Suzie Wolff F1 race drive hopes in tatters


Much has been made of ‘the next female driver’ in F1 since Suzie Wolff joined the Williams team as their development and test driver. Suzie joined the Williams team in 2012 and last year at the British GP, her FP1 outing made her the first woman to drive in an F1 weekend since Giovanna Amati in 1992.

The roles of development, test and reserve drivers appear obscured to most F1 fans, almost being interchangeable terms for the same activity. However, when the dramatic events at the 2015 Australian GP saw Valtteri Bottas unable to compete in the race following qualifying – Pat Symonds made it crystal clear how Williams view the differences.

When asked whether it would be possible that Suzie Wolff would deputise for Bottas, the team’s technical director stated: “She’s not actually our reserve driver, she’s our test driver. We don’t have a reserve driver at present.”

Whether Wolff was the Williams team ‘reserve driver’ or not was actually a moot point, as she wouldn’t have been allowed under the regulations to deputise for Bottas in Melbourne regardless.

Without a Force Majeure an F1 team cannot change its two drivers following the start of qualifying – and a bad back is hardly in the ‘act of god’ category.

Yet Williams clearly suffered a loss of points in Melbourne, due to the fact that Bottas car was unable to run. This exposed the team’s vulnerability should there be any further issues with Bottas before qualifying begins because they had no reserve driver named and registered to replace the Finn with the FIA.

Today, Williams have taken steps to prevent this scenario and announced their reserve driver is Adrian Sutil. The ex-sauber driver will be brought up to speed in Williams’ simulator should he be required to step into the cockpit at anytime during the season.

“I’m very proud to be a part of such a famous and great F1 team,” said Sutil. “To work for Sir Frank Williams and his team means a lot to me. I would like to thank everyone at Williams for their belief in my qualities and the opportunity to work with such a successful and competitive outfit.”

Frank Williams reciprocated: “I’m delighted to have Adrian join our stable of drivers for the 2015 season. Adrian brings extensive racing experience, having competed 128 Formula One races during his career. Having most recently raced during the 2014 season also gives him excellent knowledge of the current generation of race car and new Hybrid power units, which is invaluable for anyone needing to step into the cockpit in 2015.

The fight for a top Constructors’ Championship position will be intense this season, therefore we have selected a driver with recent race experience and are confident that if the need arose, he would be a solid pair of hands to race the FW37 and assist our 2015 campaign.”

Interestingly, Adrian Sutil was in the Williams garage today in Sepang.

This move pretty much closes the door finally on Suzie Wolff getting behind the wheel of a Williams’ car during the competitive sessions on a Formula One race weekend.

20 responses to “Suzie Wolff F1 race drive hopes in tatters

  1. To be fair to Williams if I were them I’d not want to put a driver behind the wheel who has failed to score a win in their lower level racing career. Lets be totally honest here, if she was male she’d be nowhere near that Williams team. If Susie had scored wins all over the shop in her career in lower formula then I’d be the first to suggest Williams should get her in the car.

    When we’ve got GP2 champs who struggle to get any time in an F1 car, one can only assume that the role of Wolff at Williams is more a PR stunt than anything to do with her driving ability.

    I’m all for gender equality, equality as in best person gets the job irrespective of their gender (or race/religion/nationality for that matter!).

    PS Susie is with an s not a z.

  2. It’s a bit weird though. If they have no intention of letting her race, why hire her in the first place? And if this is a favor for Toto, I don’t really understand his reasoning. Surely he could get his wife a drive if he wanted to, instead of heaving Williams embarrass her like that.

      • At least she was driving DTM the year before, although her DTM career was probably going nowhere, looking at the results. I’m not an expert on DTM racing however, I think she was driving an older car, so I don’t know how competetive her drive was in the first place. Anyways, I’m don’t really get what her role as a test driver is supposed to achieve. Wouldn’t it be smarter to try and find the money for a pay drive. Or have her husband package her with an engine deal?

        • After Susie’s last year in DTM, Audi and Mercedes were reprimanded by the series organizers for the utter incompetetiveness of the older cars. They then abandoned the concept and all privateer teams got current cars. Coulthard’s best result in a 1-year old car was a 7th. Susie scored that twice, and one year she even had to drive a 2-year old car. So her DTM career is not as ordinary as the numbers make it look

          • Thing is FH – other than you and maybe a few other lone voices, no on calls this out. If you look at the results it just looks like she cannot drive.

    • Why should we assume that Susie embarrassed by this?

      Should Alex Lynn also be embarrassed? Alex is likely faster than Ms. Wolff, and has proven open wheel abilities.

      We can’t deny that Adrian Sutil is in fact a better reserve driver than Mr. Lynn or Ms. Wolff for a team that has a real chance for podium finishes.

      This article is a bit ridiculous… Was this a comedy piece?

  3. Mclaren had a similar setup for a long while, though i don’t know about now, often they had reserve and development drivers, the two were different roles. Pedro was reserve/dev and paffet was dev only, if i remember correctly.

    It could simply be, that susie may not be blindingly quick, but she maybe a fantastic at development and feed back, which is a skill in itself, think luca badoer, valued member of Ferrari’s test team, but not quite that quick.

    Actually thinking about more, its not disimilar to the sitauation ferrari found themselves in when Badoer stepped in, fantastic test driver, just not quick enough for race day.

  4. Now Sutil has an endless supply of Martini, rather than champagne, glasses to plunge into peoples’ faces…

  5. The Judge wrote, “Without a Force Majeure an F1 team cannot change its two drivers following the start of qualifying”

    Force majeure was never an option for Williams in Australia because FIA sporting reg 31.2 states unequivocally:
    “No driver may start in the race without taking part in at least one practice session.”

    Am still perplexed as to the purpose of this article…

  6. Thank you to FH for pointing out that Susie’s DTM career was not as ordinary as it the numbers make it look. As a racer, it must have been hard to hear the comments that were made by Williams. Susie is their test driver and she will do well in her remaining program for the season. Just an observation, the comments regarding Sutil were made by Sir Frank Williams and not Claire. Results in Formula 1 mean points and points mean money. Maybe what happened will open new doors for Susie to new opportunities.

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