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.