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.

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

  1. mateuss (@mateuss) said on 24th February 2014, 20:39

    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:http://animalwise.org/2012/01/26/born-this-way-gender-based-toy-preferences-in-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).

    • Steven (@steevkay) said on 24th February 2014, 22:05

      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.

  2. Tomsk (@tomsk) said on 24th February 2014, 20:43

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend) said on 24th February 2014, 21:47

    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.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 24th February 2014, 21:57

      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.

      • PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend) said on 24th February 2014, 22:20

        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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Shimks (@shimks) said on 25th February 2014, 8:40

    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.

  8. Irejag (@irejag) said on 25th February 2014, 15:03

    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.

  9. JohnH said on 26th February 2014, 9:57

    She deserves a chance. I hope she does well.

  10. Jack (@jmc200) said on 26th February 2014, 20:52

    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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