In late January the Williams F1 Team confirmed that Susie Wolff would be continuing in her role as Development Driver for the team. The team said her role would be increased with more work in the team’s simulator “combined with a greater level of in-car testing”. Susie was the first to get behind the wheel of the FW35 when the car was shaken down at the Institut d’Investigació Aplicada a l’Automòbil (IDIADA) testing facility near Barcelona prior to the launch this morning.
The team has not named a Third Driver this year (at least not yet) and this is a little odd as the team has traditionally always had someone in reserve, just in case. There is little doubt also that having Wolff onboard is great for the team’s sponsors, who warm to the concept of having a lady racer as a spokesman for them. It remains to be seen whether or not Wolff could be competitive as a driver in F1, but the sport would love to see that happening. Although the powers that be always pretend that they do not pay attention to other championships they cannot fail to have noticed the impact that Danica Patrick has been having on NASCAR in recent times. For those who have not yet spotted the fact on Sunday Patrick became the first woman to take pole position for a NASCAR Cup race and she did it in style by opening her account with the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500. That was headline news across the nation and included appearances on “Good Morning America” and other such shows. The 500 is never short of spectators but Danica’s pole position is likely to give the event an appreciable boost in TV viewing figures, with an audience in excess of 30 million expected. It could even beat the highest ratings achieved for the race in modern times.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Patrick’s team boss, the three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart. “It’s not like it’s been 15 or 20 years she’s been trying to do this. It’s her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car. She’s made history in the sport. That’s stuff that we’re proud of being a part of with her. It’s something she should have a huge amount of pride in.”
Even her rivals agree.
“For me it’s not about the color of your skin or your gender, it’s about your abilities. You have to prove that,” four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, who qualified second, said. “I think Danica’s a talented race car driver. She proved that by getting herself into IndyCar, doing what she did in IndyCar. She has taken on quite a task to take on stock cars that are completely foreign to her. I kind of admire somebody that’s willing to take that leap — no different than the way I look at Sam Hornish, Juan Pablo Montoya, any of the guys that have been driving open-wheel cars most of their career and then get in a stock car. It’s completely different. But I love people that are willing to take chances and challenge themselves.”
“It’s a huge deal for our sport to have her on the front row for the Daytona 500,” said Kevin Harvick, a former 500 winner. “It definitely sets a new milestone for our sport. I think that’s pretty neat.”
There is no doubt that Danica is bringing more new fans to NASCAR and that has go to be good for the business.
Would that F1 can find someone like her…