Susie Wolff joins Williams F1 team as development driver

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay News | Latest Industry News




BWRDC GoldStars Elite Mentor, Susie Wolff, relishes the prospects of her new role as the Development Driver for the Williams F1 Team as she gets to grips with straight-line tests in the FW34 and simulator work in Shanghai, ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday 15th April, the 3rd round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.


Just 48 hrs after the official announcement, Williams F1′s development driver Susie Wolff was working on the team’s simulator and conducting straight-line and aerodynamic tests of the FW34 at Shanghai International Circuit, in China.


Speaking soon after the announcement, Susie told the BWRDC: “It’s a fantastic opportunity and I’m going to work very hard to make the most of it. I want to thank everyone at the BWRDC for giving me so much help and for all the support over the years. I really appreciate it,” she said. Susie has always been very supportive of the BWRDC. “I mentioned the Club in this respect, when I was asked where can women find support and direction,” she added.


“We had a pretty good response from the media,” Susie continued. “DTM is widely acknowledged as one of the toughest international racing series, with such high-level drivers competing. It is tough but I love it, I love racing at this level and this is my seventh season racing for the Mercedes-Benz DTM Team. So I’m not someone who has just been plucked out of nowhere for media hype with little experience. I’ve worked hard for my place in motorsport and I’ve earned my place on merit,” she said emphatically.


“Norbert Haug (Mercedes-Benz, Head of Motorsport) gave me my big break when he offered me a drive in the DTM Team in 2006. It was a big step-up for me then, but I kept my head down, worked hard on my fitness, learnt to speak German and learnt how to get the best out of my car and manage the tyres. So I’m hugely grateful to him.”


“I’ve had F1 offers before,” she admitted. “But they were a marketeer’s whim rather than a serious testing opportunity, so I always turned them down. I’ve got where I am by being a racer, not by being a female. And now as the development driver for the Williams Formula 1 Team, I have the chance to apply and improve the skills I have developed racing in DTM and in return I shall be offering my own technical insight and experience, coming from a different discipline. While off-track I will be helping the team to engage with its partners,” she effused.


“Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport. It is the ultimate challenge for any racing driver and I shall be working very hard to get the maximum out of this opportunity and looking forward to realising one of my goals. It is not a short term deal and so it’s now up to me how well I progress! 


“I’m very grateful to Sir Frank (Williams) for giving me this opportunity both on and off the track and to Mercedes-Benz and HWA for supporting me to take up this new experience with Williams.”


The decision had required approval by the Williams board of which Susie’s husband Toto is a member, but he removed himself from the process.

SW02-384x255Williams F1 team principal, Frank Williams, heaped praise on the young Scot saying: “Susie is a talented, successful and highly professional racing driver who competes in one of the world’s most fiercely-contested racing series.” Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone also welcomed the announcement. Bernie was supportive from the beginning, Susie revealed.


The BWRDC 50th Patron agreed that women were beginning to make major in-roads in key positions in motorsport, noting Claire Williams, Head of Marketing and Communications and Board member at Williams and Monisha Kaltenborn, recently confirmed as Peter Sauber’s successor. Susie believes her appointment could have far-reaching benefits. “I hope to demonstrate that women can play a role at the highest levels of motorsport,” she said. “I shall be working closely with the team on its social responsibility programme in the areas of education and road safety.”


Susie has been a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz for several years and is a great ambassador for the BWRDC. Since the coveted BWRDC GoldStars initiative was launched in 2009, Susie’s protégés Alice Powell and current GoldStars Elite winner, Sarah Reader have continued to benefit from her mentoring.


When many women are hampered by a lack of support from friends or family, Susie readily admits: “I’m incredibly lucky that I have such a supportive husband. Toto has seen my races and knows what I’ve achieved and what I’m capable of achieving. He is totally supportive and always there to offer advice, which is fantastic. I’m also very lucky because my family have been totally supportive from the beginning. We all used to go karting together at weekends when my brother David and I were kids. Dad used to race motorbikes, so it’s in the genes.”


John Stoddart told the BWRDC: “The news is fantastic! As you know yourselves there’s a lot of hard work goes on in the background, training and focusing and Susie sacrificed a lot when she was younger to focus on her motorsport career and now she’s got the opportunity to test a Formula One car which is every driver’s dream, but she has worked very, very hard towards that as you know. But she’s always had a lot of backing from people like yourselves and winning the Club’s Championships over the years helped a lot to raise her profile.”


“Motorsport has been in our family on both sides, my wife’s father David Tye was a BSA-works rider, my father was an engineer at Rolls Royce and he was involved in motorcycle sport and I got involved in motorcycle racing. After I retired, and turned 40 I bought another racing machine, but soon realised that was a bit selfish; so I sold it and bought four karts, one for my wife, one for David and one for Susie to make it a family sport.” Then laughing he said: “I didn’t realise how much work it would be! We’d turn up in a van with sixteen wheels and tyres, sometimes the kids would be sent out on slicks in damp conditions, because we didn’t have time to change to wets. But we had some great times and then Sal and I decided it was time to concentrate on the kids, so we gave up the karting. David and Susie did the Scottish and British Championships then the European and World Championships. So it’s been a great adventure for the whole family!”


BWRDC Chairman Helen Bashford-Malkie added: “Susie Wolff proves once again to be our BWRDC inspiration with 50 years of women racing drivers supporting her as she becomes Williams F1 Development Driver, on the same day that one of Susie’s BWRDC GoldStars protégés Alice Powell tests for GP3 and Monisha Kaltenborn is confirmed as Peter Sauber’s successor. What a week for women in motorsport, what a way to celebrate our 50th Anniversary.”


The former McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award finalist (2003, 2004) and Lord Wakefield Trophy winner (2004) will continue to undertake simulator and straight-line aerodynamic work of the FW34 as well as a full track test in the coming months alongside her DTM commitments with Mercedes-Benz.


Susie Wolff is a great role model for women competing in motorsport and she is the BWRDC’s first member to progress from karts to FIA Formula 1.

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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