Scots driver Susie Wolff has Formula One in her sights
IT IS one of the last bastions of male-dominated sport - a turbo-charged world of high-powered engines, exhaust fumes and speeds of up to 185mph.
But the oil-stained pit lanes, grids and hairpin bends of Formula One are also an arena for which Susie Wolff, from Oban, has been gunning ever since stepping inside her first kart at the age of eight.
Now, after being confirmed as development driver for Williams, she is on the verge of being the sport’s first female competitor for 20 years.
The 29-year-old, who lives in Switzerland with her husband, Toto, a Williams director, will assist the team in testing and other technical issues, and effectively becomes their fourth driver behind two regular starters and a reserve.
It means she has a chance of one day competing against the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
Button may not know it, but he helped to set the young Susie Stoddart on the road to becoming a racing driver.
“I was 13 or 14 and went to a Formula Three race in Donington,” she said. “Jenson Button was racing that day, and that’s when I decided that that was what I wanted to do.”
Ms Wolff’s father owns a motorbike dealership and racing was a natural part of her childhood.
“I was following him around as a child, and I remember bugging him for money to go on the kart track,” she said. “I had an older brother who was also doing it, and I thought if he could do it so could I.”
Going bumper to bumper with her male rivals is something the former Oban High School pupil has grown used to. She currently races in the DTM touring car circuit in Germany, which fellow Scot Paul di Resta won in 2010, before he moved to Formula One.
However, she has no intention of attempting to trade on her status as one of the few women in a man’s world.
“I’ve been racing for a long time and I don’t see myself as any different from anyone else,” she said. “But it’s a man’s world, and there are different challenges [for a woman], but I don’t like to complain or say it’s harder.
“It’s my decision to race and I do it because I love racing, not because I want to prove a point about women in racing or women in motorsport.”
She added: “Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport. It’s every young driver’s dream to race in Formula One, but I’m very much focused on realistic goals and short-term goals.”
There have been five female Formula One drivers before Wolff and only two of them ever started a race, scoring a combined 0.5 points in their careers.
Ms Wolff said: “I can only go on my own experience, but when I see little girls dressed in pink [the colour of Wolff’s Mercedes in DTM] – when I was a young girl I looked for role models in motorsport and if I can inspire one girl, then I think it’s something very positive.”
She has earned the backing of some of the most senior figures in Formula One.
Frank Williams, team principal of the Williams F1 team, said: “Susie is a talented, successful and highly professional racing driver who competes in one of the world’s most fiercely contested racing series.
“I should add that, as Susie is married to Toto, her appointment was considered by the Williams board, with Toto excusing himself from the process.”
Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of Formula One, added: “If Susie is as quick in a car as she looks good out of a car, then she will be a massive asset to any team – and on top of that she is very intelligent. I’m really looking forward to having her in Formula One.”
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