Trying to become the first female on the Formula 1 grid in almost 40 years, Susie Wolff made her full test debut on Friday. The 30-year-old Scot, a development driver at Williams, took part in the third day of testing at Silverstone.
The in-season test is usually restricted to inexperienced drivers, but F1 regulars also took part to try out new tyres. Wolff was watched by husband, Toto, the motorsport director at Mercedes, which was banned from the session after being reprimanded for holding unsanctioned testing in May. He said he was anxious watching his wife but was restricted by his team from speaking further.
Not since Italian driver Lella Lombardi in 1976 has a woman raced in F1. Giovanna Amati was given an opportunity by the Brabham team in 1992, but squandered three chances to qualify. “Of course, it has been a long time since there has been a successful female in Formula One but I think that has more to do with the fact that there are not more girls racing so that the best can rise to the top,” Wolff said before Friday’s session. “I would love to see women being successful in Formula One.”
Wolff completed 89 laps in front of over 7,000 fans, with the fastest clocked at 1 minute, 35.093 seconds. F1 championship leader Sebastian Vettel was fatest, with a lap of 1:32.894.
“She was pretty good, she was pretty quick,” Ferrari driver Felipe Massa said. “I think it’s fantastic to see a lady driving in Formula One.”
“Some people have said it is not possible, but she has gone and proved that it is possible,” Marussia driver Max Chilton said. “I really hope she can succeed in it and we can have other women drivers. It is not just a male sport.”