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Susie Wolff appointed official test driver at Williams
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Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  28 Nov 2014   |  11:18 am GMT  |  72 comments

Susie Wolff is to step up from her role as development driver at Williams to become the team’s official test driver for 2015, with the 31-year-old set to take part in two test sessions and two FP1 sessions across next season.

Wolff  took part in two Friday practice session during the 2014 season. Her first outing, at the British Grand Prix, lasted just a handful of laps before she was sidelined by a technical failure but it made her the first woman to take part in a grand prix session for 22 years. She followed that up with a 22-lap run in FP1 at the German Grand Prix and she ended the 90 minutes with the morning’s 15th fastest time.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 10.18.02

“This is another step in the right direction for me, said Wolff of her new role. “I am delighted Williams are recognising my progression, hard work and that it is performance that counts. Williams is at a very exciting stage in its history and we are moving into 2015 with fantastic momentum, I’m proud to be part of the team. I’ll be using my position to work closely with Felipe and Valtteri to make sure that the FW37 builds on the strong performance shown by the FW36.”

Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams added; “We are delighted to have Susie continuing with the team next season in this new role. She continues to impress us with her strong technical knowledge, the feedback she delivers and the performance when she drives the car both on the track and in the simulator. She has steadily increased her time behind the wheel since she joined us in April 2012 and her appointment as official test driver was a natural progression.”

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72 comments

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1

How much ? Must make the teeth grind of those who've won championships and have real future promise.

2

There are quite a few drivers on the paddock who started out as pay drivers, such as Kimi Raikonnen.

4

Isn't the real point that it would be good for F1 to get more women into the sport... either as spectators or actual participants. Seems the teams know this well; now its time for the driver ranks to at least begin to show some of the feminine side!

5

Multiple ! As you very well know there are now several feeder classes with champions over the last 2 or 3 years, some of whom may have had a very brief outing in an F1 car but nothing regular. Only when they actually race an F1 car do they/us learn their real abilities. Frau Wolff is a competent driver who has won very little and is much the same age as Fernando, Jenson and Kimi all now considered nearing their last days.

6

that is great news. she deserves to get a guernsey given that she tested well this year. whilst i am of the opinion that at all times gender should not be a determining factor i am glad to see that she has got the drive on merit. wht i would like to see is if she could actually run an entire race? now that would be something.

7

Shame she's already 31. Time waits for no racing driver. Still, a wonderfully positive role model for all modern racers.

8

Damon Hill became a test driver at the same age. Worked out OK for him.

"(Damon) Hill started his Grand Prix career during the 1991 season as a test driver with the championship-winning Williams team while still competing in the F3000 series.However, midway through 1992 Hill broke into Grand Prix racing as a driver with the dying Brabham team." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damon_Hill

9

And Fangio won a championship at 46! Times change.

The elephant in the room is that she hasn't displayed any F1-worthy talent or speed in her career - just look at her previous results where she has been beaten by team mates more often than not. Surely there are female drivers in feeder series currently who would be quicker and deserving, and therefore will provide better inspiration?

The reason why she is in F1 has nothing to do with her potential and everything to do with her husband. Imagine if Monisha Kaltenborn were married to a 31-year-old toyboy with the same record as Susie and he got a test driver role because of it. Would any of us be excited by him?

She is unfortunately depriving a quick young driver out there (male or female) an opportunity.

10

This makes sense. Give her some time behind the wheel before Mercedes snap her up in 2016 to replace Lewis.

11

Yes all seems well now at Mercedes B team they clearly aint half got a lot to thank Toto for (not to mention his wife) Free engines anyone????

12

I still imagine the dressing down that Rosberg and Hamilton got post spa going along the lines of "If you boy don't behave I'll put my wife in the damn car"

Running near front again Williams would have plenty of choices of test driver. Only they know how good a job Wolff has done, but every time someone has pointed a microphone or camera at he this year she's been a superb ambassador for them.

13

Pay-back time!

14

Toto will be happy! He will probably let Williams get the good engine maps!

15

Does this mean she is the official "reserve" driver?

I have found it frustrating that nominated reserve drivers are often overlooked when a race day replacement is needed.

16

Oh dear.

17

Why do you say "Oh dear"?

Is it because you don't think she's up to the job?

Is it because you had hopes of someone else getting the reserve driver spot?

Or is it because you don't think women should be in F1?

The fact that you added nothing else will leave your statement open to interpretation, and I would imagine most people will assume it is because you think the latter reason. Would you care to add anything else to your statement, or have you no objections at being perceived to be grade A misogynist.

18

Whoa...sounds like someone's having a conversation in their own head.

I read the story and my first thought was ..why wouldn't you use somebody quicker and younger?...there is no shortage of quicker drivers.

Gender doesn't come into it.

This looks like tokenism.

20

That doesn't seem fair. She's capable, and a good ambassador for Williams and F1.

21

Her junior career stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Yuji Ide. For her own sake I hope she never gets a full race seat.

22

Well done. Does it come with any Mercedes influence?

23

Despite of the detractors, I'd like to see her in a race seat. Only 2 or 3 tenths(?) behind Massa during the practice session in Germany, I wonder what her pace would be like over an entire race distance?

24

I like susie and as someone who has raced against her in lower formula she's a good driver. That said I can't help feel that this place should of gone to a better younger driver someone who has a chance of getting a race seat.

I could be wrong and hope he shows me with her on track performance. If so then we'll deserved.

25

The test in "test driver" applies to testing the car, not the driver. So there is little reason to put a young and inexperienced driver in this position, other than money. That is why Nasr had this position in 2014. So it is a good sign that Williams doesn't seem to need a paydriver in this position anymore.

The teams that can afford it tend to make an experienced driver their test driver.

27

Sorry hope she not he shows us. Typo error!!!

28

Could've hired Vergne . Oh well..

29

why would Vergne have wanted to do two FP1s and a couple of tests?

30

Verne is off to Indycar where he will not only get a full time seat but likely with a competitive team. I think he will show rather well there. Ovals may present him with a new challenge but frankly I think any F1 driver who has the ability Verne has shown will get to grips with ovals quickly enough.

Speaking of...I would like to see F1 take a bit more interest in indycar. I know this is totally off subject but it would be amazing if the two series could find some common ground on regs, even if the Indy series were more in the GP2 regs than F1 so that Indycar could serve as a feeder series for GP racing. It's doable, and would help expand F1 popularity and recognition in the US. Take a cue from Dorna/MotoGP/WSBK and tap into one of the if not the largest Motorsport market in the world...

31

Vergne wants to drive in Indycar. So does Luca Filippi , Davide Valsecchi, Daniel Abt, Conor Daly, Simona De Silvestro, Luiz Razia, JR Hildebrand, Sage Karam, Ryan Briscoe, Gabby Chaves, jack Harvey, Matthew Brabham etc. there only about 6 seats left in Imdycar. And oat of them need some funding. And while Vergne has the best CV (along with Briscoe) , doesn't mean he's a lock for a role that does have funding. Teams might prefer to have Filippi who's show interest in Indycar a lot longer and seems genuinely interested in the series.

The only really competitive seat left is at Andretti and it isn't certain because they don't have the sponsorship yet.

32

So does the reserve driver role go hand in hand with being the official test driver or can those roles be separated?

33

The word Nepotism springs to mind!!!!!

34

Obviously it doesn't do any harm if your name is Villeneuve, Hill, Rosberg, Senna (all also drove for Williams) Verstappen, Sainz ...

35

Zombie. The response was to the cry of nepotism. Bruno Senna, Nakajima junior, Piquet jr got drives because of family connections, more than talent, Chandok and Kartakayan got drives because someone India needed to; Maldonado is probably only in F1 because he has the backing of his national oil company.

You might ask if Williams might have given some boy who's young enough to be Susie's son a testing role. but since they're likely to have the same drivers again in 2016 getting a youngster, and paying what it takes to retain them with little chance of racing before 2017 makes no sense, any of the out-of-a-drive crop of 2014 would cost more and wouldn't want to stick around either.

Neither you nor I know how good a job Wolff does in the simulator but Williams have had plenty of chance to look at it and decided not to replace her. For this specific job she may well be a better proposition than an up-and-comer who's thinks they'll be champion in a couple of seasons. Plus she was an excellent ambassador for Williams this year sponsors probably like her.

36

Are you seriously comparing any of those drivers including Verstappen Jr and Sainz Jr with Susie Wolff ? They certainly benefited from having famous dads, but they all proved their mettle in junior formulas . Susie wolff on the other hand has achieved zilch, nada in her near 20 yr career.

37

Why? Because Toto Wolff owns 10% of the team? And that maybe only until the end of the year, if Brad Hollinger takes the option to buy the rest of Wolff's stocks. Wolff has publicly declared that he wishes to sell his Williams stocks. Why, under these circumstances, should Williams do Wolff any favors?

38

The "circumstances" that you have been made aware of are not necesarilly the real reality friend! This is F1, remember.

39

I prefer optimism 🙂

40

Don't get me wrong Doug as I'm sure that there's a splash of nepotism in there somewhere, but I like to think that maybe - just maybe - Susie will do okay in her own right.

And if I was to just jump head first into the shallow end of the pool I'd say that if nothing else she's certainly better looking than all the other drivers too 🙂

41

Of course you can......But just remember shes going on Button's age and has never won any of the junior championships which makes you wonder the real motivations ???????

43

Hi James,

Good to see Susie getting more of role, and 2 FP1 sessions will give her a good platform to progress further, although realistically she doesn't have the pedigree to push for a race seat anytime soon with Williams. Maybe a resurrected Caterham or Marussia could afford to take a punt but Williams needs to press on and aim for Red Bull in the Constructors' championship next season with top level drivers.

To that end, I have seen some rumours this week about Jean-Eric Vergne and Williams. I don't see the Susie Wolff announcement as a major impediment as it doesn't sound like her role is actually changing that much and they stop short of naming her as 3rd driver. The JEV/Williams rumours sounded particularly interesting as a programme for maybe 10 FP1 sessions next year and a race seat to replace Massa for 2016 would be a great fit for both parties. His reputation has only been enhanced by Ricciardo's performance this year as he ran him close at STR, and DR was sensational this year. Do you have any insight on this?

44

Remember Susie Wolff's husband is one of Williams biggest shareholders!!

45

If this was a 31 year old male driver who has had zero success in lower formula and hadn't competitively raced open wheelers for 10 years, the press would be asking "what the heck are Williams thinking"? I think it is inevitable that there will eventually be a female F1 driver, but it is would be better if they earn that position, rather than being gifted the position by virtue of their surname.

46

Gary Paffett hadn't raced in single seaters for a while and was good enough for Mclaren. Similar age too.

47

He did however take a DTM title, as well as good results in other years before and after. Also, once he signed to McLaren, he was there for a whole bunch of years. It may be some time since he raced in a single seater, but he's been their test driver consistently for years.

Wolff on the other hand, AFAIK never really won anything ever, and then magically landed a gig with Williams. And they might be a similar age, but Paffett landed his McLaren testing gig what, nearly 10 years ago... as opposed to Wolff at Williams, what... 2 years ago?

Then again, it's not like Paffett's testing role ever landed him a proper F1 drive. The real crime is no-hopers like Ericsson paying their way in to seats when drivers like Valsecchi are off racing in GT or whatever.

48

And Ferrari with Pedro

49

When was the last time Paffett got to do anything outside of a simulator? Can you imagine Hamilton or Rosberg giving up their seat for Paffett to drive in FP1? No other top F1 team would ever dream of taking FP1 time away from one of their established race drivers.

Paul di Resta proved that it is possible to go from DTM to F1 and do well, but similar to Paffett, he at least had a history of some success in that series.

50

I think Williams is being very sure footed by doing this, it is much safer to have a cooler more mature head than a hot headed youngster , at least until you know you can fight for 1st.

Good luck to her.

51

I dont know if this will lead to an F1 race seat, but I am pleased for her. She is setting the path for other women to follow.

52

I watch various other forms of racing from rally cross to trucks. There are rarely ever female drivers participating. For Susie Wolf to be driving at the so-called pinnacle of motorsport is highly suspect in my opinion.

53

What is your suspicion?

54

Next year "Suzie Wolf appointed Williams SENIOR Official Test Driver" Year after "Suzie Wolf appointed Williams Manager, Test and Development Driving".........and so on. Names and jobs are meaningless aren't they? I remember a marketing friend who was promoted from a Sales Engineer to a Field Sales Engineer.. Everyone kept asking him how many fields he had sold. Names changes polish a person's ego, that's all

55

Nothing against Susie getting the position- if she was 10 years younger. But at 31, she is simply too long in the tooth these days to be able to compete at the same physical level of a 20 year old..

Seriously, SW should consider WEC and give up on F1, as she does seem to have pace and a bit of talent..

56

It's pure tokenism. For her age as a professional driver, she doesn't have much of a resume. There are plenty of younger and more talented drivers who actually have F1 potential. This is feminism at work.

57

If you want to enter the sexist subject... am I the only one who thinks Susie looks like Jean Alesi with her helmet on? 😉

58

Yes, Jean always did have a je-ne-sais-quoi feminity about him, didn't the?

59

I wonder if she would discuss technical details with Toto... clearly Williams are not worried about this

60

A test driver role is about consistent speed,so enabling comparisons to be made between different components. 10/10ths speed isn't really required.

To quote Claire Williams 'She continues to impress us with her strong technical knowledge, andthe feedback she delivers'.

As others have mentioned, she seems a good ambassador for the team and looks ok in front of the camera.

Why would you not continue with her?

61

I hope this doesn't hurt Williams. Tests are very scarce this days. I hope that -in hiding behind a pitiful career record- lies the ability to report meaningful feedback to the engineers.

62

She's a bad role model for women in Motorsport. She either got there because she's a woman or who's she married to, she didn't get there based on her results. If she wants to prove herself, race GP2. Prove she can race wheel-to-wheel with the upcoming guys.

I wouldn't have a problem with Simona De Silvestro racing. She's at least proved herself in Indycar. She won races at the lower level, she's raced wheel-to-wheel with the best.

63
Andrew Fleming

Exactly my point. Well said. Fact is there is not any womdn out there right now who would deserve an F1 drive. As a person, you have to have proved yourself to be at the pinnacle. No female has done this yet im afraid

64

Good on her, she's chief test driver for a rapidly improving F1 team, the results Williams are looking at might well be those she has delivered in the simulator this year?

Though there might be a bit of nepotism there, if that gets Wiillams better access to Mercedes equipment and data sounds like a smart move for them.

What next for Williams, a female team principle?

65

With all due respect, it takes an accident for a race driver to miss a race. It isn't really big news. Two test sessions and two FP1 sessions. That's it for an entire year. Even if one of the Williams drivers did miss a race, why would they pick a rusty test driver over someone whose had GP experience. I'd imagine Vergne would be snapped up in an instant by a few teams if their main drivers were injured. Knowing the team, systems and personnel really isn't as important as knowing how to race. All of the cars fundamentally rely on the same physics to drive. More grip, less grip, different systems yet all are designed to get around the track the fastest possible way using the same line.

66

Way too many of these posts are concerned with Susie Wolff's gender and marriage to Toto. However, there are any number of test drivers who pay for their seats or who test once and are never seen again, who never attract this kind of ire. It sexism pure and simple. F1 has no capacity or tolerance for people who don't pull their weight and she is clearly pulling hers. A lot of the work she does for Williams is unseen and unglamorous, in a simulator hour after hour.

Much of her DTM career was blighted by a year old car and far more experienced drivers than she - Frentzen, Couthard, Ralph Schumacher, Hakkinen, De Resta, Paffet, have stugggled in sub-par machinery

She posted a time just 2/10ths shy of Massa in the same session FP1 in Gemany this year. She's quick..

67
Andrew Fleming

How can she suddenly be that good to beat massa, when she has never showed any promise in any catagory of racing previous? Gets right on my nerves when people refer to this as being about gender, but the reason she has so much support is due to it, and why some of the 1 day testers you spoke about, dont. HER HUSBAND HOLDS SHARES IN WILLIAMS. how clear can that be yet no one says anything? Its an absolute travasty that she got the seat, and its because she is a female she is being praised. If it was a bloke, no one eould bat an eyelid. Although i will dmit she is easy on the eye she has that going for her.

She ll not be getting a drive anyhow

68

If she was really faster than Massa, she'd be in the seat next to Bottas. We've seen over the years tons of people do something in FP1 that isn't relevant. I don't doubt her ability but she needs more sessions and at least a couple of races.

With all due respect to the DTM drivers you mentioned, Mika, DC and Ralf are history, Paffett was never great and Di Resta is the most overrated F1 driver I've seen in ages. All he did was moan and blame the team. He was never great and was a self-entitled brat at the best of times.

I'd like to see her given a seat in the field maybe not at Williams and if she really is just 2/10 behind Massa, she would beat quite a lot of others. With that said, is Massa actually in the top 10 fastest guys in F1 now? I am not so sure.

Over a full season, he'd lose to Lewis, Alonso and maybe Vettel. We know Bottas can beat him and I doubt he could keep up with Ric or Ros. Massa isn't a yardstick. 2/10 is a lot of time in F1. She did well to get that close but needs more sessions, more time and once she actually comes out and says she extracted as much as she could from the car, then we can really see how good she is.

I'd love at the end of the year all race drivers have a one day shootout in the same car on the same track in the same conditions to really see whose up there. Maybe call it a shakedown day or a rubbering in day for the track. Get everyone from Lewis to Alonso down to Buemi, Chakndrok, etc involved and you'd very quickly see who really is the fastest.

Never going to happen due to cowards, contracts and politics but I'd love to see them put their money where their mouth is. For the record, I think you'd see Lewis, Ros, Alonso and a couple of other F1 guys right up there but most of the F1 field isn't as fast as some of the drivers currently sat on the sidelikes. Vergne would have deserved a seat if like Button he just bothered to try the first half of the year when it mattered rather than only trying when he is about to be booted out.

69
Andrew Fleming

Button always trys, he is a precision driver so requires precise set ups and struggles to light the tyres up during qualifying. Cant say the same for verne.

70

hello James,

Just a thought:

If the third car is going ahead in 2015, does that mean Susie Wolff will be racing in 2015?

In a way it would be a great opportunity to see her racecraft and race pace.

71
Andrew Fleming

She has done nothing to deserve that seat. Name any catagory previous to F1 that she has excelled in, bearing in mind F1 is the very best of motorsport. Do you think she was ever in a position for that seat without toto? You probably already know.

72
Andrew Fleming

I dont hate any female driver. I dont hate any driver or decide what they should and shouldnt drive or do. BUT it annoys the crap out of me when drivers like wolff, chilton, and jorda (two of which ARE female) get seats that should be going to the gp2 champions, renault 3.5 champions and other series of credibility. Even top 3 drivers. None of the females even come close or have showed any promise in previous catagories, but are somehow now being considered for the pinnicle of motorsport? Im sorry but if you enjoy watching racing then this is complete non sense. How they stop people pointing this out, atleast on forums anyway, is make it into a sexuality row.

NONSENSE! The fact of the matter is this. Neither of these two girls with ever come close to winning a race in F1, they dont deserve the seats and drivers who do are missing out, and its WRONG. Its all PR crap and the reason why no one can see past the toto wolff having shares issue is because thats obviously the reason she got the drive. Thats it, fact. If no one says nothing then this will happen more often for either sex.

They ll need a new race catagory that is the true pinnacle, with no financial implications or handshake deals. Or maybe the whole motorsport world is fucked. Id go with the later

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