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F1's new female driver aims to set wheels in motion for women

By Sheena McKenzie, for CNN
updated 8:02 AM EDT, Thu April 12, 2012
Scotland's Susie Wolff has been signed as a development driver at the Williams F1 team.
Scotland's Susie Wolff has been signed as a development driver at the Williams F1 team.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Williams signs Susie Wolff, F1's second female driver in last month
  • The 29-year-old's new role comes just weeks after Marussia signs Maria de Villota
  • F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone welcomes the move, calling her an asset to the team
  • The Scottish driver has previously tested with Lotus Renault F1

(CNN) -- Susie Wolff, the second woman to join Formula One in recent weeks, hopes her new role will pave the way for more females in the elite level of motorsport.

The 29-year-old Briton was signed to Williams as a development driver on Wednesday, just weeks after Spaniard Maria de Villota joined Marussia in a testing role.

"I hope to demonstrate women can play a role at the highest levels of motorsport," Wolff said.

"I shall be working closely with the team on its social responsibility program in the areas of education and road safety."

Wolff is just the seventh female F1 driver in the 60-year history of the sport and her recruitment, along with De Villota, has been seen as an important step forward in the gender divide.

Divina Galica made her Formula One debut at the 1976 British Grand Prix. Despite entering three grands prix, the British driver did not qualify for a race. Divina Galica made her Formula One debut at the 1976 British Grand Prix. Despite entering three grands prix, the British driver did not qualify for a race.
Divina Galica
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Women in Formula One Women in Formula One

However "Racy Susie," as she has been labeled in the British tabloid press, may still have some way to go before changing old-fashioned thinking at the top.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who has long wanted a competitive female driver on the grid, welcomed Wolff's arrival.

"If Susie is as quick in a car as she looks good out of a car then she will be a massive asset to any team and on top of that she is very intelligent," the 81-year-old said.

Wolff will be undertaking some aerodynamic and full-track testing of the team's FW34 F1 championship car as well as attending a number of races.

If Susie is as quick in a car as she looks good out of a car then she will be a massive asset to any team
Bernie Ecclestone

Her role was approved by the Williams board, of which Wolff's husband, Toto, is a member. He sat out the selection process.

Susie, who lives in Switzerland, is no stranger to the driver's seat.

She first began karting as a child before moving into single-seaters in 2001 with a drive in the Formula Renault series. She was twice nominated for the prestigious Young Driver of the Year Award and enjoyed a spell in the British Formula Three championship before joining Germany's DTM touring car series in 2006.

Wolff has been in a Formula One cockpit before, having received a test drive courtesy of the team formerly known as Lotus Renault F1 at Paul Ricard in August last year, where she achieved 300 kilometers of track time.

De Villota, daughter of former British Formula One Series Champion Emilio de Villota, also has experience racing at the Spanish F3, the Daytona 24 Hours, the Euroseries 3000 and Superleague Formula Championship.

Of the five women to join F1 before Wolff and De Villota, only two have ever qualified to start a race. The most prolific of these was Italian Lella Lombardi, who started 12 grands prix in the 1970s.

Lombardi made history while driving with March at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, becoming the only woman to register a point-scoring finish in a grand prix.

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