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Development driver Susie Wolff pushes Williams for proper F1 test

Williams Formula One drivers Pastor Maldonado (L) of Venezuela, Valtteri Bottas (R) of Finland and test-driver Susie Wolff of Britain visit
Williams Formula One drivers Pastor Maldonado (L) of Venezuela, Valtteri Bottas (R) of Finland and test-driver Susie Wolff of Britain visit

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Development driver Susie Wolff is pushing Williams to give her a proper test in July and keep alive her distant dream of one day racing alongside the men in Formula One.

"For me the next logical step is to do the young drivers test, and do it well, and then see what the next step is after that," the 30-year-old Scot told Reuters at a sponsor event on Thursday.

"I think there's quite a big movement just now, people want to see a woman in Formula One, the momentum is definitely there," added the wife of Williams shareholder and Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff.

An official young driver test has yet to be confirmed but is expected to be scheduled for Silverstone in July, before the Hungarian Grand Prix and the European summer break.

Wolff, who also competed under her maiden name of Stoddart in junior series and the German Touring Car championship (DTM), lacks a super-license to race in Formula One but a full test would help.

It might also win over some of those who want to see a woman compete but are adamant that any selection must be purely on talent rather than any token presence - and doubt whether she has the speed.

"There's many people who think it's going to be embarrassing for me to drive on a young driver day because I'm going to be so far off the pace," she said. "For me, it's incredible to hear such comments.

"I wouldn't be doing aero tests if I hadn't shown some kind of capability. People forget we've been racing at a high level for a long time. Its not like you are just plucked from obscurity and told 'drive the F1 car'."

To get the mandatory license, which costs a basic 10,000 euros ($13,200), a driver has to have done 300km of running in a Formula One car as well as meeting certain performance criteria.

"In theory, I've got enough kilometers in the car to apply for the super-license but there's absolutely no point in doing that until I'm in a position where I can do something with it," said Wolff.

"They (Williams) haven't said anything but for me it has to happen," she added of the test. "If it doesn't happen, then I'm wasting my time. It's all for nothing. It's got to happen.

"I am the development driver, so it cannot be that a young driver test comes and you don't put your development driver in. But you never know, so let's see."

Williams do not currently have a designated reserve driver to step in should Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado or Finland's Valtteri Bottas be unavailable.

ECCLESTONE SUPPORTIVE

Formula One has not had a female driver for decades, with Italian Giovanna Amati the last to try and get on the grid when she failed to qualify in 1992.

The only woman to appear on the scoresheet was Italian Leila Lombardi who finished sixth in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix and was awarded a half point.

Wolff, who competed in the DTM for seven seasons but scored only four points in total, has never done a Formula One start or a pitstop and her role at Williams is mainly straight-line aero testing and simulator work.

That could change, and she is nothing if not persistent.

"People are really pushing now and asking why isn't there a woman in Formula One. For me the timing is good but motorsport is a lot about talent and a little bit about timing and luck," she said.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone was supportive, she said, even if publicly he has stated that he does not see any woman driver on F1's horizon because there was nobody good enough at present.

Stirling Moss, generally recognized as the best driver never to win the world championship, also declared recently that women lacked the "mental aptitude" to compete in Formula One even if they had the strength and stamina.

Wolff said that was "a load of rubbish", even if she understood why the 83-year-old might have said it.

"Sir Stirling is a very nice man and his wife is also very nice. The issue there was the generation...in his day there were many fatalities and I think for him it was this image of women not putting their lives at risk," she said.

"I think for them as the older generation, it just doesn't click in their heads that women should be driving racing cars.

"It's a change that has to happen in people's heads...Bernie says many things in the press but behind closed doors he's doing a hell of a lot to help me come into Formula One because he knows from a business perspective it has to happen."

Away from Formula One, women drivers are making considerable inroads into motorsport with Danica Patrick a race winner in IndyCar and on pole for NASCAR'S Daytona 500 this year.

($1 = 0.7580 euros)

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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