Formula 1 has a female as an official driver after the famous Williams Renault F1 team announced Briton Susie Wolff as a development driver for the 2012 season.
Wolff (formerly Stoddart), who has been racing in the German DTM series for Mercedes-Benz since 2006, was recently announced as a development driver for Sir Frank Williams’ team. Williams Renault, who have Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna on the books as race drivers, already use Finn Valtteri Bottas as official test and reserve driver. The exact role in development that Wolff will play is yet to be formalised, although she will start work in the simulators at the Williams Renault F1 factory before getting her first taste of real F1 machinery in the coming months.
On the signing, Sir Frank Williams said, “Susie is a talented, successful and highly professional racing driver who competes in one of the world’s most fiercely-contested racing series. Susie will join Williams as a development driver, in which capacity she will assist us with the development of our simulator and other technical challenges. Susie will also undertake some aerodynamic testing of the FW34 and a full track test in the coming months.”
Wolff is actually the wife of significant Williams F1 team shareholder, Toto Wolff, but Williams was quick to point out that he played no part in her getting the role. “Susie will also attend a number of races with us. I should add that, as Susie is married to Toto Wolff, a director of Williams, her appointment was carefully considered and then approved by the board, with Toto recusing himself from the process.”
Why Wolff has been signed is still slightly questionable. Her DTM record is unimpressive, boasting a best finish of 7th in 2010 and failing to score points in all but the 2010 season.
F1 has had female drivers in the past, the most famous of which was Lella Lombardi from Italy. She in fact raced for Sir Frank Williams in 1975 but made history by becoming the first female driver to score a Formula 1 World Championship point driving for Lavazza March in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix. It was actually only half a point after the race has stopped before the half way mark.