Maria de Villota has joined Marussia as a test driver for the new season.



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Susie Wolff Named Development Driver For Williams F1 Team

The Williams F1 Team confirmed that Susie Wolff will join the team as its Development Driver.

Born in Scotland, Susie Wolff has had the classic racing career, beginning in karting and then moving to junior single-seater series and was twice nominated for the prestigious Young Driver of the Year Award before moving up to DTM. In 2012, Susie will contest her seventh season in DTM.

Frank Williams, Team Principal of the Williams F1 Team, said, “Susie is a talented, successful and highly professional racing driver who competes in one of the world’s most fiercely-contested racing series. Susie will join Williams as a Development Driver, in which capacity she will assist us with the development of our simulator and other technical challenges. Susie will also undertake some aerodynamic testing of the FW34 and a full track test in the coming months. Susie will also attend a number of races with us. I should add that, as Susie is married to Toto Wolff, a Director of Williams, her appointment was carefully considered and then approved by the Board, with Toto recusing himself from the process.”

Susie Wolff said, “I would like to thank Sir Frank for giving me this opportunity both on and off the track. I must also thank Mercedes Benz AMG and HWA for supporting me to take up this new experience with Williams. Formula One is the ultimate challenge for any racing driver and it offers me the chance both to apply and to improve the skills I have developed racing in DTM. In return I shall be offering some of my own technical insight and experience – coming from a different discipline – and helping the team engage with its partners. I hope also to demonstrate that women can play a role at the highest levels of motorsport and I shall be working closely with the team on its social responsibility programme in the areas of education and road safety.”

Bernie Ecclestone, Chief Executive of Formula One, welcomed the announcement: “If Susie is as quick in a car as she looks good (Editor's note: Still a sexist. I'm surprised he hasn't suggested a Spandex driver's suit especially for her.) out of a car then she will be a massive asset to any team and on top of that she is very intelligent. I am really looking forward to having her in Formula One.”
Source: Press release

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Maria de Villota has joined Marussia as a test driver for the new season

The 32-year-old Spaniard is likely to feature at the end-of-season young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

The last woman to enter the F1 world championship was Italian Giovanna Amati, who failed to qualify for three races at the start of the 1992 season.

Five women have entered F1 races in the past, the most prolific being Italian Lella Lombardi, who started 12 grands prix in the 1970s.

However, De Villota, the daughter of 1980s F1 driver Emilio de Villota, is unlikely to be given the chance to follow in Lombardi's footsteps in the near future.

She has previous F1 experience after being given a test drive by Renault in August last year.

She said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a Formula 1 team and gain important experience to help me progress my career, including the chance to drive the new car later in the year at the Abu Dhabi test.

"I will be joining the team trackside so I'm looking forward to working alongside them at the first race next weekend and this can only help my future ambition to step up to F1 racing."

Marussia team boss John Booth said: "Our test driver programme will enable Maria to be integrated into a Formula 1 team environment and gain a vast amount of experience that will be useful to her career progression.

"We will also provide Maria with the opportunity to sample F1 machinery later in the year, further adding to her racing credentials."

Marussia have changed their name this season after racing as Virgin since their debut in F1 in 2010.

They have finished last in the constructors' championship in both of their seasons so far.

They will race at the first grand prix of the campaign in Australia on 18 March having had no significant testing with their new car.

It missed the final pre-season test last week as a result of failing one of the sport's mandatory crash tests.

The car completed some brief running on demonstration tyres at Silverstone earlier this week.

F1, No Girls Alowed?

One drives a large truck and puts tires on rims. Another organizes an army of gasoline technicians who develop fuel. One heads a department of aerodynamics designers, while another is in charge of the 240 employees of the racing team and takes part in the meetings of an otherwise all-male club.

These are a few of the women who are breaking the mold in the macho world of Formula One, where, as is the tradition elsewhere in auto racing, they usually occupy marketing, media relations and hospitality jobs. While more women than ever work the technical jobs to make the cars go fast, the one area where they are still absent is behind the steering wheel.

In fact, as Formula One prepares for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this weekend, it has been 18 years since the last woman driver took part in a Grand Prix, and half a decade since a woman even tested a car. Giovanna Amati, an Italian, tried and failed to qualify for several races for the Brabham team in 1992, while Katherine Legge tested at the Minardi team in 2005.

Women racers drive in some of the sport’s top series, including Danica Patrick in IndyCar, the leading open-wheel series in the United States; Liz Halliday in endurance racing; and Legge in the DTM saloon car series in Europe. But Formula One, the pinnacle of racing, remains off-limits and opinions are divided as to why.

Women work in most other areas of the series, however. At the top of the pyramid is Monisha Kaltenborn, the chief executive of the Sauber team since January. At the German Grand Prix in July, she was introduced at the official Friday press conference as the first woman to have taken part in the decades-old ritual.

Kaltenborn said that although the series is macho, it can benefit from the feminine presence.

“There are many things that I think as a woman you see with more distance,” she said, “because you simply probably don’t have that emotional feeling to motor sport and fast cars and you have a different view. And that is sometimes needed to open new directions here, because we all know some things have to change. It can be an advantage.”

Kaltenborn has worked in Formula One for a decade. She trained as a lawyer and worked at the Fritz Kaiser Group when it held shares in the Sauber team. After the company sold its shares, she joined Sauber as head of the legal department, where she negotiated contracts with drivers, sponsors, suppliers and the Formula One commercial rights holder and governing body.

She said that for a year one of the team directors thought she was an interpreter for Peter Sauber, the team owner, so unusual was it to have a woman among the team directors.

Lisa Lilley once found herself at the Ferrari hospitality unit serving coffee to journalists standing behind her in a line at a coffee machine. She served two or three before she informed the next man that she was not a hostess, but the Shell Oil technology manager for Ferrari assigned to Formula One.

Lilley, who has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, attends most of the races wearing the Ferrari team uniform. Because the only Ferrari clothes designed for women are those of the hostesses, she wears the men’s outfit.

Generally, any prejudices women may face when they enter the series are forgotten by what drives everyone: performing and working well to win races.

“It really doesn’t matter in the end if you are a man or a woman,” said Tina Vajanszki, a tire technician at Bridgestone, “as long as you do your job well.”

Marianne Hinson, the director of the Lotus team’s aerodynamics department, has worked for Formula One teams since 1999. But she is perhaps an exception. The number of women in technical jobs seems in line with the demographics of women applicants.

“If you go back 30-odd years to when I went to university and studied engineering, the one thing I have to say is that in the engineering faculty there were no girls,” said Martin Whitmarsh, director of McLaren Mercedes.

“Within McLaren Racing at the moment, I think we probably have no more than 2 percent of our engineers are female,” he added. “I haven’t done the analysis of what percentage of applicants are women, but it probably isn’t greatly skewed. I think that we probably have only 2 percent of the applicants are women.”

“Engineering is slightly machismo,” he said, “motor engineering is more machismo, racing cars even more machismo.”

Nonetheless, in April the International Automobile Federation created a commission to support and encourage women to take part in all areas of motor sport.

Women sometimes constitute up to 40 percent of race spectators, depending on the venue. But Kate Walker, who reports for a Web site specializing in women in motor sport,, said that she had felt uncomfortable as a spectator at one race she attended alone because there were so few women.

Perhaps the most sensitive question, however, is why there are no women Formula One drivers.

The sticking point is often whether a woman would be physically capable of handling a Formula One car, which submits drivers to huge G-forces in cornering and braking.

Heikki Kovalainen, a driver at the Lotus team, said that a woman would not be strong enough.

“It’s all the training you have to do to remain in peak condition,” he said.

Whitmarsh agreed.

“I don’t know how many women want 22-inch necks,” he said. “Imagine the weight of your head, plus a helmet, multiplied by five. Just braking you are forced five times your body weight in a harness.”

But Legge, who was the last woman to test drive a Formula One car, laughed off such notions.

“It is much easier to drive than a ChampCar,” she said, referring to the Formula One car and that of the former top open wheel series in the U.S., in which she drove in 2006 and 2007 before it folded. “The forces thing and the strength thing is absolutely 110 percent, categorical rubbish.”

She said the ChampCar did not have the cornering G-forces on the neck but that the braking and accelerating was the same. She added that power-steering and other drivers’ aids in fact made it physically easier to drive a Formula One car.

Bernie Ecclestone, the promoter of the series, has frequently expressed a desire to have a woman driver, particularly for the marketing value. But Oksana Kosachenko, who manages Vitaly Petrov, the Russian driver at the Renault team, said she would never work with a woman driver only for marketing purposes, and added that a woman could not take it physically.

Perhaps what counts, though, is being at a top team, and no woman has had that chance.

“It would be interesting to have the equal opportunity, the equal car, no politics, nobody’s controlling situation, and then we would see how quick we really are,” Legge said.

“The problem is that no team wants to be the first to hire one, and to risk looking stupid if the girl can’t finish the race,” she added. “We just need to be given the opportunity.”

Editor's note: Katherine wasn't the best example of a winning racer to test F1. Simona de Silvestro, Dana Patrick, even newcomer Ana Beatriz wold have been a better example of a competitive woman racer.


F1 still living in the early 20th Century

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