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Simona de Silvestro joins Suzie Wolff in ranks of active women drivers in F1
Posted By:   |  28 Apr 2014   |  1:55 pm GMT  |  155 comments

Formula 1 is still waiting for the first woman F1 driver to break into the ranks on a consistent and competitive basis.

Over the weekend, Simona de Silvestro, Sauber’s development driver, got her chance to do some mileage with 180 laps behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car at a two-day test around Ferrari’s Fiorano circuit in Italy.

Driving the 2012 C31, which is permitted under F1 testing restrictions, the Swiss was limited to one special tyre compound from Pirelli with no lap times being sent out by the team, although the former IndyCar driver was impressed with the machinery beneath her.

The rules say that mileage completed in a non-current F1 car does not count towards earning a super licence, the licence all drivers need in order to compete in F1. This was purely an exercise in getting her used to the feel of an F1 car and to get some mileage. She will have a further opportunity to test in June.

“What impressed me most was the downforce of the car and the braking,” said Silvestro, speaking on Saturday. “When I did my first lap the brakes were cold, but even then the deceleration was beyond what I had experienced before.

“The g-forces are significantly higher compared to what I was used to in IndyCar. Overall, I’m happy with my first day in a Formula 1 car.”

After completing 112 laps on Saturday, the twenty-five year old went on to rack up 180 laps by the close on Sunday and said she felt more confident as the test progressed.

“Everything feels more familiar to me compared to yesterday, when things were new to me,” she added. “We made some changes to the set-up, which gave me the opportunity to get a feeling for those changes and learn how the car reacts to them.

“I can say that I already feel confident in the car, which is very positive.”

De Silvestro’s next test in the Sauber C31 will take place from 25th June to 27th June in Valencia.

The other female driver active in F1 at the moment, Suzie Wolff, does have a licence to take part in official sessions and will get her chance to rack up some more mileage for Williams at two Grands Prix weekends on Friday mornings in Silverstone and Hockenheim.

It can only be positive for the sport to have two women active on the driving front. There have been female drivers in F1 in the past; Maria de Filippis in the 1950s, Lella Lombardi in the 1970s while Giovanna Amati attempted to qualify for some races in the 1990s with Brabham.

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I was really impressed with her in Indycar – considering she was in a midfield team. Much as I like Tony Kaanan I think she would have been a better shout to fill Dario’s seat this year. But being a Swiss woman in Indycar probably is probably the complete reverse of the idea of a woman automatically bringing new commercial partners to F1.

Would not surprise me if she gets a race seat next year with Sauber. Ferrari are very keen on her apparently. Sutil can’t possibly last another season and if Sirotkin doesn’t impress this year and financial sanctions increase against Russia – she’s in.


The issue is plain and simple, it’s to do with numbers. They need to get more girls gokarting and racing at the lower levels to then filter in to F1 for instance. Even Le Mans which has circa 180 drivers per year only gets 1 or 2 women drivers.

Anyone remember this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formula_Woman Where are these drivers now? 2004!


Watch her onboard – youtube – she is no slouch



Simona de Silvestro has pedigree that justifies at least F1 testing.

Whilst I am sure Suzie Wolff is a lovely lady she certainly does not justify the same effort. She is able to “buy” a lot of exposure through her connections.

It does de Silvestro no good to be bracketed with Wolff.

Similarly it will do women no good to be promoted beyond their abilities and to become back markers – only reinforce the opinion of the doubters.

Roll on the day when a genuinely talented women makes the grade.

Mike from Colombia

Why not just start Women’s F1 and leave it at that.

Then we can forget about all of this PC nonsense and get back to seeing the best guys in the world race….and the pay drivers.


Why do women have to be F1? Why can they not have their own formula? Female tennis players usually do not compete against male tennis players, the same with football, boxing etc. I think sponsors would all-female formula attractive. I know it is highly unrealistic but it is not an altogether bad idea. I think it would be bad for women and the motorsport if a woman was ‘forced’ into F1 for promotional reasons rather than being there because she was good enough. The argument that if crap male drivers can get in then women should is probably offensive to women and the women wanting to race in F1. It would be interesting to see a woman race in F1 though.


So the new criteria for getting a F1 test has now become:

1. Make sure you are born a female.

2. Make sure you stay in shape.

3. Make sure you look pretty for the photographers.

4. Pose in some hot bikini for some magazines.

5. Get ready to test drive an F1 Car!

6. Dont worry if you have no talent or ability, as long as you’re female and look hot, you’re going to test an F1 car way ahead of people who are more deserving than you.

At times like these, I really do miss Max Mosley.


Premier class of motorsports has always been male dominated. I don’t see this as a biased thing since female representation in junior level racing ( be it karts or even saloon car racing ) is negligible. There are certain things that women are good at, and if they pursue it with passion, they do well. Motorsports is something that not many women are keen about., and that pretty much is the reason for lack of participation.

17 yr old Ana Carrasco in Moto3 has done pretty ok so far. If she is really good, she’ll rise through the ranks and maybe someday get a Motogp ride.

Having said that, corporates and media needs to stop making a big deal out of women doing well in motorsports. Case ? When Elena Myers won a race in AMA supersports, Suzuki Motor Corp painted their website pink ! So a male rider/driver with reasonable skills has odds stacked against him if he is competing for a job with a female aspirant with similar skills.

David in Sydney

It’s a shame that women even in testing roles is a big deal – there’s actually no real reason women aren’t in F1 apart from the lack of clear car career path (for all drivers, not just women), the single mindedness and sacrifice required to get to F1 and sexism generally in the lower formulae.

Not to be too serious for a second, it’s a wonder any woman wastes her time in motorsport considering the career prospects of most drivers (i.e. nil; only the very few get paid drivers, even fewer make it Internationally and fewer still make it to F1 or Indycar)

Must be largely a boys thing to waste time with cars..?


The only way in which women drivers can be positive for the sport will be if they are able to compete on equal terms with men. Unfortunately, the female drivers who have competed in F1 to date have been way out of their depth and unless the equivalent of a Michelle Mouton can be discovered then they will continue to be seen as nothing more than a PR gimmick.


Women cannot compete in F1, period. Just like a man cannot be the greatest at doing splits, a woman cannot be the greatest f1 driver. You cannot mess with nature.


On board camera footage from her test.



As much as a learning curve is needed in F1, the sport needs an “inspiring” curve. There are very few female students in some areas of Engineering and it’s certainly not for want of talent, but rather for historical/cultural reasons. The same, or nearly, goes for motorsport. What we need is the girls to get progressively more involved in F1, until a female winner – the likes of Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso – gets a seat.


James/Meadows/ Moderator?,

Where did my post about someone calling Maldonado a “psychopath” go?

I don’t like Maldonado as a driver, but is that the type of language that you want to allow to be used to describe people on your site.

Mildly defamatory at least but also lowers the tone of the site.


It will come. It’s only a matter if time. I’m sure there are plenty of women with real talent and never used it. I’m sure plenty of girls get into karting at a young age, we’re probably only just getting onto the verge of some pushing through with our latest gen.

David in Sydney

I keep suggesting to my daughter to try karting.

No way.

And that’s after boring her silly with my F1 addiction.

Her younger brother on the other hand can name any car brand you care to mention, spots a Lambo or a Ferrari on the street within 500m and drools at alloy wheels on cars at traffic lights.

Yup, must be a boy thing because my daughter is much more active and athletic than my son but cars? Boring.


I wouldn’t presume to offer you advice on parenting, but shouldn’t you maybe have suggested to your daughter that she try karting before you bored her silly with your F1 addiction? 😉


There’s no doubt that including the other half of the population on this planet in F1 is a very good idea from a marketing perspective. However, in order to attract more female spectators F1 has to adjust its marketing and image. Machisimo and Pit babes will disappear if it is financially prudent to do so, and not before. Female drivers will attract attention, raise the profile of the sport and, eventually, attract budding female drivers into the feeder fomulae. Only then will we start to see real competition between male and female drivers for F1 seats. How do you make F1 even more profitable? Widen the market by including females. How? Initially, include female drivers (regardless of ability), in F1 cars in testing roles. Raise the profile among young females and they will start to filter through the feeder formulae. Eventually you will get an Adriana Senna, or a Michelle Schumacher coming through. I look forward to it.


The sport is too dangerous to enforce a quota imho. If the ladies are fast enough, can compete then they deserve a seat. Having a female driver, just for the sake of it, makes little or no sense.


What about a female only Saturday race each team fields one car and then in a few years you might find a female racer that can run with the big boys on merit.


Even better, why don’t we get the ladies to qualify for the men?

Female participation and mixed up start grid: What could go wrong? 🙂


I think Simona in a Mercedes this year has a good chance at coming second in the WDC 🙂


I’m not sure. It’s not that easy. Webber was not able to come second in a RB, why would she succeed in a Merc?


Merc is a fair bit faster than the rest of the field this year compared to Redbull in previous years. Even is Simona came third this year it would still be good publicity for females in F1.

The next female in F1 should be loaded with dough to buy into a top team and ensure a decent WDC result. This would then pave the way for future females in the lower categories and not requiring them to do photo shoots to get a drive.


Thanks Lewis Hamilton. Nico loves you too : )


You can’t beat a good bromance 😉


Yes, it was love at first impact.

Insiders say he’s thinking about proposing soon 🙂


Like Pastor and the barrier?


Hi James

Are there any female drivers in GP2/3, since this seems to be the place F1 teams are getting most of their talent?


Bart Stroobants

There’s Beitske Visser in the WSR 3.5. Former Red Bull young driver, but the last couple of racing seasons weren’t kind to her.

This season she is struggling to keep up with the field, but she’s not that far of.

David in Sydney

An affirmative action strategy of Indylights, GP2 and GP3 sponsoring 10% (i.e. FREE DRIVES) for qualified women drivers would help but I fear the boys will scream unfair (like it’s fair now..?)

David in Sydney

I mean 10% of the grid bot 10% of the budget


She’s not a looker, so she’ll have to get by on her driving skills/sponsor’s fat check. Her driving in the .1rl was less than impressive, so her sponsor must have a fat wallet indeed. Or, perhaps Sauber can finagle some Swiss government money for running a Swiss woman in a Swiss team.

When one looks at the resumes of the previous AOWR drivers that made their way into f1, her even being considered doesn’t make sense if being judged in the same manner.

Just sayin…


Given the fact that formula 1 is the most testosterone fuelled sport in the history of any sport run by, controlled by, and driven by men and their supernatural ego’s and a thirst for power, profit, and position that is all consuming. how could it be at all possible for a women not only to secure a drive but to keep it no matter how good or talented they are history will have us know you have to possess so much more than a sharp turn of speed remember its easy to dance with the devil but it will always be to his tune and that I think is where most women would struggle how much of themselves are they willing to sell or even give away men are different creatures we are fickle, corruptable,and easily seduced by glitz ,glamour and the possibility having some symbolic tattoo’s women are made of sterner stuff they want recognition they want to be taken seriously and the opportunity to compete on a level plain field men and what we achieve is the ultimate challenge to most women and men are terrified that they actually even for a moment may pose a legitimate threat and us men will cut the head of any beast that threatens our superiority or position even in the cold light of day its nothing more than an illusion so while f1’s head is in the sand its arse is in the air been warmed by the mediteranean midday sun


Actually there’s this thing called individuality. There are some men who aren’t that competitive, don’t even like sports, don’t want to own, seduce, destroy, control, fight, succeed – there’s plenty of men with pretty low testosterone.

Conversely there are women with high testosterone (just dipping into my endocrine background here) and you know testosterone isn’t the sole determinant of ‘competitiveness’ right?

And we’re also getting this thing called equality. Which means as much as we don’t have to see men as the dumb apes of the sexes we don’t class all women as smart, respectable and risk-averse. There are women who love glitz, glamour, speed, risk and have all the failings and positive attributes (some) men have.

Neither sex has the monopoly on being stubborn, selfish, driven and determined.


I have no doubt whatsoever whether its now or at some point in the near or distant future women will possess the necessary skills to compete with a male f1 driver on a level plain field. The point I was trying to make quite simply is no self respecting man who is adored and revered the world over whilst receiving a small fortune would put himself in a position where a women could actually beat him in a race. Male pride is at times an uncontrollable savage animal that cannot be kept at bay even when competing against other men but there are wider implications to be considered. I will just focus on the one that I feel is the most obvious the majority of the most successful teams are legitimate road car manufacturers they use f1 as a vehicle to explore, develop, and push the boundries of safety, design, and technology to improve every single aspect of their respective road cars that are in the main designed, built, marketed, and advertised and aimed at the male market. I wholly accept women will be involved in this process in a limited capacity and there are a large number of women that drive nice expensive cars but lets be honest when was the last time a Ferrari was designed and built with a view to a women buying it. To have a successful female f1 driver the whole dynamics of f1 would have to change equally so would car manufacture or is my head in the sand without the glorious meditteranean sun on my bottom


“no self respecting man who is adored and revered the world over whilst receiving a small fortune would put himself in a position where a women could actually beat him in a race”

You might be right, but what else could they do?

If a woman entered F1 who was capable of beating the beats on equal terms then they would have exactly two options:

A – Suck it up and smile or

B – Quit.

You’re absolutely right when you say that it would change the dynamics of F1, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing 🙂


I didn’t know that Aura, but now that you mention it it makes sense.

Now – as another 6’2″ male – if you can explain to me why they use four foot midgets as their global customer for passenger planes I’m all ears 🙂


It’s an interesting point – but you’ll find that actually all road car manufacturers from Renault to Mercedes target female drivers as their core sales audience. Market research suggests that premium cars are almost always either chosen by women or women in a family unit influence the decision. This is why almost all production cars utilise the 5’7″ woman as their ‘global driver’ from seat design to pedal design. I know because I work with the chief interior layout designer for Mercedes.

I’ll admit Ferrari probably doesn’t follow this model – although as a 6’2″ male I can tell you some Ferrari’s are a tough squeeze!


You know we have this thing called a full stop right? 😉

I’m not sure if Simona or Suzie have what it takes to make in F1, but one day you can guarantee that there will be the day when a woman is found who is talented enough to get into F1 purely on merit and can out race the boys and on that day F1 will have to pull it’s head out from under the sand.

Or maybe it will just get it’s Mediterranean tanned arse kicked, but either way it will have to deal with it 😉


Comments are usually much easier to read if you use punctuation every now and then.


Those pointing out her lack of success in Indycar need to realize that she was driving the Indy equivalent of an HRT/Marussia/Caterham for most of her races.

I don’t know if she “deserves” a race drive, but I’m in favor of giving her the chance to earn it.

David in Sydney

Most drivers do not win races. Even in F1. If she can qualify and finish a race consistently without taking out competitors on a regular basis then she is a race car driver.


Let’s say averagely, a woman weighs 10/15 kilos lighter than a man (stats care of wiki) and losing 5kg of weight equates to roughly 0.2 seconds off a lap (stat care of a guardian article featuring BUT I quickly found), what with all the talk around weight issues recently, would that make the incentive to hire female drivers greater?

Interested to see if people think this is a valid thought, or completely irrelevant.

(I apologise for the shoddy data sourcing, writing this on the commute home)


It’s totally valid – especially with the taller and naturally heavier male drivers basically having to starve themselves into their seats.

Mark Webber mentioned that he was getting weak and dizzy at some races due to lack of nutrition. We’ve got drivers potentially giving up fluids in hot races to stay within weight.

Given that female bodies can handle g-forces as well as men (see NASA’s astronaut tests for that) and disproprotionate upper body strength is no longer a requirement for racing single seaters and it’s easy to see you could have a fully hydrated, properly fed female competing against men living off ketones and the last vestiges of body fat.

When asked what his perfect driver would be Adrian Newey once said ‘A 4 foot 10 woman with small hands’ that way he could package the car however he liked and not have to compromise.


It’s valid.

kenneth chapman

it really doesn’t matter what gender the driver is. just have the best driver based on merit, merit, and more merit. anything else is more ‘fakery’.


And of the male drivers in F1 which ones are there purely on merit alone? Even the most talented often get drives in better equipment because they bring sponsors based on nationality/media exposure. If we looked back at the past 5 years we’d not see a Lewis or Alonso being crowned champion but they still get paid far more than everyone else because they are big names for advertisers and sell well in their respective language speaking countries.


“fakery” – where you go to buy your freshly faked bread 🙂

Agreed, but some teams won’t always be able to get the best drivers so purely out of curiosity if push came to shove would you prefer a team to select a driver based solely on their gender or solely on the size of their wallet?

kenneth chapman

@ random79…i like it. fakery/dough..now it all adds up.

in response to your query. gender or the cash? well it would depend on what my money would buy in the first instance. given that it was light on, then if, as an alternative, a female driver was available and she had access to vast amounts of dough plus she was half promising then that would be an option and the same would apply to a male prospect.

one would seek to get the best compromise however if one was faced with two gender options and both came with the same sized bags of mixed flour/water/yeast then,if the female was easy on the eyes the that is where i would go. obviously maldonado wasn’t chosen for his stunning good looks but the big brown bags under the counter certainly did the job.


Yes indeed they did 🙂

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