Formula One is the highest class of single seater auto racing in the world but the championships have long been populated by mostly men. Women have slowly been working their way up in the male dominated circuit and they now have another joining their ranks. Scotland’s Susie Wolff has just signed on as a development driver with Williams Formula One and she’s got some interesting things to say about women in the industry.
The 29-year-old, who started on the road to F1 back in 1996 in karting, said joining F1 was a big dream of hers. “Formula 1 is just a completely different league because it’s the top championship in the world,” she told the BBC. “The cars are the most advanced cars in the world; the fastest cars, so it’s a lot more physically demanding and there’s a lot more technical work going in in the background.”
But Wolff actually got the bug when she was much younger, when she was just eight. “Her father, John Stoddart owned a motorcycle dealership in Oban and raced bikes competitively,” they write. “She competed at karting championships as a child at the West of Scotland Kart Club, before earning a place in Formula Renault and then on to Formula 3. She joined the DTM series in 2006, and has been racing there ever since.”
Another woman recently joined F1 just a short time before Wolff. Maria de Villota is now a test driver. “However, the numbers of women involved in F1 are still low,” writes the BBC. “Only five women have entered F1 races in the past, the most prolific being Italian Lella Lombardi, who started 12 grand prixs in the 1970s. The last woman to enter the F1 world championship was Italian Giovanna Amati in the 1992 season with Brabham.”
Wolff is definitely concerned about the numbers. “The sheer fact that there aren’t as many women racing means that there’s less chance of the best rising to the top,” she said. You get a young girl who is really interested in motor sport; who has a passion for it, she watches Formula 1 races with her family at the weekend but she doesn’t see any role models to inspire her to be involved in motor sport, or to make her believe that she could be involved.” Although she does think it’s starting to change for the better, “slowly but surely.”
Though she’ll just be in the role of development driver, Wolff obviously would love to start a F1 race some day. “It’s a dream of mine but I’m not going to look too far ahead in the future now. I’ve got goals to achieve first of all in my role as a development driver. I’ve got a lot of experience but I still want to improve as a driver,” she said. “I think this opportunity with Williams is a fantastic opportunity and it’s up to me to take that with both hands. They’ve given me the chance to show want I can do in a Formula 1 car and it’s up to me to prove that I possibly do have a chance to start a race for them.”
(via BBC News)