Williams Martini Racing test driver Susie Wolff insists that she is not in a race to be the first modern era female driver to make it onto the F1 grid, despite the emergence of Simona de Silvestro at Sauber.
The Scot spent a day on track with the Grove team in Barcelona this week, taking the next step towards two Friday free practice appearances at the forthcoming British and German grands prix in July. de Silvestro, meanwhile, enjoyed two days at Fiorano with Sauber late last month, having ditched a burgeoning Indycar career for a shot at F1 with the Swiss squad. Wolff, however, insists that there is no competition to become the first to make it to a race seat – no matter how much the media make of it.
“I think Simona is doing a great job and I think it is great that she has a chance at Sauber but, for me, it's not a competition about who is first to get on the starting grid,” the former Mercedes DTM driver claimed, “Anyone who is making their way as a female driver in F1 is fantastic, and it's great for the rest who are trying [to make it] to see that there are more women here. But, for me, there's no competition against her. I'm very happy at Williams, very happy to get the chance [to test] and, with the two free practice sessions, I have my clear targets and my clear goals. I'm focused on myself rather than what other people are doing.
“I'm a racing driver and I want to be the best racing driver I can be, but the guys racing at this level are all very, very good. I think I'm able to measure myself against the best people out there and, of course, you try to be the best and beat as many of them as you can, but it's one test day and I haven't been in the car that much so I think it's more about focusing on where I can improve now and doing an even better job in the free practice sessions.”
Asked whether he programme in 2014 could lead to her joining the grid next season, Wolff admitted that it was tough for anyone to make the breakthrough into the top flight, and all she could do was keep doing a good job whenever the opportunity to drive presented itself.
“It's definitely too early to say,” she insisted, “I'm a very proud part of this team and I think I have a great opportunity this year – but I have to prove myself. [Barcelona] was good, but the free practice sessions [in Britain and Germany] are my next focus and I'm not thinking that far ahead [to 2015]. Of course, it's the dream of every driver to be on the starting grid, but it's a tough sport, it's tough to get onto that grid. There's many good drivers trying and I'm one of those drivers.
“My personal opinion is that [a female driver will race in F1]. The way the sport is going, the cars are less physical, but it is still tough to get into F1, whether you are a man or a woman. There are so many limited spaces here and it's so tough to get into a team, but I have the feeling that it will happen.”
The Barcelona outing was Wolff's first in a 2014-spec F1 car and, despite showing well, she admits that it will take a bit of getting used to.
“Without a doubt, I feel that I have a lot of hard work ahead of me to get ready for the free practice sessions because the car is very different to drive,” she reported, “I got some good laps in, but it wasn't like it was a lot of laps and time in the car certainly helps as the driving style is different in these cars … with so much torque from the engine [and] getting the tyres up to temperature for the first flying laps and generally just putting good laps together.
“It's very easy to be on the limit and have a small lock-up or have a small mistake or be too early on power, have some oversteer and then lose the rear tyres for the next two corners. So there was a lot to think about, a lot to learn and it was good to learn those things now.”