Susie Wolff retires from motorsport, saying F1 seat ‘didn’t look achievable’ | Top Gear
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Formula One

Susie Wolff retires from motorsport, saying F1 seat ‘didn’t look achievable’

Williams test driver to leave sport after London’s Race of Champions

Published: 04 Nov 2015

After four years as a back-up driver for the Williams F1 team, former German Touring Car pilot Susie Wolff has announced her intention to retire from motorsport at the end of the season.

The Race of Champions – where the Scot will compete in London later this month alongside the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Tom Kristensen – will be Wolff’s final competitive appearance behind the wheel.

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"My goal was to get on to the [F1] starting grid and that didn't look achievable. So I had to call it a day,” said the 32-year-old. "I always said that as soon as I couldn't get any further I would stop, and that time has come."

Wolff – one of few women to make headway of any sort in the male-dominated world of Formula One – took part in four practice sessions during her time as Williams’ development driver after joining the team in 2012.

Her best performance came in Hockenheim last year, where her best time was 0.227 seconds shy of 11-time GP winner Felipe Massa in the other Williams.

Wolff has overcome plenty of obstacles during her career – including the ignominy of adopting a pink livery while racing in DTM at the request of a sponsor – and feasibly could have featured in the Australian Grand Prix in March, after Valtteri Bottas sustained an injury in qualifying.

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But the Grove outfit decided against drafting in a replacement for the race, with deputy team principle Claire Williams saying: "Susie Wolff is our test driver not our reserve driver.”

Adrian Sutil was signed as Williams’ full-time reserve driver less than a fortnight later.

Wolff has now said this rejection wasn’t the “pivotal moment” in her decision to quit motorsport, but conceded that “it was the harsh reality that the dream wasn't going to come true."

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Wolff’s detractors point to the fact that she has never won a race as a professional, with four podiums in the Formula Renault series remaining the best results of her career to date.

Her F1 potential was famously questioned - in decidedly unenlightened fashion - by Sir Stirling Moss in 2013, when the then 83-year-old said: "The mental stress I think would be pretty difficult for a lady to deal with in a practical fashion. I just don't think they have aptitude to win a Formula One race."

Wolff responded by saying that while she had “respect” for the F1 legend, she disagreed “completely” with his comments. “It makes me cringe hearing that," she said at the time. She was not alone.

Now the Oban-born driver is contemplating a role with the Motor Sports Association, where she hopes to front a new initiative aimed at inspiring a new generation of female racers.

"We have two issues,” says Wolff. “Not enough young girls starting in karting at a young age, and no clear role model. Sometimes you just have to see it to believe it."

Writing in the Huffington Post today, Wolff said that Formula One became “the dream” at 13 after taking up karting at the age of eight.

“I got oh so close. 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.

“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.”

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