Formula 1 is one of the many male dominated sports we see today. It’s a rare occasion to witness a woman directly involved when it comes to driving a Formula 1 car, but Williams’ Susie Wolff is determined to change that.
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone will see the 31 year old Brit take to the track during Friday’s first practice session. Her role as Williams’ Development Driver sees her most commonly in the simulator, but this weekend she’ll be in the car and out on the circuit among the other drivers, making her the first woman to take part in a Formula 1 race weekend in 22 years.
An Equal Passion
Wolff got into motorsport much like many of the most successful drivers in the sport today, starting off in karting and working her way up the ranks to prove her talent. She recalls her first ever experience with karting as less than a fond memory though, as a young girl getting pushed around and passed by the boys around her.
Her Dad offered the chance for her to go home and give up, or go back out there and hit back twice as hard as the boys. It’s clear today what choice she made, displaying from a very young age that she was determined to prove her talents.
“I’m not racing to prove how well a female can do up against the men, or how good women drivers are in general, I’m racing for me,” said Wolff. “I just want to be the best racing driver I can be. If I can break down barriers as well and help people, I will.”
It takes a great deal of determination however to constantly battle with a society stuck in it’s ways, often struggling to be taken as seriously as the other drivers. “It’s a little bit harder to earn respect because people see me and think I don’t look how a racing driver should, I’m against all the stereotypes,” she explained. “But once I put my helmet on it doesn’t matter what I look like.”
Back in May, during the post Spanish Grand Prix testing, Susie set fire to the Circuit de Catalunya, completing fifty laps and beating the target time the team had set her by 0.3 seconds. If she can achieve this in a testing period, it’ll be interesting to see what she will accomplish during FP1.
Also, despite spinning out on turn 11, a result of getting to grips with the torque given by the new cars for 2014, Susie dominated by setting the 5th fastest time of the day, proving she belongs behind the wheel as much as any other F1 driver.
The Rise of Women in F1
Making it in F1 is tough even as a male, but despite the odds being against them, women are looking to become less of a rarity in motorsport. Alice Powell became the first female to win the Formula Renault Championship in 2010, and this year Swiss driver Simona De Silvestro was signed by Sauber with the objective of racing in 2015.
“I suppose it’s inevitable,” Damon Hill remarked, when asked about women becoming equally accepted in motorsport. “We now think it’s perfectly natural for women to be politicians or run companies. I think we’re changing our attitudes now, so we’ll see what happens in motorsport.”
Though we won’t see Wolff in the championship race this weekend it’s still an exciting moment for both British drivers and sportswomen all over. Wolff having the opportunity to drive during FP1 at the British GP and later this year at Hockenheimring, is hopefully a sign we’ll start to see more women in Formula 1.
“I’ve got so much more I want to achieve before I can say I’ve broken down barriers,” says Wolff and, as a member of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, she aims to show that motorsport is not just a man’s world.
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