Classifieds powered by Gulf News

Women breaking into man’s world of Formula 1

Hungry Wolff among the females eager to prove themselves in the sport

Gulf News

The frontiers of Formula One are extending into zones alien to the sport’s traditional roots as a macho preserve.

Femininity is encroaching into the historically male-dominated world where the principals, the heroic drivers, have to go to work on the very edge of survival at 400-plus km/h in wheel-to-wheel conflict.

And who would argue that a variance of attitude and acceptance of a gradual female incursion are not progressive and, therefore, acceptable?

Not me for starters. I welcomed the breakthrough when 42-year-old Monisha Kaltenborn took over as Sauber’s team boss with a 33 per cent stake. She is the first ever woman to hold that position.

A certain Claire Williams could be the next. Sir Frank Williams, a legendary F1 figure with his namesake outfit, has just appointed his ambitious and knowledgeable daughter Claire as his team’s deputy boss.

And he is edging the rather glamorous and talented Susie Wolff, 30, appointed the team’s development driver a week ago, towards the frontline of grand prix racing.

Scotsgirl Susie, a karting champion and saloon car racer with formidable speed and skill, is the only woman driver at any level in F1.

Incidentally, Sir Frank, who helped develop Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Jenson Button as world champions, gave her the job exactly 33 years to the day that Desire Wilson became the only woman ever to win an F1-class race at Brands Hatch, near London, in April 1980.

Susie, married, who lives in Switzerland, intends to bridge the hiatus and become only the sixth female to take part in the grand prix campaign.

Her good friend Maria de Villota, Marussia’s test driver, had to quit after losing an eye in a horrendous crash last July.

The heartbreak setback has not dimmed Susie’s determination to make the breakthrough, and she says: “What happened to Maria is an absolute tragedy. But, sad as it was and as hurt for her as I am, I want to make it into Formula One as a grand prix driver. And I know I can do it.”

She dismisses the theories that women are not strong enough and cannot cope with, say, the G-forces, but points out that females have been taking on the guys in the scary Indy races in the US, where they have to cope with jet-fighter pilot level stresses on the neck.

And she stresses: “I would not let anybody down. My effort to get to where I want to be is 110 per cent.

“Everything I do and think about and dream is geared to my ambition. I am fit and strong. And I have every confidence in my ability. But I am carefully taking it all a step at a time and building towards getting my super-licence.”