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.