SHE blazed a trail for women in the world of motorsport but Susie Wolff, the Scottish racing driver, today announced her career had reached the end of the road.
The Oban-born driver became the first female to take part in a Formula One race weekend in more than two decades by participating in a practice session at last year’s British Grand Prix.
Although hopes were high the 32-year-old would one day line up alongside the likes of Lewis Hamilton in a full race, she now admits a place on the starting grid is out of her reach.
After a two decade-long career which saw her progress from kart racing to the prestigious Williams Formula One team, Wolff plans to retire from motorsport at the end of the season.
In a candid article explaining her decision, Wolff said she had “given her all,” but warned that the prospect of a woman driver competing the very top level was still far off due to the lack of young girls at a grassroots level and the absence of any role model.
After hitting the headlines at the 2014 British Grand Prix, Wolff took part in practice for the German Grand Prix last year as well as sessions in Spain this season and again at Silverstone.
However, in an article for the Huffington Post website, she said it was time to stop chasing a dream she had held since the age of 13.
“I wanted and fought very hard to make it onto that starting grid but the events at the start of this year and the current environment in F1 the way it is, it isn’t going to happen,” she explained.
“My gut feeling tells me it is time to move on. Time to explore new challenges and push myself in new environments. As a sportsperson it is always difficult to know when to stop but for me, this journey has come to an end.”
Wolff, who is married to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, said she had been “energised” by the support she received throughout her career and said she “fought hard” to achieve her ultimate goal, despite the fact there were some people who did not want to see her succeed.
After hanging her up helmet, Wolff - who has been linked with a presenting job on the BBC’s Top Gear programme - intends to team up with the Motor Sports Association to launch a new initiative to celebrate women in motorsport and encourage youngsters to follow in her footsteps. She explained: “I dared to be different, I want to inspire others to do the same.”
However, she sounded a note of caution for those who believe it is only a matter of time before a female driver competes for a podium place.
She added: “Do I think F1 is ready for a competitive female racing driver that can perform at the highest level? Yes. Do I think it is achievable as a woman? Most definitely. Do I think it will happen soon? Sadly no.
“We have two issues: not enough young girls starting in karting at a young age and no clear role model. Sometimes you just have to see it to believe it.”
Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams added: “It has been a pleasure to work with Susie over the years and see her develop as a driver within the team.
“We want to thank her for all her efforts and wish her the very best for her future endeavours.”
Wolff’s last professional outing will come at the Race of Champions in London at the end of the month.