Photo credit: Williams F1 Team
By Sam Shedden
Susie Wolff is to become the first woman in 22 years to take part in a Formula One Grand Prix weekend. The development driver for the Williams team will drive in Friday’s practice sessions ahead of the British and German Grands Prix in July.
The 31-year-old Scot, from Oban, will become the first female Formula One driver since Giovanna Amati in 1992 to drive over a race weekend. Formula One remains an undeniably male dominated arena; it is extremely rare to see a woman behind the wheel of the £100 million cars.
Wolff began racing at an early age. Her first foray into motor sport began with karting in 1996, and over the years she has progressed into single seater racing, German Touring Car racing (DTM) and in 2012 was named as the new development driver for the Williams Formula One Team.
Speaking to The Wee G from Los Angeles, Wolff described how she got into racing, she said: “Simply because of my parents, I was lucky to have found my passion so early on.
“Funding is the toughest part of motorsport. It’s becoming more and more expensive, I was fortunate to receive funding before the financial downturn and then by Mercedes.”
One of the biggest moments in Wolff’s career was last year summer, when she stepped out of the simulators and into a Williams Formula One car at Silverstone for the first time.
It was everything I expected. I was driving the best cars in the world”
Wolff’s performance in the time trials in 2013 was the first step in getting her to a Grand Prix weekend. It was a very public statement of her intent and abilities. Months after the time trial she told the BBC her performance at Silverstone last summer changed attitudes towards her within the sport.
The Scottish driver added that in the future she envisions herself on the starting grid in a Formula One Grand Prix.
Wolff does not see her gender as any sort of impediment to her career progression within the sport.
You can’t pin it to gender, I’d rather say that it is tough to get into any sport and succeed. It’s a tough journey but you just have to take every opportunity.
However as the below clip shows, there have been times when Wolff’s gender has been used cynically and overtly as a PR tactic. In the German Touring Car championships Susie would drive a bright pink car something she described as a “marketing ploy”.
Video: Channel 4
Susie is well versed in defending her driving abilities and selection. Only last week The Telegraph called Susie ‘fuel for the Formula One’s PR machine’. When asked about comments like these Susie said: “It’s just one journalists opinion. I don’t agree with that statement as Williams would not put an incapable driver in one of their cars, it’s too dangerous.”
Wolff’s training regime is just as intensive as any of her male counterparts. She reportedly lifts weight five days a week to strengthen her body against the G-force that Formula One drivers can experience, which can be as a heavy as 40 kilos.
Off the track, Wolff gets her speed kicks from downhill skiing and she is on her way to becoming a sporting fashion icon (she recently appeared in Vogue magazine). She lives in Switzerland with her German husband, Toto Wolff, who is an executive in the Mercedes Formula One Team.
Wolff has a jet setting lifestyle now that has taken her far from her hometown of Oban, where her parents still reside.
“I miss my family, friends and dad’s cooking – though I am lucky enough to be able to travel back to my hometown of Oban two or three times per year.”
Susie Wolff firmly believes the sport is starting to change and in the future we will see more women involved in Formula One.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @SamShedden