Paving the way forward: Susie Wolff

In the latest blog post in this inspirational series, we look at the career of former-DTM racer and ex-F1 driver Susie Wolff.

Susie Wolff is a former racing driver who made history in 2014 when she became the first woman to compete in a Formula 1 race weekend since 1992.

Now, she’s retired her racing boots but is currently the driving force behind Venturi Racing Formula E team as the team boss in the ground-breaking all-electric series.

Before gracing some of motorsport’s most elite racing series, Susie began to learn her race craft in karting. Her first true taste of success came in 1997 when she won the 24hr Middle East Kart Championship and the Scottish Junior Intercontinental A title.

By 2000, Susie had a stellar karting CV to her name. In her final year of karts, the Scottish-driver finished 15th overall in the Formula “A” World Championships and was named the Top Female Kart Driver in the world.

“If a little girl is interested in racing, and she switches on the TV and watches racing, she won’t see any role models. So why she should believe that she can do it when she doesn’t see anyone else like her doing it?”

Susie Wolff

Her step up to single-seaters came in 2001, in the shape of the Formula Renault Winter Series. During the following year, she tackled the Formula Renault UK Championship head-on. Learning what life was like at the wheel of a racing car, Susie’s first podium in the series came in 2003.

In 2004, Susie visited the rostrum a further three times, finishing the year fifth in the overall championship. Next on her career path was a brief outing in British Formula 3, before making the huge leap to the world-renowned Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters in 2006.

Susie raced in DTM for six seasons, earning her best season in 2010 when she finished 13th overall whilst competitng against the likes of David Coulthard and Gary Paffett.

In 2012, Susie turned heads when she was announced as the development driver for Williams Racing. Impressing the prestigious Formula 1 team, Susie kept her role throughout 2013. The following year saw her commitments grow, with Susie being named as the official test driver for the team.

Working closely with the engineers, team personnel and drivers, Susie made history at the 2014 British Grand Prix when she became the first woman to participate in an F1 race weekend since 1992. For over two decades F1 hadn’t seen a female at the wheel at a grand prix. Wolff, however, changed this on home soil.

Despite the promise, Wolff’s free practice session came to a bitter end when the engine blew. However, she was given another shot at the next round in Germany where she impressed.

The Briton was 15th, just 0.227 seconds slower than team-mate Felipe Massa, an 11-time grand prix winner.

BBC Sport

In 2015, Susie got to drive at two more GP weekends, with the second outing being at the British event at Silverstone. This time, her engine held out and she was able to complete the FP1 session as 13th fastest.

At the end of that year, Susie announced that she would be retiring from racing. However, with motorsport a way of life for her, Wolff decided to give something back to the racing community. This was when Dare To Be Different was founded – a platform that aims to inspire and connect women in motorsport.

Alongside her commitments to D2BD, Susie was a frequent member on the Channel 4 F1 coverage line-up – presenting sports content to fans all over the UK.

Recently, Susie has been raising her young son – Jack – as well as holding the role of team principal at Monaco-based Venturi Racing. Despite no longer racing, Susie remains a very prominent figure in motorsport.

From driving in DTM to gracing the most elite level of motorsport in the world, Susie Wolff has made a huge impact on the future of women in sport. And, with her foundations set in Formula E, she is going to continue to pave the way forward for the generations to come.

Rembering Maria Teresa de Filippis – the first woman driver to enter an F1 world championship

Following on from the excitement of W Series, this new blog will focus on the stars of the motorsport world throughout the years. It will show their achievements and the pioneering contributions they made to the sport while sharing their passions and success. 

Maria Teresa de Filippis is remembered as the first women to have entered a Formula 1 World Championship grand prix, but she had a successful career in many different strands of motorsport. 

Maria Teresa was born on the 11th November 1926 in Naples, Italy. As a teenager, she was a keen horse racer and tennis player before beginning her racing career aged 22. She began racing after her brothers bet that she wouldn’t be fast enough and went on to win her first event driving a Fiat 500 on a 10km route between Salerno and Cava de Tierreni. For the remainder of the 1940s, Maria Teresa forged a career in hill climbing and endurance racing. 

Before her debut in Formula 1, Maria Teresa competed in and finished second in the 1954 Italian Sports Car Championship. She made her first F1 outing in the non-championship Gran Premio di Siracusa, where she finished fifth. 

Maria Teresa’s first World Championship race would come at the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, driving the Maserati 250F and, ending with a 10th place finish. She took part in two more World Championship races in 1958 at Oporto, Portugal and Monza. However she would fail to finish both of these races due to reliability issues. In Monza, she was running in fifth place fourteen laps from the end when her engine cut out. If the Maserati’s engine had made it the end of the race, she would have been remembered as the first women to score points as well as the first to drive in a championship race.

Despite her success in these races, she was unable to take part in the season’s French Grand Prix. In a 2006 interview she shared that the race director had not allowed her to take part, stating “the only helmet a woman should wear is one at the hairdressers”.

Maria Teresa failed to qualify for the 1958 and 1959 Monaco Grand Prix. She called it a day on her racing career in 1959 after the untimely death of her team principal Jean Behra. Maria Teresa got married and started a family after leaving the sport, she did however return in 1979. 

In 1979, she became a member of the Club International des Anciens Pilotes de Grand Prix F1 for Retired Drivers (now called the Formula 1 Grand Prix Drivers Club). She became the club’s secretary-general before advancing to vice-president and then honorary president. Maria Teresa was a founding member of the Maserati Club in 2004 and went on to become its chairperson. She was also an honorary member of the BRDC. 

Maria Teresa de Filippis died in January 2016, aged 89. She was, indeed, a pioneer in our sport and her achievements should always be remembered. Her involvement in five World Championship events and her three World Championship race starts, despite the difficulties she faced, truly helped to pave the way for the acceptance of women in motorsport. 

The W Series: More than just a new motorsport formula

Since the W Series was launched, mixed opinions have been floating about. Some said it was a sad day for motorsport, whilst others jumped at the chance of getting to go racing again. But, to put it quite simply, the W Series has been much, much more than just a new motorsport formula.

This is a different post to our usual style – this isn’t an interview – instead, it’s saying thank you to all of the boys and girls at the W Series who have given drivers, fans and an even further reach of people a chance to smile, succeed, create memories, and try something new.

Matt Bishop, head of communication for the series, invited me – Helena – down to the season finale at Brands Hatch, Kent. I gladly accepted the invite and it was a day were endless fond moments were formed and I shall cherish them for a long time to come.

At the beginning, it was easy to dismiss the idea of a female-only series. Why on earth would it be needed? Can’t they just compete in the series already available? Well, quite frankly, the answer to both of those points is yes. But, in order for women to be able to have the budget to go racing in the first place, a foundation and a platform such as the W Series was needed. Of course, an academy could’ve been set up where girls were supported from karting to the higher formulas and there’s been numerous other alternative ideas. But, essentially, a movement was founded which has given 20 formidable ladies the opportunity to do what they love – compete on a world stage.

The 2019 field for the W Series consisted of a plumber, a baker, university students and those who had very nearly given up on achieving their dreams. Those ladies had always been talented, just they’d never been able to showcase their immense ability due to lack of funding. Alice Powell is a prime example and, after winning the season finale, she will be racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Not only is it richly deserved, but without the W Series, she wouldn’t be heading to America to compete on an international level.

There was a standout moment for me on Sunday and that was before the race. I’d spoken to many of the women throughout the day and I’ve been following their journeys throughout the year – some I’ve been following for a lot longer. 20 women were in front of a huge crowd that had gathered and they were about to go racing…for free. They were there on merit and talent and they had girls and boys and every age under the sun cheering them on. It was a moment of unity and that was why the W Series was created.

It’s been clever in every single aspect – from marketing and PR to sponsorship and its funding. Everyone has been talking about it – whether you agree with the ideas or not, it has been discussed. This is just a part of the reason why it’s such an immensely powerful tool. And then you have the racers who are some of the kindest people you could ever meet. All their lives they’ve just wanted to race. Some have been away and had children, others had returned to full time work with racing just a dream. The W Series allowed their hopes to become a reality while getting millions of outsiders involved.

It’s impossible to deny that the W Series has been an unprecedented success. Households round the globe have been talking about a group of women racing. It’s been on the television, in magazines, and talked about on every media form imaginable. While it’s been an omnipotent marketing tool, the fundamental element of the W Series has remained apparent – it’s created fair and equal opportunities. Now, at the end of the inaugural season, we have a well-deserved champion in the form of Jamie Chadwick. In addition, we have another 19 women which have all displayed skill, nerve and a raw ability to compete.

It’s been an amazing journey and I for one can’t wait to do it all over again. But, for now, we have 20 women who have bright futures ahead of them and I’m extremely excited to see their careers evolve.

On a more personal note it’s given me my mojo back. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry means you have to have tough skin. Yet, the W Series came along and there was this rush of excitement. There was something new, unique and I wanted to be a part of it. So, I am incredilby thankful for the opportunties it’s given me. I have a spark that’s been ignited because I’ve watched 20 women fight for their dreams and I’ve met friends for life!

Sarah Moore: “To be on the grid is an amazing achievement for myself”

“I can’t wait to get back out in the car,” Sarah Moore tells Females in Motorsport. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

And, Sarah has great reason to be excited.

This weekend, the 25-year-old is heading to Hockenheim to compete in the inaugural round of the all-female W Series. She describes it as the “biggest opportunity in her career to date” and hopes that it’ll take her to the “next level of professional racing”.

Sarah grew up with racing being engraved in her everyday life with her three brothers and sister all involved in motorsport. Naturally, Sarah took to racing at an early age by starting out racing karts. She says herself that racing feels normal to her as she was “born into it”.

“I’m lucky enough to have grown up within a racing family on an airfield with a karting Circuit and a race team,” she says. “So it was easy for me really, it’s all I knew growing up. It’s in my blood!”


Alice Powell and Sarah (Credit: W Series)

After karting, Sarah climbed the ranks to become the Ginetta Junior champion in 2009. This success was recognised in the industry, and she was named Autosport’s young driver of the year.

Fast-forward to the present day, and ahead of the W Series selection process, Sarah hadn’t set foot in a single-seater formula car since 2011.

“To get back in a formula car is so important for me to gain knowledge and further my driving skills to help achieve my goals and dreams,” she says. “I’d say the F3 cars we’re lucky enough to be racing is probably the best car I’ve driven to date. I’m just learning more and more about the car and improving my driving with every lap.”

The W Series drivers will all compete in identical Tatuus Formula 3 cars, to allow an equal playing field from the get go.

Over 100 women applied for the first season of the series, and now only 18 successful competitors remain. Sarah is one of five British drivers to have made it to the starting grid, something she sees as a representation of how strong the talent from the UK is.

“Just to be part of the 18 chosen to be on the grid is an amazing achievement for myself, but it also opened our eyes as to how much more work we need to be putting in,” she says. “For all five Brits to get through just goes to show how strong our drivers from the UK are on track. It’s definitely going to make for an interesting battle at some point!”

Sarah with her fellow W Series British drivers: Alice Powell, Esmee Hawkey, Jamie Chadwick and Jessica Hawkins (Credit LAT Images/W Series)

With the weekend fast approaching, Sarah is targeting a top eight finish in the series’ first outing.

Supporting the DTM calendar, the W Series will also be broadcast live on Channel 4 throughout its racing year. Viewers will also be able to catch the action on demand.

“My main focus going into the first race weekend is to finish inside the top eight, but as with all drivers our ultimate aim is to win so I will always be giving it my all,” she says. “A win at this level would definitely be the highlight of my career, but as always it’s all about consistency.”

In terms of her main competition, Sarah is adamant that there isn’t one particular person at this stage.

“All the drivers on the grid are there for a reason, they are all fantastic drivers and I think it’s going to be some really good, close racing,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the lights out on the first race!”

And, thankfully, Sarah won’t have to wait much longer. The first qualifying of the W Series season will get underway on Sunday at 10:55 (BTS).

W Series action to be shown live on Channel 4

The W Series has announced that all six of their inaugural championship races will be shown live on Channel 4, promoting women in motorsport.

The series will be shown on the free-to-air channel in high-definition, marking a landmark partnership between the ground-breaking racing championship and one of the leading broadcasters in the UK.

The women-only series recently confirmed its 18 drivers, including five British contenders for the 2019 campaign.

Now, audiences in the U.K. will be able to watch the action lap by lap, as the drive for equality in motorsport continues.

Race build-up, interviews and qualifying will all be available to watch live and on-demand, as well as full coverage of the race itself.

“We’re thrilled to be bringing live coverage of W Series to terrestrial audiences,” said Joe Blake-Turner, Channel 4’s commissioning editor of sport.

“Women have been under-represented in motorsport for far too long and who knows, this exciting format could be the first step towards producing a female Formula 1 champion in the not-too-distant future.”

W Series CEO Catherine Bond Muir added: “This is a historic moment for us. The U.K., with its incredible love of motorsport, is a cornerstone market for W Series, and what better way to engage and entertain than with live coverage of our all-female single-seater racing?

“Channel 4 is the ideal broadcast partner and we’re delighted to be working with them as we introduce the world to this exciting new concept.”

The first round of the season will take place at Hockenheim, Germany next weekend.

News of the W Series’ international coverage will be announced soon.

Charlie Martin: “We should be free to do the sport we love, be who we want to be, and be who we want to be with”

“I’m a big believer in the power of dreams,” says Charlie Martin. “If you don’t have dreams or things like that, then you’re never going to get there. You have to aim high and dream big.”

Charlie is a remarkable racer aiming for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Faced with ups and downs throughout her career, this is the story of how she is fighting for equality in motorsport.

Charlie has been a familiar face in motorsport paddocks for a number of years now. She started out in hillclimb where going to the events was just a hobby. But then Charlie decided to become the person she was always destined to be, and transitioned.

Charlie-Martin-LMP3-Test-53.jpg
via gocharlie.co.uk

For a while, she considered giving up motorsport for good, crippled with the fear of the unknown. How would people react? What would people say?

Thankfully, Charlie found the strength to continue on her motorsport journey and, now, she’s a role model for many facing some kind of adversity in their life as well as being no stranger to scoring points and a podium in this year’s Ginetta GT5 Challenge.

“When I was growing up and getting into motorsport, I really loved the whole romantic idea of Le Mans,” Charlie says. “It’s the original one, and the most special out of all of the races. I went several times in the early 2000s and it etched itself in my memory. It’s a motorsport spectacle for me and the idea of racing there one day is incredible.”

The idea of racing at Le Mans itself was just an abstract idea, but now Charlie has raced there – on the Bugatti Circuit – coming third in her first ever endurance race. The goal is the 24 hour race and it’s beginning to feel like a possibility.

“Each time you go back you feel further towards the idea of going and competing there one day,” she says. “You do reach points where you think ‘wow, I never thought that I was going to do that’. So then you have to set new goals and look for what’s next. While I’m still a long way off, the dream feels like it’s more than just that now.”

After completing a graphic design degree at university, Charlie’s lifestyle changed. Each day was about living a healthy and balanced approach. The gym became a frequent place to hang out instead of spending nights at the pub. Now, everything she does “leads into the time that you spend into the car”.

Charlie-Martin-Pride6
via gocharlie.co.uk

While motorsport is a key positive in her life now, it was a daunting place when she began her transition in 2012.

“I nearly gave up motorsport all together to transition,” she says. “It feels crazy to me now, given how important motorsport is to me. But that’s how I felt back then. I’m a hell of a lot more confident now.”

After her transition, the first paddock she went to was in hillclimbing.

“I was absolutely terrified,” Charlie admits. “ I couldn’t look at anyone. It’s an older kind of age group and it was my perception that younger people would perhaps be more in-tune with the idea of being trans. Rightly or wrongly, that’s what I thought.”

Now, Charlie is leading the way in promoting equality for the LGBTQ community. Earlier this year she provided stickers for racers to wear on their cars to showcase Pride.

“I found that nobody was never unkind to my face,” she says. “All stigmas went away and people were really friendly. I came out to everyone in France on Facebook – nobody knew then and everyone was lovely. I was worried that people would look at me different.

“This year doing it in England was different again, trying to judge people’s reactions in the circuit racing paddocks. I was scared. Naomi, my PR, has been brilliant – I really value her judgement. We were talking about what we were going to do – I felt like it was going to go wrong, but I just didn’t know. I didn’t know if I’d get trolling.”

Charlie-Martin
Via gocharlie.co.uk

While Charlie’s experience has been largely positive, she still feels that there’s always more that can be done.

Danny Watts – an ex racing driver who has competed in 24 Hours of Le Mans – came out as gay last year. Charlie supports Danny’s decision to come out to the public, as it could help support someone else.

“People said it shouldn’t be a story,” Charlie says. “ We shouldn’t have to have a thing about this – but yes, we do. It’s an environment now where they feel like they can come out, and people need to see that in order to know that they aren’t going to be laughed at or abused online.”

Charlie knows that her brave move to come out as transgender was, and still is, important for the motorsport community and beyond.

“No matter your sport, we should be free to do the sport we love, be who we want to be, and be who we want to be with,” she says. “We shouldn’t be judged by that. The more people who are visible, the more people will feel less at risk to come forward and be who they are.”

Her own story has translated into more confidence when it comes to competing on the track and it’s made her “bold” in terms of what she’s set out to achieve.

“I’ve gained so much confidence after transitioning,” she says.” I never thought that transitioning would be possible for me. If I can do that, what else can I do? Maybe it’s just not being afraid of failing, but I’ve succeeded so far. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s not the end of the world.

Charlie-Martin-Richardson-Racing
Via Charlie’s Twitter

“Transition isn’t an easy ride. I’m lucky to have had the way things have gone. There’s a lot that needs to change in terms of society’s treatment of trans people. I’m in the position where I can play a part in that. It’s a small part, but it all helps.”

Her slogan “your mountain is waiting, so get on your way” is also another way of helping. Although she didn’t coin the phrase herself, it was on a piece of jewellery she purchased when she was a year into her transition. It resonated with her and grabbed her immediately.

“With hill climbing at the time and my situation, it was how I felt about life,” she says. “Everybody has their mountain and you just have to give it a go. You have to get out there and try and climb it.”

With that in mind, Charlie is continuing on her incredible journey to one day reach LMP3 after testing a Ligier JSP3 during summer.

Tatiana Calderon: “I’m there because I’m capable of doing the job”

Tatiana Calderon is breaking down gender barriers in motorsport, with the Colombian-born racer holding the test driver role for Alfa Romeo Racing Formula 1 team.

Recently, it was announced that she would drive in Formula 2 this season, becoming the first woman to line-up in the series’ history. Competing with BWT Arden, Tatiana takes the step up from GP3.

In addition, in October of last year she made history by becoming the first female Latin American driver to drive a Formula 1 car.

She had her first taste of F1 machinery with Sauber at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City in a promotional event. Two months later, she had another outing at Fiorano in a two-day test event.

“I’ve always dreamt of racing in F2 because it’s so competitive,” Tatiana says. “The races are sometimes even better than F1 because you never know who’s going to win.

“It took a while to get the budget together and to get the team in place. I’m really happy that I managed to secure a seat with BWT Arden, and I look forward to the start of the season.”

Credit: Twitter @TataCalde



During her time in GP3, Tatiana admits things didn’t always go her way and she has been open about the F2 car suiting her driving style more.

For 2019, the 26-year-old will partner the reigning GP3 champion – Antoine Hubert. He is someone that Tatiana is keen to learn from, despite having never been coupled with a driver who has “those credentials”.

“I like the extra power,” she says. “What we have is 300 more horsepower than in GP3 and we have carbon brakes. I like to push the engine a little bit more, and with the brakes I’m quite good. I really look forward to my first race to really be able to confirm if it suits me better.”

“There are many drivers who have been there for a while, so that makes it obviously more difficult,” she says. “There’s also a lot of people coming from GP3, so the level will be high.”

She knows that it won’t be an easy task ahead of her, but she’s ready for the challenge.

“The teams here are very professional so everything is going to be tighter,” she says. “With the pit stops and the strategy, it’s going to be a tough year. I’m expecting it to be challenging, but I can learn and benefit from it quite a lot.”

Ultimately, she sees F2 as a chance to continue progressing onto her goal “a seat in F1”.

She hopes that she’ll be “regularly scoring points” this year and sets that as an important objective in what she labels as her most important year to date.

“Every year you think so but this is a very important year with step up to F2 and keeping my relationship with Alfa Romeo racing – that really means a lot to me,” she says. “I hope that I can pull it together and show that I deserve to get more chances in the future.

“The team appointed me as the driver because they wanted me in that role.”

Credit: Tatiana Calderon

Tatiana also broke into Formula E towards the end of last year, testing with DS Techeetah in the post-Ad Diriyah E-Prix in-season test.

“There’s nothing similar to a Formula E car,” she says. “You don’t have that much downforce. The power is very instant because they’re electric cars and it’s a lot more complex than what I imagined. There’s a lot you have to do as a driver to be competitive in one of those cars.”

She recalls being surprised by how difficult the Formula E car was to drive, but she will not rule out the series of her career.

“My dream is to race in F1, but I think Formula E is very interesting,” she says. “They have great drivers, really good engineers, and it’s developing. It’s definitely something to look at for the future.”

Credit: DS TECHEETAH


Like any driver, she has received her fair share of criticism. Tatiana, however, insists that she is in her position because of her talent.

“If you are in F1, it’s not because of your gender but because of your performance,” she says. “Fred Vasseur trusts me and he’s giving me the opportunity because I’ve responded. I’m there because I’m capable of doing the job.”

She also admits that the W Series approached her and invited her to apply for a seat in the all-new women-only championship. Tatiana declined because her career is “going in a different way”.

“Throughout my whole career I’ve always competed against the boys and against the best,” she says. “I’ve never thought that I couldn’t beat them or that I couldn’t be at the highest level. It would’ve been a step back in my career.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to be showing girls and boys what you can achieve if you want something and if you find your passion.”


Header image credit: Tatiana Calderon