SCOTS racing driver Susie Wolff will become the first woman in 22 years to drive on a Formula One grand prix weekend when she takes to the track this summer.
The 31-year-old, from Oban, will compete for Williams Formula One in two practice sessions before the British and German Grands Prix in July.
Italian Giovanna Amati was the last woman to enter the world championships, though she failed to qualify for the three races she entered in 1992 and was subsequently dropped.
Mrs Wolff, who is married to Toto Wolff, an executive business director of the Mercedes F1 team, and a shareholder in Williams F1, has just been promoted after an impressive performance in a test at Silverstone last July.
The former Oban High School pupil joined the Williams team as a development driver in 2012 after seven years in the German Touring Car championship.
Now she hopes the next step in her career will be competing in an F1 Grand Prix. Mrs Wolff said: “The plan just now is for the British Grand Prix and the German Grand Prix. If you can take part in the Friday practice sessions then, of course, you have to be looking to doing an actual race.
“I said the minute I joined Williams that I didn’t want to run before I could walk; for me it’s about doing a good job each step of the way, and if I do that in the practice sessions, then the next natural progression will be taking part in a race.”
Mrs Wolff said racing had always been in her blood, with her father owning a motorbike dealership in the West Highlands.
“My mum met him when she went to buy her first motorbike. We always used to follow my dad around when he was racing. We had our own little motorbikes. And then he bought my brother and I a kart and that’s how it started,” she explained.
And going bumper to bumper with her male rivals is something she has grown used to.
“It’s not about being a woman, it’s about being the absolute best you can be in the sport,” she said. “I’ve been made aware of the history of it, but more importantly for me is that we’ve done it in a chronological way. I joined two years ago as a development driver, did all the tests and this is now the next natural step in my progression in the team.”
Mrs Wolff follows a rigorous fitness routine including an hour and 15 minutes of circuits and resistance training three mornings a week and an hour and a half of Pilates or yoga three days a week to make sure she is physically strong enough for the job.
She said: “F1 drivers make it look easy, but on fast corners like Turn One at Silverstone there’s a G-force between two and five. That’s a hell of a lot; imagine the weight of 30 bags of sugar pressing onto one side of your head while you try to keep it in the middle.”
The driver’s main home is a converted furniture factory in Thurgau, Switzerland, overlooking Lake Constance. But she also spends a good deal of time at the Williams factory in Grove, Oxfordshire where she test drives the latest vehicles.
Currently Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas are the main drivers for the Williams team, with Felipe Nasr named as the official test and reserve driver, so Mrs Wolff is unlikely to compete in a Grand Prix this season, but the team management believe the practice sessions will help her to develop as an F1 driver.
Mrs Wolff added: “It’s an incredible opportunity they have given me and it’s one I am going to grab with both hands.”
As for being on the grid in 2015, she insisted it was “impossible to say” whether that would happen, adding it was about “grabbing the opportunities and always proving yourself”.
Williams’ chief technical officer Pat Symonds added: “Susie has become a valued member of our driver line-up, and 2014 will see her take on more responsibilities as we seek to take a strong step forward in performance.”
The driver’s career featured last year in a BBC2 documentary Driven: The Fastest Woman in the World written and directed by her Bafta-nominated film-maker brother, David Stoddart.