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.

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Image © Williams/LAT

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

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  1. I’m not sure what to make of this. On one hand I think it’s great that there will be a female F1 driver again, but you can’t really say she deserves those two practice sessions based on her track record. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but based on her seven years in the DTM with basically no progress, I really doubt she has “a natural talent for developing a car and providing strong feedback”.

    Focussing on the impact this will have of the emancipation of women in motorsports, I think this is a good thing. The discussion of “she’s only there because she’s a woman” will be resumed during those practice sessions, but the BBC and Sky will probably be very positive about her. Young girls (or their parents) might get inspiration from it, while it might be a stimulating factor for a 10- or 15-year-old girl who’s in doubt whether to continue with motorsports or not.

    So yeah, a bit of mixed feeling for me.

    1. I really doubt she has “a natural talent for developing a car and providing strong feedback”

      Some drivers seem to work much better as test drivers than they do as racers. Or perhaps it’s just a role that any driver can comfortably do well at. How else do you explain Badoer being a Ferrari driver for so long?

      1. @matt90 Good point… but you get my reservations.

        1. I certainly do.

      2. Because clearly they didnt realise how bad he was beforehand otherwise they wouldn’t have put him in the car.

  2. I wouldn’t want to be in a car or on the grid just to fill some quota or just because of who I married, I would want to know I was their on merit.

    1. Even if the truck that carries the drivers during the driver parade blew up and not a single race driver survived….Susie still wouldnt get a drive on merit.

  3. It’s not what you know, but who you know!!!!!

  4. Just only to be able to drive such a powerful car takes a lot of skill, so Wolff isn’t exactly there solely for her gender. She might not be the next Vettel, but that’s exactly why she’s a test driver (not even third/reserve driver, that’s Nasr), and a few FP1s might actually make her more relevant in her job and a stronger driver. Plus, we’ll all get to see how she fares against real competition.

  5. I would have been happier to see an actual talent like De Silvestro get this opportunity.

    Seriously wishing Susie would just disappear now. She’s not good enough and her constant delusions thats she is are really starting to get irritating.

    To be honest this decision has no bearing on driver talent…..and thats sexist.

  6. We have another Danica Patrick on our hands here.

      1. In the fact that her best asset beginning with ‘T’ isn’t talent….and thats for a start.

  7. Also….Is it a coincidence that Toto’s shares still havent been sold? Over a year after he said he would sell them.

  8. It’s great to see the development driver for Williams actually getting a chance to develop by driving the Williams car.

  9. Wow, it seems the fans are divided. A lot are happy for her/excited that a woman will finally be back in F1.. and there are a lot who seem upset because she isn’t ‘good enough’.

    I’m sorry but a practice session isn’t qualy, and it isn’t a race. Plenty of people have driven in practice sessions. The key word being “practice”. The times are negligable in FP sessions, so her abilities aren’t that important here. She’s good enough in my opinion, to do the work needed in a practice session.

    And to the people saying she’s only driving because she’s a woman… You might be right, but you might be wrong. I say, who cares really? The first female to drive in an F1 race weekend in 22 years?? Sorry but that is incredible. Both incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly good as a milestone or landmark, if you will.
    I’m all for positive discrimination. Especially when it’s pretty much a non-point/only affects the other Williams drivers. Empowering women (not to mention boosting F1’s world profile) is a great great thing that should be encouraged. This is a great day, and hopefully it will lead to top-rate female talent coming through different racing disciplines and finally ending up in F1, on merit.

    Congratulations Susie Wolff! Drive the hell out of that car!

    1. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination. There is never anything positive to come from it. Short term, yeah a woman is in the car. Long term, it undermines the effort and talent required to deserve such a seat by individuals who don’t fit the politically correct criteria at the given time.

      What needs to be addressed is ‘why’ not many women with the right skill set are appearing. Is it because they are discriminated against? Do they lack funding for their goals? Are women just not as interested in men as becoming a professional racing driver?

      Positive Discrimination is the biggest oxymoron you can imagine, and the most frustrating to me! We should be resolving issues from the ground up, not painting over the cracks.

    2. ”Positive Discrimination”


  10. 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”.

    I really don’t find it right when a driver with almost no experience of driving a Formula 1 car is given the role of a ‘development’ driver. You can understand when you give the role of a 3rd driver or reserve driver but to give a role of a development driver, you must have the credibility to do so which Susie clearly doesn’t have. As Ferrari signed Pedro de la Rosa or even Gary Paffet at McLaren have some credibility to develop the cars.

    It smells like a race of who becomes the first female driver in 22 years to be in a F1 car at a GP weekend. Since Simona de Silvestro was signed by Sauber and has a good history, it seems like Susie or Williams made the move to be the first in line. Otherwise it’s difficult to consider Susie contributing to any “development” of the car. She is good as a dummy driver who can have some hot photo shoots with the helmet.

  11. I almost don’t care, but I kind of do. Obviously testing a car and doing setup is not the same as racing, but teams do not put their test-only (without racing experience in F1)drivers without the objective to evaluate their potential and promote them to a race seat. Nowadays teams don’t even have test-only drivers. Just race drivers, young potential drivers (third drivers) and the “very-remote-maybe-potential-race-drivers-but-not-actually-just-drivers-for-sponsorship-and-PR-purposes”.

    We can all safely assume in which category Wolff fits in. Than alone is not harmful, but the actual talent who misses out on testing and evaluation does damage the sport’s level of talent. And harms the performance level of the team.

    As for her credentials, has there recently been anyone in an F1 car (as a test or race driver) with poorer results in lesser racing categories?

    I personally dont care for the gender of the driver, but many people and so the media obviously do (and I find that annoying), which is, most likely, exactly why she has got this position. So it is an interesting question, will there ever(well in the few coming years), be proper female racers in F1?

    First, there is the numbers game. How many male drivers in the beginners categories started together with the likes of the A list divers of F1(and parallel categories as well of the same level), (Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Kimi, Rosberg etc.), compare that with the number of female drivers in the same categories in the same years and on purely statistical basis, it is no surprise, there is no female driver in F1 (it would be interesting to get the actual numbers, if someone can summon up some entrance tables). Thats assuming male and female drivers have equal racing potential, which, based on some not quite conclusive enough studies of female and male drivers and of our understanding of the different dominant neurological characteristics, may not at all be the case.

    Then there is the question of interest, many might think that boys liking cars, machines and driving and women liking dolls etc. because of societal construct but studies suggest that is not the case. Not in humans, nor in other primates:

    I am horse rider (show-jumper) myself, and I think in some ways it is at least some what similar sport to F1, in the sense that female and male riders have similar chances of becoming a competitive rider at the top. At the beginners level in my country more than 85-90% of riders are girls, at the top level it closer to 50-50 (though we have a couple of male international level riders and no female). In horse riding, what attracts young girls are the horses, they like the animal caring side of things. Most men come into it primarily because of the competitive aspect, skill development and so on (which is probably why the female dominance at the beginners level does not persist at higher levels)

    There is nothing cuddly about motorsport to attract young girls, and we know they biologically dislike machinery (mostly, and certainly at a young age). So I don’t think we are going to see even comparable numbers of young male and female drivers in lower categories and later on in F1. Will there be a slight change, is it happening now? These news certainly is not an indicator, as there were female participants in F1 before, as the article says. We would want to compare the relative number of m and f drivers in carting etc. over the past decades to see if there is a change.

    Does all this stop there being an A level championship winning female driver in F1 in the following decades? No, but it is extremely unlikely and it is not going to change much (in the developed, gender-equal world).

    1. I think we will have females in F1 in the future; I think that a lot of females who are interested in motorsport are really still developing in lower categories (I can never remember names, but it seems like the number of females are growing, even if it is very slowly) so we could still be years away from seeing a competitive female F1 driver. I hope one comes up sooner, but I am still somewhat optimistic that I will see a couple of competitive female drivers in my lifetime.

      When people like Sirotkin are being considered for a race seat (I understand it’s money) I find letting drivers like Wolff drive the car (and during a pre-season test) isn’t really bad. My concern is whether or not it’s worthwhile for Williams to do this during pre-season when every bit of test time is important, rather than saving it for an FP1 during the year.

      In any case, I hope she leaves a good impression.

  12. There’s no intention of letting her race – at least Giovanna Amati was taking part in qualifying.
    It would take an amazing series of coincidences for Susie Wolff to get a race: an injury or illness to a Williams driver on Friday morning, and Felipe Nasr being unavailable to take over from them.

  13. I’m not sure why there is a ‘need’ to get women in F1… honestly I just don’t get it. If she was good enough to get in on her own merit, then great. Good for her, that’s a fantastic result for anyone of any age, sex, race or nationality to achieve as few people ever get to drive there. But for me, this has undertones of F1’s greatest problem. Becoming about the show.

    You need/want to have women (an attractive one would be fantastic as well) for the media hype, and great for the show / sponsors / cvc. – “Lets constantly check in to see how Suzie is going. Oh look at that, she is really average but lets constantly go on and on about because, you know, she doesn’t have a willy cause she’s not a man silly!!” Danica, for example, is a reasonable driver (lets be clear, she has more talent in her pinky than I would in my whole body), but the amount of attention she got, when she still hadn’t even won a race at that stage, and was mid-field was supremely disproportional. But great for her go-daddy sponsors.
    I think for me it reflects F1’s growing need to be about the show. Lets have DRS/push to pass, the tyres, double points and pay drivers. Yes, there are lots of pay drivers on the grid at the moment, but they arguably have the results to justify their sponsors backing. However, sometimes it is mentioned that “driver x is reasonably talented, and is from country x, so will be likely to get a seat in the next couple of years as country x is a valuable market”. It’s increasingly about the show, and the marketing numbers, which can then be used to extort the highest price possible from the local track /government, to line the coffers of the investment funds and you know who.

  14. Come on what a joke. Taking valuable track time from your racing drivers, especially this year where the development race will be ever so important to put someone in the car who isn’t really qualified to be there, just because of gender and business contacts. But then again, Frank is putting his daughter to run the team so a certain level of nepotism and politics has come to be expected from WIlliams I suppose, but even then, that’s just really difficult to take.

    1. Frank is putting his daughter to run the team so a certain level of nepotism and politics has come to be expected from WIlliams I suppose

      I don’t know how true it is, but I heard he was resistant to her working at Williams for that very reason, and that she had to prove herself above and beyond the norm to get where she is.

      1. Come on bro…. seriously? That’s PR talk inst’ it? But having said that I am not judging Frank for doing that, it is his team, and he no longer can be there all the time, he has dedicated his whole life to the team and wants it to continue. It is understandable. @matt90

  15. It’s a very sad day for F1.
    This is so sexist! She doesn’t deserve to be in F1 on talent. It’s only because she’s a woman and has a ‘name’.
    I would like to have some female drivers in F1 but only if they have proper skills.
    I just hope it won’t end up like with Maria.

  16. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

    Wake me up when there’s a woman driving in F1 during a race weekend on merit, but not after she fails to achieve ANYTHING after YEARS in the DTM and is only on-board b/c her husband holds an F1-team ownership position.

  17. Williams F1 are a serious racing team with a huge pedigree. If they choose to put Susie Wolff in one of their cars for two practise sessions, then it is for a good reason, whatever that reason may be. They obviously see some benefit from this decision. They will have weighed everything up and made an informed decision. And they probably won’t be wrong.

    1. lol. yes – never question your lords and masters!

  18. I think that people are reading into this too much. Susie was offered an opportunity and taking full advantage of it. Any racing driver would snatch it up in a heart beat.
    The situation is what it is and it is doing no harm to the sport.

  19. She deserves a chance. I hope she does well.

  20. Judge her after she’s done her runs, not before! People said she’d not manage the YDT, and she did 89 laps no problem. Obviously she’s not the fastest driver ever, but she’s clearly a good test driver (otherwise why would keep her?) and giving a test driver practice sessions is always good for them and their simulator work.

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