Susie Wolff has questioned just why she has been such a focus for the media across the course of this weekend given that she is simply doing something very routine and normal in F1.
Wolff deputized for Valtteri Bottas at Williams during FP1, just as Giedo van der Garde, Robin Frijns and Daniel Juncadella did at their respective teams. However, the fact that Wolff today became the first woman in 22 years to take part in an official F1 session has attracted a lot of attention.
That said, many of the other drivers on the grid were not so bothered by it, and Wolff was pleased by this.
“I think it’s a good thing because, you know, I think we all arrived here and everybody was like why is everyone making a fuss about you driving?” she explained to the media on Friday at Silverstone. “Felipe Nasr’s driven and nobody made a fuss, and we all were quite surprised by the big commotion around it, and I think we could see that as a positive.
“For Felipe and Valtteri, it was like ‘we’re just driving, what’s the big deal?’. So I think for the other drivers not to have a big issue with it can also be something positive because they don’t see it as being something that unusual really.”
Wolff also explained how she does not feel that she has been held back despite being a woman in a predominantly male sport, and has earned her place at Williams on merit.
“No, I think initially, even when I joined the Mercedes team for DTM, of course you have to come in and have to earn your respect, but every young driver has to do that,” she said. “I think as long as you keep your head down, work hard and prove your worth, you’re accepted.
“And as soon as you’re accepted, it never comes into question any more, and I have a very good relationship with Felipe and Valtteri, and everyone within the team, and I never feel like I’m treated differently than Felipe and Valtteri are.”
Sadly, Wolff’s session did not go to plan. She completed just four installation laps before an engine failure forced her to park up the FW36 car at the side of the track. Her next chance to drive the FW36 will come during practice for the German Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.
Many had questioned Wolff’s suitability for the reserve role given her underwhelming form in DTM. Therefore, she will have to prove herself once again at Hockenheim, although she has already answered many of her critics at the last in-season test in Spain two months ago.
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”