Susie Wolff today put women F1 drivers back on the agenda when she completed two 75 minute track sessions at Silverstone, driving a Williams FW33 from last year.
Wolff’s opportunity was the showcase event in Williams F1’s partner day, which also saw Bruno Senna at the wheel of Keke Rosberg’s 1982 championship winning car and Pastor Maldonado driving Damon Hill’s 1996 title winner.
Susie Wolff has extensive DTM experience but this was her first time in an F1 car and it passed off well, in her two runs and she admitted that thoughts of F1’s other female test driver, Maria de Villota, who was badly injured in an accident in the Marussia F1 car in July, had hung over her big day,
“When I went out for the first time in that car it was a very special feeling,” said Wolff. “It’s incredible, you can’t put into words what it’s like. You prepare for it but shifting up through the gears at incredible speeds it’s phenomenal.
“Without a doubt Maria was in my thoughts today and I was out there for both of us. I know she would have down just as good a job in the car. So it was important to go out there and do a good job and show that her accident was a freak and to show that women are capable of driving in F1.”
The idea behind the event was to give Williams partners, sponsors and prospective sponsors an opportunity to get close to the team, spend time with the drivers, see the cars close up and to network among themselves. It is a signal of Williams’ revised approach under the new management team of Nick Rose, Alex Burns, Toto Wolff and Claire Williams, whose idea the day was.
With the demise of in-season testing and the great expense of hosting guests in the Paddock Club at F1 Grands Prix, days like today are likely to become more commonplace in future, as teams look to give partners a chance to get close to the team.
Meanwhile both Senna and Maldonado await confirmation of their places in the Williams team in 2013, with test driver Valterri Bottas putting pressure on Senna’s seat in particular. Maldonado sounded rather disappointed that no confirmation had come through yet, but confirmed that he wants to stay at the team.
* Look out for the next JA on F1 Podcast, later this month, where we will feature interviews with Susie Wolff, Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna.