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Marussia hands female driver De Villota 2012 test role
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Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Mar 2012   |  5:53 pm GMT  |  129 comments

Marussia has paved the way for a female driver to compete in an official Formula 1 test at the end of the year by signing Spaniard Maria De Villota to a test driver role.

The 32-year-old is the daughter of former F1 driver Emilio de Villota, who made two grands prix starts in the late 1970s, and made her F1 test bow for Lotus Renault at Paul Ricard last year. She has also had race experience in Formula Palmer Audi and the football-themed Superleague.

Marussia team principal John Booth said: “We are pleased to welcome Maria to our test driver programme, which will enable her to be integrated into a Formula One team environment and gain a vast amount of experience that will be useful to her career progression. We will also provide Maria with the opportunity to sample F1 machinery later in the year, further adding to her racing credentials.”

De Villota confirmed that test would come in the young driver sessions at the end season in Abu Dhabi, adding: “I am very happy to be joining the Marussia F1 Team test driver programme. This is a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a Formula One team and gain important experience to help me progress my career, including the chance to drive the new car later in the year at the Abu Dhabi test. I will be joining the team trackside so I’m looking forward to working alongside them at the first race next weekend and this can only help my future ambition to step up to Formula One racing.”

British IndyCar driver Katherine Legge had been the last woman to test an F1 car for Minardi in 2005, while several years ago there were rumours that the most high-profile female driver in America, Danica Patrick, could complete a test around the time of US F1’s bid to make the grid.

The last female driver to participate in a grand prix weekend was Giovanna Amati for Brabham in 1992, when she failed to qualify at two grands prix, while the last woman to start a race was Lella Lombardi on 12 occasions in the 1970s.

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1

Interesting comment section, I just wanted to add that currently there are two female drivers that will drive the European part of the F1 weekends in GP3.

If I can see any female talent making it to F1, this is surely a way?

2

So many men frustrated a woman gets to drive an F1 car.. the horror haha.

3

Frankly good luck to her. Hope she gets something out of it, as does the team.

I guess her record in the lower levels is not the best but then some other drivers have that record too only to massively impress in F1.

The main point to me though is why are marussia even doing this, instead of perhaps HRT who are proudly Spanish?

They’re late with the 2012 car, even with Pat Symonds working in the background, and then we have this which is surely this is just a sponsoship move. I guess any press is good press but….

I’m wondering if HRT will out live Marussia at this rate. I hope though that they BOTH survive!!

FF

4

I should get my wife who is a transexual to start racing , what would she be male or female , just need her to agree to start her driving lessons first 🙂

5

Well, in some respects this is the continuation of family genetics…her father is Emilio De Villota, who ran in Formula 1 in the early 80’s. He had a lot of money backing him, but was slow in the lower categories (although he won a couple of races mainly by having the best equipment), and he was almost embarrassingly slow in F1.

6

I just hope this announcement on international women’s day is a coincidence. Otherwise its really poor taste.

7

Oh, … it was announced yesterday.

8

Every time I have heard Marussia have signed a driver for this season my first response has been “Who?”

9

I have no words for how stupid and dangerous that was. Did she want to kill someone?

10

Just like Hamilton in Hungary 2011 you mean?

11

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJZKhvJurno&feature=player_embedded

She wont get anywhere near an F1 car on a race day, check this Superleague race out from about 35 seconds.

12

Yes thats a move from someone ripe and ready for the highest echelon of motorsport. Headshaker.

13

She did the same stupid move as Hamilton in Hungary 2011, the difference was that Di Resta could avoid it while coming at a much higher speed even.

Hamilton should be sacked from F1 too then.

14
mayhemfunkster

When we see the amount of drivers that streak through the lower formulae, winning everything then never get to F1 or perform poorly, we have to ask how far any of the current crop of females would get if it weren’t for gender?

The percentage of kids that start out in motorsport making it to F1 must be beyond tiny. If you then think how many girls go into motorsport as a subset of that, its no suprise they struggle. It’s not talent per se, just numbers.

That is the problem. Motorsport is not clasically of interest to girls – so th e numbers competing and probability of making to F1 are correspondingly lower.

Eventually, talent will out, plain and simple. Doesn’t matter who you are, what colour you are or what bits you have.

15

I was part of the tv team for some Superleague formula races back when de Villota was racing there & she was pretty useless.

I remember an incident at Jarama where she spun at turn 1 & then decided to drive back onto the track directly infront of oncoming cars & caused a near head-on collision with Sebastien Bourdais who had no way of avoiding her.

It was the most ridiculous thing i’ve ever seen & Bourdais was furious with not just the fact he’d been taken out but also because of the fact she went unpunished & was still allowed to race in the series.

Video of above moment courtesy of stefmeister-

http://youtu.be/RJZKhvJurno?t=38s

16

I think it’s a bit daft to exclude drivers of 32 years of age. Lots of great drivers haven’t even reached their peak by 32 and we’ve seen plenty recently who’ve gotten much better in their 30s. (As someone turning 30 myself I have to stick up for those hitting their third decade – we’re still young!) – and I think F1 has actually gone too far allowing in 19 and 20 year olds, who need a few more years before they should be in the pinnacle of motorsports.

However –

The issue is surely past experience. If a female driver of 32 had progressed and shown relevant experience in the right feeder series, then why not? Okay so at 32 they might not have a 15 year career ahead of them, but 5-6 years seems more than feasible with drivers sticking around past 40.

I’d be happy with a 32 year old male driver getting a shot, but if they didn’t have the relevant background, it’s just a marketing exercise.

17

Firstly, Amati failed to qualify for three grands prix for Brabham (after not getting any testing before her first practice session in Kyalami). Although her F3000 pedigree was awful: In 31 entries she failed to qualify 17 times, although she did get a 7th, 9th and two 10ths from the races she qualified for.

de Villota is, however, not the best available female racer. Simona de Silvestro or Ana Beatriz have shown flashes of promise over in Indycars, as has Pippa Mann and Katherine Legge. Indeed, all four of these drivers have won races in Indy Lights or the Atlantic feeder series. There’s also Alice Powell, who I’ve seen in a few FRenault races in the UK, and is a feisty driver who I hope will make it to F1. But no, de Villota clearly has some money behind her. It’s a shame, because I don’t think she will make a great contribution.

18

Regardless of whether Maria is any good as a driver or not, I doubt that there is any really useful experience to be had as an F1 test driver these days.

She may well get a day in the young drivers test, and a few goes in the simulator, but it’s not really anything that will have a prospective employer noticing.

19

Nothing against female drivers, in fact I welcome them, but as many mentioned in posts above, I’d rather see female drivers who come to F1 on merit rather than cash or publicity or whatever.

Someone throw her a barbie doll instead please, cars ain’t for her.

20

I do not really have an issue with age or gender when it comes to formula 1 drivers. Damon Hill got into F1 late while others like Alguersuari and Button are arriving too early. Gender also does not bother me it is all to do with talent. If someone is not talented then they should not be racing. Clearly teams need cash so the hope is you hire a Bruno Senna someone with friends back home but also with some talent behind the wheel. Looks like a PR exercise to me.

21
Stone the crows

I don’t know what sort of career progression DeVillota is supposed to get at the age of 32. Most drivers that age are well established in whatever series they’ve chosen. I know this team has to come up with cash any way they can, but this is the most crass of the crass pay to drive schemes I’ve seen. When her money runs out she’ll be gone, probably soon after Marussia’s YOUNG rookie is asked to give up a race for DeVillota to add a line to her resume.

22

Two points,

1) In case anyone’s wondering, forget Danica Patrick coming to F1: she has made it clear, she isn’t interested: she hates the idea of all the (international) travelling (which I can fully understand) apart from all the sexism and politics.

2) James thanks for the ‘history of women in F1’ info, can you expand on “while the last woman to start a race was Lella Lombardi on 12 occasions in the 1970s.” – how did she do?

23

I think she just knows she wouldn’t be competitive. F1 would show the world that she can’t handle single-seaters at a top level, more so than Indycars did.

NASCAR is a good place for her, where keeping the car tuned to a narrow set-up window for a single corner type matters more than relying on your talent to make up for a car that’s set up to be good on 15+ different corner types.

24

Not bad. She scored half a point

25
Tom in Adelaide

Which is 1/2 more than any of us! 😀

I wonder if this news was released to coincide with International Women’s Day?

26

It’s great ‘publicity’, but that’s a terrible photograph. “Leering” comes to mind.

27

This is just bad. She has no right being in an F1 car. Her record in lower formula is dreadful. I saw a number of Superleague races where she was just downright dangerous on the race track.

I’m all for talented women racing in F1, but to put her in a car will just give women drivers a bad stigma. She is slow and has zero racecraft.

I for one hope I never see her in a F1 car. I hope I see a woman in an F1 car soon as that would be great for the sport, but not De Villota.

28
Tornillo Amarillo

The problem when my wife drives is that she looks the shop windows at the same time…

29

The good news is, Marussia have signed a female driver. The bad news is, it’s not one of the good ones.

30

Good god, who freaking cares?

We are talking about a 32 yr old driver taking the slot in a young driver test.

And how much cash flow and positive press will this actually generate for this hopeless team? I for one am no longer pulling for Marussia or for HRT. They just aren’t doing the things you need to do to be on the grid.

Where is Prodrive, a professional operation?

31

I’m only 31 but alas i am male… however, i’d be willing to make medical arrangements in order to rectify that if, say, a Ferrari race seat was available…

32

Just tuck it away and wear a blonde wig, sorted!

33

Hey James,

Love your site. Great to see a female driver in F1.

On another note, I’m a massive F1 fan and read EVERYTHING online leading into a new season.

I have a suggestion, you should team up with the chap running the blog below next year for pre season information.

He’s done some of the best work I’ve ever read.

Makes a mockery of many existing F1 reporters.

Please check him out and get him involved.

http://abulafiaf1.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/331/#comments

Regards

Ketzal

34

Her history shows no special achievement. I don’t care for the gender of an F1 driver as long as they are good enough. I don’t believe that Maria is. However, let’s see in the tests!

35

She done a test last summer for Lotus Renault, about 300 km and although the official statement was she done well, word was she was slow.(Think it was Joe Saward that said she was slow)

The fact Lotus never done anything further with her and the fact at 32 she has no credentials in lower formula’s makes it seem extremely likely she wasn’t great in that test.

In the young driver test you can bet she will be running on fumes in the hope the media will give the team plenty of coverage.

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