Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Special Feature - Formula One will have a full time female driver soon.

(© Ben Johnston 2015)

Formula One is referred to as the pinnacle of motor racing introducing new technology with team’s producing extraordinarily fast cars. 

However there is one thing where the sport really falls down. When someone thinks of Formula One drivers you think Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. However there are other drivers making their mark on the sport.

Scotland’s Susie Wolff is a Formula One test driver for the Williams Martini Racing Team having joined the outfit in 2012 as their Development driver and contrary to reports and talk among some fans of the sport she is NOT part of the team for marketing purposes. The fact of the matter is that as former world champions and race winners the Grove based outfit DO NOT need a marketing tool.

Wolff was promoted to the role of test driver over the winter replacing Felipe Nasr who joined the Sauber F1 Team as a race driver. She took part in two Free Practice sessions for the team last season in Silverstone and Germany.

This year, Wolff drove the FW37 at the opening Barcelona Winter test. The Scot produced competitive lap times. The FACT of the matter is that the Williams Martini Racing Team would never have signed Susie if the Sir Frank or Claire Williams had not believed that she was capable of driving for the team.

Valtteri Bottas injured his back following qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago and was potentially set to miss the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend as he missed the race in Melbourne however the team are working hard to ensure that the Finn will be fit for this weekend’s race.

The team ran just one car in Australia as it was too late to register a replacement. According to reports this week if Valtteri Bottas was unable to race this weekend, Williams would call on Pascal Wehrlein to race alongside Felipe Massa. Now if this is the case it defeats the purpose of having a test driver who should be the first port of call if a driver is unable to fulfil their duties.

It also unfortunately devalues someone like Wolff’s contribution to the team if she is not considered for the role of a race drive.

The Lotus F1 Team also have a female driver as Spaniard Carmen Jorda was announced as one of their development drivers which is how Wolff began her Formula One career. Carmen will travel to Grand Prix with the Enstone outfit and take part in driver briefings and will also help with the development of the E23 Hybrid.

Female drivers have been involved in the American IndyCar and the NASCAR racing series with Danica Patrick having raced in the IndyCar Series and is now competing in NASCAR while Sarah Fisher owns her own team in IndyCar. Switzerland’s Simona De Silvestro also competed in the American IndyCar Series before joining the Sauber F1 Team last season as an affiliate driver with the aim of one day racing in Formula One.

However unfortunately due to financial issues De Silvestro was forced to leave the team and has returned to the American IndyCar Series where she will race with the Andretti Autosport IndyCar team.

There are female drivers coming up through the junior categories. Carmen Jorda for example will run her programme with the Lotus F1 Team alongside her GP3 programme.
It is about time that Formula One team’s woke up to the fact that female drivers are just as capable of racing in Formula One and being competitive just as much as their male counterparts. SOME fans also need to wake up to this fact TOO. 

© Ben Johnston 2015

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