Williams Racing test driver Susie Wolff has announced she will retire from competitive motorsport at the end of the year.
The former DTM racer and now-wife of Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Executive Director Toto Wolff (pictured above) joined the Williams team in 2012 as a development driver where she conducted extensive simulator work and had a number of on-track test outings in support of its Formula 1 programme.
She became the first woman since Giovanna Amati in 1992 to officially participate behind the wheel at a Grand Prix when she took part in Friday practice at the British and German Grands Prix in 2014.
Promoted to the role of the team’s test driver in 2015, she had further pre-season test outings as well as two further Friday practice sessions.
Wolff has long held ambitions to claim a Formula 1 race seat. She has been a staunch advocate for the advancement of women in motorsport, as well as a fierce critic of those who argue that the series remains one in which women exist on the fringe.
“I wanted and fought very hard to make it onto that starting grid but the events at the start of this year and the current environment in F1 the way it is, it isn’t going to happen. My gut feeling tells me it is time to move on,” she wrote in an article published in the Huffington Post, which you can read in full here.
“Do I think F1 is ready for a competitive female racing driver that can perform at the highest level? Yes. Do I think it is achievable as a woman? Most definitely. Do I think it will happen soon? Sadly no. We have two issues: not enough young girls starting in karting at a young age and no clear role model.”
It is widely reported that Wolff felt snubbed by the team when it opted to hire Adrian Sutil as the team’s reserve driver in the lead-up to the Malaysian Grand Prix, which came shortly after Valtteri Bottas was sidelined from starting the season-opening Australian Grand Prix with a back injury.
While Sutil never drove – and still hasn’t driven – the team’s FW37, the appointment certainly suggested that she was never going to get a look-in for a race seat if the opportunity ever presented itself.
“My gut feeling tells me it is time to move on,” she continued. “Time to explore new challenges and push myself in new environments. As a sportsperson it is always difficult to know when to stop but for me, this journey has come to an end.
“Looking back there are key moments that will always stand out … but I will always thank my lucky stars for my big break with Mercedes Benz in the German Touring Car Championship.
“I seized the opportunity and took on the challenge. It led to not only seven great years, but even more important, it led me to meeting a man [Toto Wolff] who believed in my dreams, who pushed me to be the best I could be and who continues to inspire me each day. A man I am now lucky to call my husband.
“My progression into Formula 1 came to represent so much more than a racing driver simply trying to reach the pinnacle of the sport. It was also the hope that finally there may again be a female on the starting grid. I rode the wave, was energized by all the support and fought hard. There were those who wanted it to happen. Those who didn’t.”
“These issues I want to address. I want to give something back and help the next generation. Together with the MSA (Motor Sports Association) we will launch a new initiative aimed at celebrating the woman succeeding in motorsport on and off the track now plus highlighting to the next generation that motorsport is an option for them.
“I dared to be different, I want to inspire others to do the same.”
Wolff’s final competitive outing will come at the 2015 Race of Champions, which will be held later this month in London.
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