Formula 1 is still waiting for the first woman F1 driver to break into the ranks on a consistent and competitive basis.
Over the weekend, Simona de Silvestro, Sauber’s development driver, got her chance to do some mileage with 180 laps behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car at a two-day test around Ferrari’s Fiorano circuit in Italy.
Driving the 2012 C31, which is permitted under F1 testing restrictions, the Swiss was limited to one special tyre compound from Pirelli with no lap times being sent out by the team, although the former IndyCar driver was impressed with the machinery beneath her.
The rules say that mileage completed in a non-current F1 car does not count towards earning a super licence, the licence all drivers need in order to compete in F1. This was purely an exercise in getting her used to the feel of an F1 car and to get some mileage. She will have a further opportunity to test in June.
“What impressed me most was the downforce of the car and the braking,” said Silvestro, speaking on Saturday. “When I did my first lap the brakes were cold, but even then the deceleration was beyond what I had experienced before.
“The g-forces are significantly higher compared to what I was used to in IndyCar. Overall, I’m happy with my first day in a Formula 1 car.”
After completing 112 laps on Saturday, the twenty-five year old went on to rack up 180 laps by the close on Sunday and said she felt more confident as the test progressed.
“Everything feels more familiar to me compared to yesterday, when things were new to me,” she added. “We made some changes to the set-up, which gave me the opportunity to get a feeling for those changes and learn how the car reacts to them.
“I can say that I already feel confident in the car, which is very positive.”
De Silvestro’s next test in the Sauber C31 will take place from 25th June to 27th June in Valencia.
The other female driver active in F1 at the moment, Suzie Wolff, does have a licence to take part in official sessions and will get her chance to rack up some more mileage for Williams at two Grands Prix weekends on Friday mornings in Silverstone and Hockenheim.
It can only be positive for the sport to have two women active on the driving front. There have been female drivers in F1 in the past; Maria de Filippis in the 1950s, Lella Lombardi in the 1970s while Giovanna Amati attempted to qualify for some races in the 1990s with Brabham.