still Susie Stoddart) or the fact that shes a woman trying to get into F1 however, I believe that unless she is bringing money to the team or is a proved up and comer with lots of potential the she has no right to be there

    1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m32.894s 79
    2. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m33.242s +0.348s 99
    3. Nicolas Prost Lotus 1m33.256s +0.362s 83
    4. Carlos Sainz Jr Red Bull 1m33.546s +0.652s 35
    5. Davide Rigon Ferrari 1m33.592s +0.698s 20
    6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m33.624s +0.730s 69
    7. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m33.647s +0.753s 42
    8. Gary Paffett McLaren 1m34.294s +1.400s 77
    9. Susie Wolff Williams 1m35.093s +2.199s 89
    10. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m35.155s +2.261s 85
    11. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m35.281s +2.387s 22
    12. Charles Pic Caterham 1m35.576s +2.682s 60
    13. Kimiya Sato Sauber 1m35.642s +2.748s 67
    14. Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia 1m36.339s +3.445s 24
    15. James Calado Force India 1m36.451s +3.557s 5
    16. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m36.744s +3.850s 39

    Given the Williams last year was only competing with the Caterhams her time at the test seems pretty good to me actually and only 2.3s down on the Red Bull of Vettel and less than a second down on the ultra experienced Garry Paffet in the Mclaren. That is pretty much where the car was at last year in the hands of the race drivers.

  17. She’s very pretty, which, in a weird sort of way, is a shame.

    I really hope she gets a good shot at some track action, maybe even a fully-fledged race seat, and I just hope she doesn’t get too dogged with talk of how she’s only been brought in to be the pretty face of F1, to help keep adolescent male fans interested.

    Really happy F1 now features a woman. I just wish she weren’t hot.

  18. For those of you who say this makes no sense due to her past results, she is a long term Williams development driver, who should know the car inside out. It makes perfect sense for her to participate in a practice session or two. It doesn’t make much sense to promote her to a race seat, but then no one is suggesting that’s going to happen.

    1. she is a long term Williams development driver, who should know the car inside out. It makes perfect sense for her to participate in a practice session or two.

      @danbrown180 Then it would also make sense for McLaren to give Gary Paffett a couple FPs, but that’s never going to happen, right?

      1. @andae23 @danbrown180 Not to mention, Williams have Felipe Nasr a test day on the same day they announced him. Wouldn’t it make more sense for her to have a go at the real thing in Bahrain too?

        1. @npf1 No, because he only joined the other day. Susie has several years experience with the team.

      2. One difference of course being that McLaren pay about $100m for 3 yes driving from their race drivers and accordingly expect them to do the driving.

  19. Good for Suzie, but I’m not sure where to put this in context of enabling women in motorsport. She basically has the same chances entering F1 as Rodolfo González did last year or Chanoch Nissany in 2004. I just hope her performance and story don’t do more bad than good.

    That being said, Beitske Visser is testing FR 3.5 as I type this and doing competitive times. Not to be a broken record; but I’d much rather wait for a driver of her caliber, than Suzie Wolff, Danica Patrick or Simona de Silvestro. The last one probably doesn’t have much of a chance replacing Sutil, Gutierrez and I don’t think she’s up to VDG or Sirotkin’s levels.

Jump to comment page: 1 2

Leave a Reply

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

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.