Williams hand development role to woman racer

Shanghai: Former Formula One champions Williams named Susie Wolff, the wife of team shareholder and director Toto, as their development driver on Wednesday in the second appointment of a woman racer this season.

Scottish-born Wolff, who races a Mercedes in the German touring car championship (DTM), competed previously under her maiden name of Stoddart.

Marussia, without a point after two years in the sport, announced last month that they had handed 32-year-old Spaniard Maria De Villota a test role.

Wolff has a far more impressive resume, however, and is now in her seventh season in the DTM.

Team principal Frank Williams said she would help the team with simulator work and would have a full track test in the coming months as well as attending some races.

"Formula One is the ultimate challenge for any racing driver and it offers me the chance both to apply and to improve the skills I have developed racing in DTM," said Wolff in a statement ahead of this weekend`s Chinese Grand Prix.

"I hope also to demonstrate that women can play a role at the highest levels of motorsport," she added.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who has long wanted a competitive female driver on the grid but has also jokingly compared women to domestic appliances in the past, said he was looking forward to having her in the sport.

His choice of words betrayed a degree of old-fashioned thinking, however.

"If Susie is as quick in a car as she looks good out of a car then she will be a massive asset to any team and on top of that she is very intelligent," he said.

Williams said Toto Wolff had not taken part in the decision to appoint his wife, given his position as a director.

Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado and Brazilian Bruno Senna are the team`s regular race drivers, with Finland`s Valtteri Bottas the reserve.

Formula One has had women drivers in the past, although none has scored a point since the championship started in 1950.

Italian Lella Lombardo scored a half point in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix which was halted after just 29 laps due to a fatal accident that killed five spectators.

Bureau Report

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