Why Susie Wolff needs to drive an F1 car


Susie Wolff is set to become the first woman in 22 years to drive at an F1 weekend - and it is vital she does so for the future of women in the sport.

F1 is still very much a boys' club. There are two female team bosses - Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn and Williams' Claire Williams - but when the camera pans across the grid, you typically see women in two roles: grid girls and pretty faces for the marketing departments. 

If you Google "best female racing drivers" then after the fifth entry, the results turn into "hottest female racing drivers." No care for their skill or racing know-how, the drivers on the list are only ranked by how pretty they look in overalls (or out of them, as is sometimes the case). 

It's even an attitude amongst drivers. Ex-IndyCar racer Simona de Silvestro is currently undergoing a year-long developmental programme with Sauber which includes driving an F1 car regularly. Some may say that this is Sauber investing in a good prospect and grooming them for F1 success. However Sergey Sirotkin, who will most likely get a Sauber drive next year thanks to his backing, wrote her development programme off as nothing more than a "marketing ploy."

Women trying to race in F1, or even fight their way up the ladder to get there, face being objectified and written off from the get go. And this is why it is so vital that Susie Wolff drives. 

It is easy to nay-say Wolff as nothing more than a career midfielder in the DTM who is only in F1 thanks to the backing of her husband, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. However, if unspectacular results and buying driving time invalidated skill, a fair few male drivers would have to be written off as well; Max Chilton and Marcus Ericsson do not owe their F1 seats to pure talent. 

But Wolff driving the Williams in practice at Silverstone means more than just ending a 22-year absence of female talent. It is something that shows young, female drivers that they can make it all the way to the top. 

If you go down to your local go-kart track this weekend, odds are that amongst the bambinos (six- to eight-years-old) and cadets (eight- to 13-years-old) there'll be a healthy amount of girls there. However, once you reach junior single-seater series, that number drops to one or two per grid. Something is happening which stops girls graduating from karting to racing cars. 

By driving an F1 car at a race weekend, Susie Wolff can show that what is stopping them shouldn't be that "girls don't race cars", or that it's a "boys' sport". Sisters shouldn't feel strange about wanting to go karting with their brothers, and if they're winning at their local track they need to see that it isn't pointless trying to step up through the formulas. 

Susie Wolff will show that there is nothing wrong with girls racing cars, and that it isn't all futile.

Of course, not everyone is quick enough to win in karts, let alone progress up the ranks. However, Susie Wolff can be the role model that shows girls everywhere that their speed and not their gender can be the only thing that counts at the track.