Williams confirmed today that development driver Susie Wolff will put the first miles on their new Formula One car – the FW35 – in advance of the second pre-season test that begins in Barcelona, Spain on 19 February. The team previously announced that the new car would not be run at the first test, but instead would be launched on the first day of the second test.
This will be the first time that Wolff drives the team’s current car in her role as Williams development driver. She has previously driven the 2011 FW33 during a Williams partner event at Silverstone in 2012, which was her first taste of F1 machinery. Most of her work for Williams has been in the simulator. This year sees Wolff granted more time in the car – in addition to being first to drive the FW35, she will take the wheel for most of the team’s aerodynamic testing this season – which shows that the team has confidence in her testing abilities.
Susie is the wife of Toto Wolff, who is a Williams shareholder and was an executive director of Williams until recently when he took up a directorship at Mercedes. That Susie has retained and expanded her testing role in the wake of Toto’s departure from Williams is a further indication that she provides good value to the technical team.
Mike Coughlan, Williams Technical Director, commented: “Susie has proved herself to be a valuable addition to our driver roster and her feedback during simulator sessions is second to none. As a result we will be stepping up her role this year and I’m looking forward to the progress we can make with Susie’s input in conjunction with that of Pastor [Maldonado] and Valtteri [Bottas].”
Susie Wolff seems enthusiastic about her increased testing role. She said, “I really enjoy my time working with Williams and feel very much at home here. Last year was a valuable experience and I certainly feel that I’ve developed a lot as a driver. Increasing my role this year will further this progression and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the FW35 for the first time next month. I’m showing that women can play a role at the top level of motorsport and would like to thank Sir Frank Williams and the whole of the technical team for the trust they continue to show in me.”
Wolff is now the only woman to have a significant role as a driver in Formula One. If she were to find her way into a race seat, she would become the first woman to line up for the start of a World Championship Grand Prix since Lella Lombardi drove for Brabham in 1976.