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.