F1 Winter Break
Susie Wolff becomes second female driver on F1 roster
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Apr 2012   |  12:10 pm GMT  |  80 comments

Formula 1 now has two female development drivers after Williams announced that experienced DTM campaigner Susie Wolff – the wife of team shareholder Toto Wolff – has joined the team.

Several weeks after Marussia signed Spaniard Maria de Villota to a similar position, Williams has taken on the Scottish-born driver who has spent the last six seasons competing in German touring cars, achieving a best finishing position of seventh on two occasions in that time.

The 29-year-old had previously raced in British-based single-seater categories including F3 and Formula Renault 2.0 and team owner Frank Williams said that in addition to assisting the team with its development work in the simulator, she would also complete some straight-line aero tests as well a full track test “in the coming months”.

“Susie is a talented, successful and highly professional racing driver who competes in one of the world’s most fiercely-contested racing series,” Williams said. “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. Susie will also attend a number of races with us.”

To ensure there was no conflict of interest in the decision, Williams confirmed that Toto Wolff didn’t take part in the process: “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.”

Susie Wolff thanked Williams for the opportunity to get involved with the team and explained that in addition to getting involved with aspects of its work away from the race track, she was aiming to show that women can play a key role in F1.

“Formula One is the ultimate challenge for any racing driver and it offers me the chance both to apply and to improve the skills I have developed racing in DTM. In return I shall be offering some of my own technical insight and experience – coming from a different discipline – and helping the team engage with its partners.

“I hope also to demonstrate that women can play a role at the highest levels of motorsport and I shall be working closely with the team on its social responsibility programme in the areas of education and road safety.”

The signing also received the endorsement of Bernie Ecclestone who, in slightly unfortunate style, remarked: “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 am really looking forward to having her in Formula One.”

The arrivals of de Villota and Wolff onto the test driver rosters continues what appears a gradual shift towards increased female involvement in F1. Frank Williams’ daughter Claire Williams recently took up a position on the board of the Grove-based team, following her father’s decision to step down from his position, while over the weekend Peter Sauber named current team CEO Monisha Kaltenborn as his successor in an interview with Swiss newspaper Der Sonntag.

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Bernie's comment raised a smile here 🙂 Typical older gent, Bernie reminds me of a certain member of the Royal Family.

Good luck to her, but lets be honest here, if her surname was Smith and she resided in Hull there would be no Williams offer on the table.


Jobs for the "boys"!!!


Bernie is only saying what we were all thinking, and I don't think he meant any harm by it.

Female or not she wouldn't be the first driver to make it into an F1 car based on who you know and how deep your pockets are.


Ha ha! This is funny! All sorts of "what the".


Frank how do you spell nepotism


Well I can already spell not.

Love the politically incorrect

quote from Mr E classic.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

If Reese Witherspoon was a racing driver.....


The Racing Car would be a total CG effect including crashes!


She's not exactly been great in DTM, However she's never really been given a fair shot at it as she's always been in a 2+ year old car (Same as the Audi female DTM runners).

I recall hearing good things about her when she was running Formula Renault & I know that the team she ran for were very impressed with her speed & technical ability.

Think its nice to see some female drivers getting opportunities in F1, Just a shame that it doesn't seem they will get any proper running as 3rd driver in practice during F1 weekends.

While on the subject of female drivers, There's a young swiss driver in Indycar called Simona De Silvestro. Everyone thats ever been around here are adamant that she's the real deal & she's had some brilliant races with the mid-field HVM team in Indycar last year.

If any female driver out there deserve's a proper opportunity to test an F1 car its Simona.


Good points. I'll admit there is a whiff of nepotism about this move, but I have also heard good things about Susie as a driver over the years and though she's unlikely to take F1 by storm I do believe she has some pedigree.

Autosport recently ran an article on up-and-coming British drivers and it reminded me of when they also did so in 2005. Susie's name was on that '05 list along with several others who have since gone on to make their mark in motorsport - including Lewis Hamilton and Paul di Resta!

I think she had just come out of F.Renault at the time, which tallies with what you say about her having potential there. And if her technical feedback was good back then, several years in the DTM since will only have improved that. So yes she needed a helping hand, and no she won't be a world beater, but I do think there's scope for her to help contribute to Williams moving forward over the course of the season.


Yeah, Dizzy, Simona has had some good races in Indycar, (and probably other formulas) and in my opinion she is heaps better than Danika, AND she comes accross on tv as a pretty nornal person as well, I'm hoping she has some good races this season! However I'd be surprised if any (real) feamale will EVER be able to compete on equal terms with the top males in F1. I'd like them to, but I can't see it happening.



Why is that though? Ok so it's physically demanding, but it's not like any of the drivers have super human physiques and many women could be as fit and as strong as most drivers

Apparently they can multitask, so throttle and brake should be covered.. So what is it why can't they drive like a guy?

Dont get me wrong, I fancy myself as a driver like so many or most guys and I know that Suzi would smash me into the ground on a track, I think.. What is missing to make some of them top flight, is it opportunity or skills?

With respect. Kee.


I should mention, Kee, that currantly here in Christchurch we have an exceptional young girl racing 125cc bikes in a heavilly supported class the local club runs for the developement of young potential GP riders, and she frequently outrides the guys and wins!

I'm hoping she can continue.



Giday Kee, thanks for your reply.

You ask a good question! I wish I knew the answer, all I know is that in my 70 years, most of which has involved motorsport in many different roles and areas, quite a few females have come and gone but none have exibited that little bit extra that we ocaisionally see in male competitors, and we'd have to admit that every F1 driver probably has a bit of "that little something", some more than others.

Interestingly, the best I've seen females go has been in karting in their teens, but those that have progressed up the ladder have not continued to exhibit skills nessesary to be as good as the top males at racing. (note I didn't say "driving").

There could be something in the saying "shit, that driver must have big balls" when we see good passing/racing.

I'd love to be proved wrong one day!



I was going to say it's another marketing ploy but this time its simpler than that - a realtionship to a senior stakeholder. Dear God, this is not the way for women to become involved in F1 and I am sure most women would not want involvment via this channel.

I didn't know whether to laugh or shake my head at Bernie's comment and James' diplomatic phraseology, so I did both 🙂

Stuart Harrison

“If Susie is as quick in a car as she looks good out of a car"

Thanks Bernie, for your incredibly patronising and male chauvinistic viewpoint. Nice of you to drag us back to the 1980s.


1980s? Pur-lease. early-1970s/60s/50s...


I would say her very appointment to the team did that.


Hellooooo Susieeeeee


What did you expect? The guy is 82..In the 1980s Bernie was already over 50.. Bernie is just an anachronism.


Bernie's anachronisms have anachronisms.

But he's still kicking.


Looks ok to me


The best person for the job? The team are becoming a bit of a joke now. The modern day Tyrell and no more.

Really saddened by this.

This is not about women in F1 btw, i would love to see someone in there on merit. But this is just a token gesture.

I honestly thought the team were above this cheap way getting money and press lines.


Lotus (the 'dug-up-from-the-grave' one) is a joke, just like the original one was at the end of its life, as was Tyrrell at the end. Now Williams is going the same way. Gimmicks. The smell of desperation is pitiful for all those of us who remember the glory days. So sad that once-great teams allow themselves to end up like this - like dribbling old geezers in a care home. Better to end it quickly, not become a sad case/laughingstock.


This will only ever be a good thing when it happens without being the wife of someone influential and when we don't have comments like Ecclestone's. Until then, it does no good to further the cause of equality.


Yes indeed. If Ms Wolff was appointed a 3rd driver of say, McLaren etc, on merit. Then yes, this would show a female driver of talent getting a richly deserved F1 testing spot. Otherwise, this is obviously a token gesture.


Based on her past results, can't say she's on the same levels as current drivers, female or not. Nonetheless best of luck to her =)

Generally, happy to see another female driver in the F1 drivers bunch.


Wife of a team shareholder,7th place finishes in races,yep that's Formula One material allright!

Give me a break.


Yep. I love Susie, she's a proper professional race driver, she's there because she loves racing and she's damn good at it.

What she's not is an F1 quality driver and it's sad to see her being used in this way."Excused from the process my arse, she's there because of Toto, she's been in DTM for 5+ years, she was in single seaters for years before that and they didn't take any notice. 6 months after she gets married, straight in there.

That said she's more than capable of doing the test work they will ask of her. That said, so is Valtteri Bottas who will be entitled to ask why the hell he isn't in the car for the tiny, tiny amount of running they can do outside races now.


Haha, love Bernie´s unnecessary comments. Obviously not a real talent but, but...


Bernie Ecclestone really is a boorish kinda guy. A dinosaur whose time passed a few years back.


Good old Bernie, why didn't he just pay Leslie Philips to turn up and say "Oh hellooooo".

That said, I'm all for more female drivers in motorsport in general and if she's talented enough then why not.

Only the results of time behind the wheel will prove that.


Nice condescending comment from Mr E there! 😀

Kevin McCaughey

That's so Bernie. Anyone else would have left the masoganistic 1960's behind, but Bernie is still in Bernieland.


Trouble with Poltically Incorrect statements is that they are usually correct, I can'y even spell misogenie??????


Agree with Bernie on this one. She's definitely a worthwhile addition to the pit lane.


Very interesting post James....and this paragraph

The signing also received the endorsement of Bernie Ecclestone who, in slightly unfortunate style, remarked: “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 am really looking forward to having her in Formula One.”

Is an all time classic!

You've got to love old Bernie! 🙂


I am all for more women drivers - I know some very talented ones, but to claim there is no conflict of interest when you hire a reserve driver who spent much of her time at the back of the DTM grid (where Paul diResta was at the front) and her husband is a director of the company that hired her… why bother wasting those words?

Favouritism is alive an well in F1 and, ultimately, I have no problem with it - it's a big money game in some respects, and one I love to watch.

Let's give her a chance, but let's be honest about why she got it; it doesn't mean she can't excel in F1 and here's to hoping she does!


Like many commenters on the Maria de Villota blog post, I think this kind of development is a disservice to women racers around the world, and will do more to disenfranchise women spectators than anything else.


Hi James.

You missed out that she's also a two time finalst in the McLaren Autosport BRDC awards. When I'd seen that she and Toto Wolff had gotten married last year I was wondering if we would see her involved with Williams at all. At least in her case, and completely unlike that of Maria de Villota, she has some talent behind the wheel and will probably do a good job.


Fantastic for the sport, it's about time there was a female team boss as some of the most effective leaders I have worked with have been female.

As for female test drivers, this is also fantastic news, whilst women may not have had much success yet in the sport there is no reason why this can't change!


This is one mysterious woman, only existed since she entered motorsport.

Caught up with her resume, pleased to see she made it on ability.


Finally some positive F1 news.

Yes a warm welcome to Susie Wolff to the mad, mad, mad world of Formula 1 but I have to admit that at first on reading the headline, I was excited about the latest female introduction into the sport till I read that our Susie will be a development driver ---> Huh?

With Williams already having test drivers, from the Frank Williams explanation it seems development drivers are second class citizens in the sport i.e. those drivers that do the real donkey work of running hundreds of kilometres in the simulators.

Nah, in my view, this move is worse than signing a driver due to his/her sponsorship for this moves smacks of nepotism to me seeing as our Susie is married to one of the Williams bosses.

Yes, the Williams team has tried putting a spin on their signings of late but they should realize no body believes.

So what am trying to say is, am more proud of Marussia's signing of the female driver than am of the Williams one.


Hahaha yes, Bernie is old school and we love him like that.

He's one of those few people still around from the golden era where a bloke called a spade a spade so he will never really get to grips with the PR/PC madness of the 21st century


"So what am trying to say is, am more proud of Marussia’s signing of the female driver than am of the Williams one."

I'm afraid I would have to disagree with you there. Yeah, Stoddart/Wollf is only really there because she is the wife of Toto Wollf, who basically owns a large stake in the team, but unlike De Villota she isn't well known for causing massive accidents. (A quick internet search shows about 1/2 crashes over 6 years in DTM, a difficult series to drive in as a bloke, yet alone a woman.) Not everyone is lucky enough (Or rich enough) to win every single championship they compete in but from the looks of things Susie at least has a driving technique which has enabled her to finish in the top ten a few times in a 2 year old (and probably the Slowest) car. Susie has not always been bank-rolled (Particularly in her Stoddart days) and now she has married into a position at Williams. So what? It's no secret that in sports women are treated as "Almost the best, but not quite." She's gotten her own back by making this clever oportunity work for her. (Though she may also be in love with Toto too, I don't know.)I say good luck to her, and if Frank says she is going to get running in the car, I believe him more than I believe John Booth. (Marussia CEO)

But ultimately the comparison with de Villota is fruitless; it is the comparison with her predominately Male competitors which matters. I think if any woman is likely to get a drive in the next 10 years, it could well be Susie. And if you still find fault with her, at least you can take the Bernie point of view and realise that she is a lot easier on the eye than Maria de Villota. 🙂


The fact that this news shows how rare women are when it comes to the hands development of an F1 car. I only hope concessions to their gender are never brought in to permit them to race as that would dilute such an achievement. I'd be thrilled to see a female F1 driver, but only if there on merit. Of course that opens the whole pay-to-drive can of worms...


Her best result is 7th in a race, not even the championship, and yet she is considered world class enough to move to F1?

I'd rather have the person who finished 7th in the season, or better yet the person who won the championship.

Yet another case of bringing a woman in for the sponsorship, not because she is the best driver outside F1.

I've no problem with women in F1 as long as they are the best in the world, not just because they are a woman who races.

It makes a joke of the whole situation....


You do realise that's 7th with a two year old car, dont you. This will be her first year in the DTM were she's had comparable machinery to the works drivers.


Ha! Bernie cracks me up! - so chauvinistic and outdated. Sure, she's cute, but Frank wouldn't have hired her if she wasn't fast. It just strikes me as an inappropriate comment from someone in his position... even if most guys are thinking the same thing.


Frank Williams would have laughed at this in his glory years....


Put her in for Bahrain Friday first practice.... in a burqa?


Elena Rosell, the spanish Moto2 rider just finished her first race in Qatar. And no, she wasn't wearing a burqa!


Oh pur-lease...


Great news for the sport.

Just from the statement it is clear that Susie will never get near an actual race seat but the more female involvement in the sport the better and when a true female talent finally arrives it wont cause much of a fuss.

If I dare make a comparison with football. Earlier in the previous decade quite a few Premiership football teams signed Asian players purely for commercial reasons. These days, no one bats an eyelid if one of them goes straight into a team and looks very much at home at that level.


Why not?! I am surprised there is no female F1 driver:

1. Women are actually stronger than men. Both mentally and physically. Maybe not in peak performance, but rather in endurance. They are the ones putting life on earth, remember?

2. Women are smaller and much lighter than men. To a F1 engineer that means a lighter car and better weight distribution.

3. Last but not least. Women are great multitaskers. They can hit a lot of buttons while having long radio conversations 🙂


No - got to haul you up here. Women are, in direct comparative terms, NOT stronger than men. Their physical make-up determines that. For a similar amount of training and physical development, a male form is going to advance and be stronger than a female form (not allowing for the occassional freak of nature).

Small and light generally equates to a lower muscle mass and, therefore, cannot maintain peak performance and endurance required of modern F1 cars. Yes, they can have endurance if swimming, running or cycling but they do not have anywhere near the physical demands of racing an F1 car for 2 hours.

Multi-tasking is a fallacy. Tests have shown that the brain does not multi-task but jumps from one task to another and that, in doing several unrelated things a women performs them to a lower speed and quality than if tasks were completed sequentially. I can't see any female completing cockpit tasks with the level of speed, efficiency and spare brain capacity as demonstrated by Michael Schumacher.

I agree with Bernie in as much as she looks pretty. However, I don't think she has done enough to warrant a place on an F1 track yet. Let's see how she goes though as it does start to open the doors and lift the glass ceilings for women in the sport (although they do seem to dominate the grid girl jobs).


"If Bernie was as quick (with his feet in his mouth) as he looks good out of a car he would be a massive asset to any team (trying to retrograde the sport) and on top of that he is very inarticulate. I am really looking forward to having him retire from Formula One.”


And then who will we poke fun at?


Maybe we should just take a deep breath for a moment. There are few very good female back room designers – engineers working in F1 these days. You may not see them at the track on a race day, but they are there. If she has good technical feed back to the engineers via a simulator, which is how the teams develop the cars these days then why not.

As we know some drivers are not that great at understanding why they are quick, and therefore can’t explain what is wrong, nor have any idea on what route forward, where as some drivers are worth their weight in gold for the feedback they give to the team, on the track and in the simulator. Also some drivers get sick after been in a simulator, so not really an easy options either. You do work for your money that is for sure.

I would think with her, she knows the world is out to doubt her, therefore she will try a lot harder to prove them all wrong, and that in turn could be beneficial to the team with her feedback. So let’s give her a break and see how she does before killing off her career.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

This is not the right way to attract women to Formula 1. Not exactly sending the signal that talent rises to the top, regardless of sex or whatever else.

Female test drivers for 2012:

1) Daughter of ex-F1 driver with $$ to spend

2) Married to one of the team owners - must have had to twist her arm and that of the team management to make this deal happen

No glass ceilings here then?

Sexes are separated in sport for disparities in performance due to physical differences. I think that it is rather simplistic for people to think that given that there are engines in an F1 car anyone should be able to drive them....what about the physical input that is required to extract the maximum from the car lap after lap?

Perhaps we could modify LdM's proposal and have a third car...just for female drivers. There could then be another WDC...Women Drivers Championship.

Women are free to race and rise through the ranks. Let them earn their seats on merit. If women are an F1 sponsor's dream then they will make it. This type of affirmative action is unnecessary and patronising.


Perhaps Bernie can arrange to have her drive Friday practice session in Bahrain.

In a burqa?



Those simply looking at her DTM career need consider she was running an 4 year old car.

Its not as if she was running around at the back with equipment on-par with those at the front.

I was around the Formula Renault series some years back when she was running there & she was very impressive. She had some very strong races including some podiums, She was considered as someone with a bright future.

I know a lot will look at the fact she's married to a Williams shareholder & point to that as the reason she's there, However trust me as someone who's been around her & spoken with team members who worked with her, she's got enough talent to be there on merit.


And perhaps we can now gain an insight into why Adam Parr stepped down as CEO of Williams so suddenly...


This won't do at all. She should be at home, caring for his husband's needs, bearing his children... But as Bernie says, at least she's easy on the eyes.

Sarcasm aside, I hope her the best. It's good to see women finaly back in the sport. There's a few more coming through the lower formulas, and even more who will be able to follow in steps of those 2 women.

There's absolutly no reason why women can't drive in F1. It's all about talent pool. In a male dominated sport, there will always be more guys than girls. The amount that never get through to top echelons of sport is proportionate of the guy:gal ratio that start out. What we need is more girls starting up from begining.

One wonders how many Sennas and Schumachers we missed out on because girls weren't given a chance.


No Tom... Tennis is about strength and stamina, for which on average men have more; as you say it's genetics.

F1 is different. Yes, strenght and stamina do come into it, but not as much as real physical sports. Where it comes down to is mental stamina, intelligence and skill. I dare say, on average women are better than men at multitasking; something that is more important in today's F1 than pure strength.

I feel your real feelings towards women is they haven't got the mental strength, the courage and ambition to be a world champion. It's a belief that still persists today around the world. Women were seldom given a chance to be equal to men since the dawn of mankind. When they were, some excelled some didn't... just like men.


Hi Wu,

I think you may be underestimating the physical strength required to manage a F1 car - the drivers are top class athletes as well as amazing drivers. Have a look at http://www.formula1.com/inside_f1/understanding_the_sport/5298.html and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tmy0zALh_1g for starters.



Two words - Michelle Mouton (1982 World Rally Championship, 2nd place. She was beaten by Walter Rohrl, arguably the fastest of his generation, by a few points. She beat Hannu Mikkola, who was driving an identical Audi Quattro)

tom in adelaide

I actually think there is a very good reason why there will never be a female F1 WDC. It's just a reality of our physical makeup. In much the same way that the 100th ranked male tennis player would destroy the 1st ranked female tennis player.

If you dismiss political correctness, it really does just come down to biology.

That doesn't change the fact that Susie Wolff is 1,000 times the driver I will ever be, nor does it diminish what she has accomplished in life. It's just reality.


I'm sure Williams and Marussia have signed these drivers for their on-track ability... and not their ability to attract sponsors whose brands are aimed at women... now who else agrees with me? anybody??? surely there must be somebody! 😉

On a more serious note... James do you know of many late-starters to F1? Susie Wolf is 29 and if she gets a drive in F1 next year that would make her at 30 years old... isn't that kinda 10 years too late to start in F1 no matter how much experience of racing a male or female has?


Damon Hill was 30 whe he became a test driver with Williams and he did alright in the end.

If I recall, Damon had to overcome the Graham Hill thing like Susie will have to overcome the Toto Wolff thing.


Ruddy good point there Don. We all missed that one. Obviously too focussed on the pretty face and missed some of the facts. As I have said in previous threads - the seats should all be taken up with young, promising, hard-chargers looking to make names for themselves or proven winners. Anyone else is taking up a vital seat and should be booted out of the sport (I was originally referring to the likes of Barrichello, Trulli, Heidfeld etc but it now probably refers to Webber, Massa, Wolff and the like).

tom in adelaide

Her best finish was 7th? So why aren't the drivers who finished 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st getting this kind of opportunity?

Call me cynical, but this isn't equal opportunity.


I cant even come up with a suitably pithy comment.


Bernie's comments are so inappropriate! I can't believe his PR people let him make those kind of statements publicly. 


BE does not have PR staff

Adrian Newey Jnr

I wonder if this decision would have been made in the glory days...


This from a team which dropped mansell and hill after their championship winning years.

(To ensure there was no conflict of interest in the decision, Williams confirmed that Toto Wolff didn’t take part in the process: “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.”)......yeah right



"no conflict of interest"

Yeah, right!


*Wolff Whistles* 🙂


Haha 😀 I'd love to see Webber's face in a post race interview after being beaten fare & square by a female rookie!

Hamilton or Vettel wouldn't be too pleased either. I can see Button being the gentleman here …

… bring on 2013!


By the time "feminist driven politically correct " phase in human history ends, males will be relegated to the same class as dinosaurs and javanese tigers. Put Alex Yoong or whatshisface damatta in an F1 car and mrs.Wolff in another, i'll bet my last penny on those two guys beating this young lady by a country mile !



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