F1 Spotlight - Susie Wolff
This week, we take a look at the other famous Wolff in the world of F1.
Suzanne Stoddart was born on the 6th December 1982 in Oban, Scotland. Her parents, John and Sally, owned a motorcycle dealership there with John racing bikes competitively. With racing in her DNA, she began karting from a young age and in 1996, she was named the British Woman Kart Racing Driver of the year. She won the 24hr Middle East Kart Championship and Scottish Junior Intercontinental "A" title in 1997 and she was named British Woman Kart racing driver of the year four years in a row before being awarded the title of top female Kart driver in the world in 2000 - when she was just 18 years old.
In 2001, Susie moved onto the Formula Renault Series. Her first experience was in the 2001 Formula Renault Winter Series, in which she raced for the Motaworld Racing team. In 2002, Susie made her debut in the full Formula Renault UK Championship for DFR Racing, again competing for Motaworld in the Formula Renault Winter Series. She finished 18th overall with 45 points. In 2003, she made her way up to 9th place by the end of the season and achieved a podium finish in the process when she finished in third place at Snetterton. Other notable drivers competing against her that year were Paul di Resta (who finished in 7th place) and Lewis Hamilton - who won the Championship. She achieved recognition for her efforts this year as she was selected as one of the finalists in the prestigious BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award and was selected as the BRDC Rising Star of the Year.
Susie switched to Comtec Racing in 2004 for her third full season in the series, finishing 5th overall with 284 points to her name. Three more podium finishes came her way that year as she finished second twice - once at Brands Hatch and once at Thruxton Motorsport Centre - and third at Brands Hatch.
In 2005, Susie graduated into the British Formula 3 Championship where she drove for the Alan Docking Racing team. She was sadly only able to compete for the first two rounds at Donington however due to sustaining a serious ankle injury.
2006 saw Susie move into DTM racing in Germany, driving a 2004-spec Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe for the Mücke Motorsport team with Stefan Mücke and Daniel la Rosa as her teammates. In her debut season, she finished 17th overall with a best finishing position of 9th in Hockenheim. Mücke was replaced by Mathias Lauda (son of Niki) for 2007 and Susie had a tough year with a best finishing position 10th in Mugello. The following year, she joined Persson Motorsport, where she drove alongside Mathias Lauda and Gary Paffett, finishing the season down in 18th place. 2009 was another non-point scoring year for Susie but in 2010, two 7th place finishes in Lausitz and Hockenheim gave her 4 Championship points, putting her ahead of the likes of Ralph Schumacher and David Coulthard by the end of the season. Susie's penultimate year in DTM came in 2011 but she sadly didn't score any points that year. However, in October 2011, Susie did marry a certain Toto Wolff and took his name.
2012 saw the Williams Formula 1 Team announce that she would become their development driver. She also competed for one final season in DTM - still driving for Persson Motorsport - but it was a season to forget as she ended the season at the bottom of the Championship. Williams F1 retained her as their development driver again for 2013, which she then put all of her effort into. On 8 October 2013, Susie was awarded an Honorary Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh "in recognition of her role as an ambassador for women in sport"
This hard work paid off as in 2014, Williams promoted her to become their test driver. At the British Grand Prix, Wolff became the first woman to participate in a Formula One weekend since 1992, when Giovanna Amati made three unsuccessful Grand Prix qualification attempts. However her time on the track was cut short after an engine problem occurred after completing just one timed lap. Luckily, she got another opportunity to drive in a Formula 1 practice session, this time at the German Grand Prix, later the same year. Wolff managed to put in a solid performance, finishing the session in 15th place out of 22 cars with a time of 01:20.769 - just two-tenths of a second behind her teammate of Felipe Massa in 11th place with a time of 01:20.542.
In November 2014, Williams announced that they would be keeping Susie as their test driver for the 2015 season - with her position expanded to include two runs in Friday practice and two tests. At the Spanish Grand Prix, she finished the first practice session in 14th place. She then managed to post a time of 1:37.242 in the free practice session at the British Grand Prix. This put her in 13th place overall out of the 20 cars on the grid.
On 4th November 2015, Wolff announced on the BBC that she would be retiring from Formula One, citing that she had always said that she would go when she felt that she could go no further and that she felt that she had gone as far as she could go, but expressed intentions to help other women in motor racing. However, Susie would compete in the 2015 Race of Champions at the end of November that year along with former F1 driver David Coulthard before retiring from all forms of motorsport.
Part of her plan to help other women into motor racing was to be when she launched "Dare To Be Different", a call to action aimed squarely at driving female talent by inspiring the next generation and increasing female participation in all levels and aspects of motorsport.
In 2016, Susie joined Channel 4 to become an analyst for their F1 Coverage. Later that year, she announced that she was pregnant and on the 10th April 2017, she gave birth to a boy. Also in 2017, Susie was honoured as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on the 2017 New Year Honours list for services to Women in Sport. Not a bad year.
Then, on 26th June 2018, Susie was appointed as Team Principal and a shareholder of VENTURI Formula E Team. Felipe Massa and Edoardo Mortara racing for the team last season. Massa will be replaced by Norman Nato for next season as Massa retired at the end of the 2019 season. The team finished the year in eighth place and then tenth by the end of this year.
Susie has also played a part in the FIA's "Girls on Track" initiative where the F.IA., together with nine partners, have implemented in 2018 and 2019 a competition model for the promotion and development of young women in motor sport at a grassroots level. Other ambassadors include Michèle Mouton, Tatiana Calderon and Leena Gade.
There have been a lot of ups and down in Susie's racing career - and I'm sure I'm not the only one who would have liked to see her get to spend some more time in Formula 1 and not just as a test driver. That being said, her outings in the various practice sessions in Formula 1 over 2014 and 2015 showed other women who were looking at getting into motorsport that it is possible to do so. As a Mercedes ambassador, she can also continue to promote the idea of encouraging young women into motorsport and create more opportunities for them to make their first steps into the world of racing. Susie is proof that women can make it into Formula 1 and that sends out a powerful message.
What do you think of Susie Wolff? Let me know in the comments below.