Veteran driver Massa was in his 12th full F1 season in 2014, driving for Williams, a period when Susie Wolff was the team’s test driver.

A pioneer for women in motorsport, Susie became the first female to drive in an F1 session since 1992 when, in 2014, she was behind the wheel during practice for the British Grand Prix.

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Her time was competitive, ranking 15th out of 22.

“She was within a few tenths of Felipe Massa,” her husband Toto Wolff, now the Mercedes team principal, said to the Financial Times.

But an opportunity to break down barriers in F1 never came for Susie.

“The final chance was denied,” Toto now says.

Williams “never dared to make that call”, he added.

Forty-six years have passed since a female, Lella Lombardi, competed in an F1 race.

Jamie Chadwick, the dominant force of the W Series, has not always seen opportunities forthcoming to advance.

Toto Wolff says it is “not realistic” to expect to see a combination of men and women driving in F1 within 10 years.

“I’m sure there are girls out there that can make it on merit,” he said.