Williams have handed development driver Susie Wolff an expanded role and said the wife of shareholder and former executive director Toto would be first to try out the Formula 1 team’s new car next month.
The 30-year-old Scot, who raced in the German touring car championship for seven seasons but scored only four points in total, will have an increased programme in the simulator this year along with more in-car testing, Williams said in a statement.
She will be first behind the wheel of the new FW35 car, at an aerodynamics test at Spain’s Idiada test circuit before the launch at the second pre-season test in Barcelona on 19 February, and will do most of the team’s aero testing.
“Susie has proved herself to be a valuable addition to our driver roster and her feedback during simulator sessions is second to none,” said technical director Mike Coughlan. “As a result, we will be stepping up her role this year.”
Wolff, who joined Williams in April 2012 and whose Austrian husband is now executive director at rivals Mercedes, said she was “showing that women can play a role at the top level of motorsport”.
Wolff said: “I really enjoy my time working with Williams and feel very much at home here. Last year was a valuable experience and I certainly feel I’ve developed a lot as a driver.
“Increasing my role this year will further this progression, and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the car for the first time next month. I’m showing women can play a role at the top level of motorsport and would like to thank Sir Frank Williams and the whole of the technical team for the trust they continue to show in me.”
Williams have Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, a race winner last year, and Finnish rookie Valtteri Bottas as their drivers this season.
The team, winners of nine constructors’ titles between 1980 and 1997, finished eighth overall in 2012.
Meanwhile, Wolff’s fellow Scot Allan McNish vowed to contest next year’s Daytona 24 Hours race after enduring disappointment in the 51st running of the race.
Competing in a one-off race for the American Starworks Motorsport team, the Audi Sport “factory” driver, along with co-drivers Ryan Dalziel (Scotland), Sébastien Bourdais (France) and Alex Popow (Venezuela), brought their Riley-Ford home in sixth place, having frequently led the annual race.
Dumfries-born McNish was in contention for a fourth Daytona podium finish and possibly a maiden victory until two hours from the chequered flag in a thrilling, closely contested race.
“It was a long, frustrating and sometimes cruel race – a typical Daytona 24 Hours in fact,” said McNish. “We suffered a couple of punctures and some other issues but were still in the fight. With a little over two hours to run when placed fourth but with a podium definitely within our grasp, our car suffered a sticking accelerator, which caused me to go off the track twice, thankfully without hitting anything.
“With that rectified, I then almost immediately encountered a brake issue which cost us 11 laps making repairs in the pits before Ryan brought it home to the flag.
“We lacked the outright pace and straight-line speed of the BMW-powered cars throughout, so we were forced to reduce our disadvantage in the way we set-up our Riley-Ford. But the Starworks Motorsport team did a fantastic job.”