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Wolff hopes test opens door for female drivers

ESPN Staff
October 17, 2012 « Missed Friday morning sessions have hurt - Senna | Mallya arrest warrant withdrawn »
Susie Wolff ahead of her test run in a year-old Williams © Sutton Images
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Susie Wolff is hoping her test for Williams on Wednesday will open the door for more women to be given a chance in Formula One.

Wolff completed two 50km runs at Silverstone in last year's Williams FW33, one on full wet tyres in damp conditions and one in the dry on demonstration-grade slick tyres. She said it had been a dream come true after seven years competing in DTM and said is hoping more teams will consider giving female drivers a test.

"You can't underestimate what a big statement that was today for Williams to put me in the car today," she said. "For a team like Williams to take notice of a fast female driver and give her a chance in the car is something quite special. They were the first team to really do it properly and I hope it will open a path for more teams doing it in the future and realising that women should be taken seriously and possibly more there will be more females coming in later years and given the chance to drive in Formula One."

Wolff took to the track in front of a big media presence but said she was only worried about proving what she was capable of to the team.

"I think I was very lucky in that it's not a young driver day and not up against some of the best young drivers out there right now," she added. "My first run in the car was actually on my own with the track to myself and no direct competition from the first lap onwards. For a first day in the car I was actually very lucky.

"Yes, there was a lot of media there but nobody puts more pressure on myself than I do. I knew what I needed to achieve today whether there were people to witness it or not. I knew what I needed to do to come forward and that's what I was focused on doing. It was a little bit tricky in the beginning with the conditions - the track was still damp - and of course you don't want to make any mistakes so it was just about building up."

After taking part in a training programme with Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas she said she had no concerns about her fitness and believes women are more than capable of meeting the physical demands of racing an F1 car.

"Of course it's easy for me to say that I managed with no problem as I wasn't on the correct tyres, I did 40 laps and it wasn't a race distance, but there was never one part of the whole day when I couldn't hold my head up or couldn't be in control of the car."

Susie Wolff on track © Sutton Images

She also revealed that she had been in touch with Maria de Villota, Marussia's ex-test driver who lost an eye during a straight-line test earlier this year, ahead of her test.

"I spoke with her after her press conference, because in her press conference she showed everybody that aside from being a great racing driver she is an exceptional lady. The strength and dignity she showed after such an accident and to fight back from being on the brink nearly dying, was quite phenomenal and I said that to her. She wrote back saying: 'You know my friend, it's up to you now to show that we can do it and you're driving for both of us' and today I had her in my thoughts, and had her star on my helmet. I have no doubt she would have done a similarly good job.

"After the publicity surrounding Maria's accident I felt an extra need to go out there, do a good job and show that her accident was a complete, freak one-off and it doesn't generalise women in racing and motorsport."