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.