Susie Wolff makes history as the first woman to participate in the Formula One in 22 years.
Formula One poster girls used to pose strictly at the finish line, wearing very little and popping the champagne corks as only men took the drivers’ seats. But the new female face of the sport, driver Susie Wolff, has just made history as the first woman to participate in Formula One Grand Prix Weekend in 22 years.
The Scottish driver took part in a practice session for Sunday’s British Grand Prix race alongside F1 heavyweights Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, making it around the track at Silverstone four times before an oil pressure problem forced her to call it quits. She hoped that her practice experience would lead to a future place in the main event, and that it would encourage other women and girls to get involved in the sport.
“If there are just a handful of little girls who were there on Friday and see me driving and suddenly realise they could do the same, that is the biggest positive to come out of it,” she told the BBC before the race.
“It’s not a man’s world any more. It just needs to be shown that women can compete at that level and then you’ll get more and more entering.”
Following Giovanna Amati’s 1992 attempt to qualify for a Grand Prix, Wolff has closed an over two-decade gap for female racers on the track.
Wolff races for Williams Formula One Team and will be taking to the road again during the German Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.
Her milestone achievement hasn’t gone without criticism though. Naysayers have speculated that her addition to the Williams team was a marketing ploy. But Susie’s not standing for it.
‘There’s absolutely no way you could put someone in a F1 car if they weren’t ready. They are very physical and complicated to drive. If you’re not ready for it, it’s simply dangerous to go out on that track,’ she explained after her session.
‘Of course there are some people in this sport who don’t want to see a woman competing at this level. I don’t really get too involved in that – it’s too distracting. For me it’s just about going out on the track and giving a good performance. That speaks louder than any words’
Even her friend Sergio Perez made a distasteful joke about her place being in the kitchen instead of on the track, but Wolff took it with a grain of salt and responded via twitter:
‘Saw some comments made by Sergio Perez as I was making dinner in the kitchen last night. Please give him a break…His comments were taken completely out of context. Anyway, as my family will tell you, I drive better than I cook.’
Right on, Susie. We look forward to watching the 31 year-old’s career shift into gear in the coming months.