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Motorsport | Formula 1

Susie Wolff © Gallo Images

Wolff makes full F1 test debut



Trying to become the first female on the Formula One grid in almost 40 years, Susie Wolff made her full test debut on Friday.

The 30-year-old Briton, a development driver at Williams, took part in the third day of testing at Silverstone.

The in-season test is usually restricted to inexperienced drivers, but F1 regulars also took part to try out new tires after concerns about burst tires at the British Grand Prix earlier this month.

Wolff was watched by husband, Toto, the motorsport director at Mercedes, which was banned from the session after being reprimanded for holding unsanctioned testing in May. He said he was anxious watching his wife complete laps of the central England circuit, but was restricted by his team from speaking further.

Not since Italian driver Lella Lombardi in 1976 has a woman raced in F1. Giovanna Amati was given an opportunity by the Brabham team in 1992, but squandered three chances to qualify.

"Of course, it has been a long time since there has been a successful female in Formula One but I think that has more to do with the fact that there are not more girls racing so that the best can rise to the top," Wolff said at Silverstone before Friday's session. "I would love to see women being successful in Formula One."

Wolff completed 89 laps in front of over 7 000 fans in the Silverstone sunshine, with the fastest clocked at 1 minute, 35.093 seconds. F1 championship leader Sebastian Vettel was fatest, with a lap of 1:32.894.

"She was pretty good, she was pretty quick," Ferrari driver Felipe Massa said. "I think it's fantastic to see a lady driving in Formula One.

"I was very happy when I saw the lap times, I was pretty happy for her. It will be nice maybe for a team to push Susie's driving ... and getting into Formula One will be very interesting for everybody."

And show that F1 isn't just a male preserve.

"Some people have said it is not possible but she has gone and proved that it is possible," Marussia driver Max Chilton said. "I really hope she can succeed in it and we can have other women drivers. It is not just a male sport."

And when you're racing, it's a level playing field.

"On track nothing would change," said Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso. "They all look the same with a helmet on."

Wolff started racing at the age of 8 after her parents bought her and her brother karts.

Her early success led her to Formula Renault, the British F3 Racing Series and then, in 2006, she joined Mercedes-Benz as one of its drivers for the German Touring Car Championship. Her high point in DTM came in 2010 when she became the first woman in 20 years to finish twice in the points and ahead of colleagues and former F1 drivers Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard.

Then she focused on breaking into F1.

Women already have key roles at management levels in motor sport's premier series. Monisha Kaltenborn is Sauber team principal, and the deputy team principal at Wolff's team is Claire Williams.

"I think we have many women off-track being very successful ... it is only a matter of time until on-track there will also be some success," Wolff said.

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