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Who is Susie Wolff?

By Jim K 05/30/2024
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Susie Wolff

 

While her husband Toto continues leading Mercedes during a downturn in their fortunes, Susie is spearheading F1 Academy as the championship's Managing Director. The all-female racing series is shining a spotlight on an underrepresented demographic in the motorsport world, something Wolff's racing history and business acumen are helping address. How did she reach this incredible height, and what lasting change might she make in the world?

The Racing Roots of Susie Wolff

Born on December 6, 1982, in Oban, Scotland, Susie Wolff's journey into the peak of motorsport began with karting at the age of eight. These foundation years saw her being the best Scottish driver in intercontinental categories, and her results led to an impressive tally of four British Woman Kart Racing Driver of the Year awards. That isn't where the karting accolades finished, though, with Wolff taking the Top Female Kart Driver in the World title in 2000 after high-performing drives in national and international championships.

Susie Wolff

 

Stepping up to cars, Wolff's early career saw steady progression in junior motorsport categories, including Formula Renault and Formula 3. She achieved a P5 finish in the standings by her third season in Formula Renault, just two positions behind eventual F1 driver Paul di Resta. Despite decent results in single-seater racing and even netting a BRDC Rising Star of the Year award, Wolff's time competing in open-cockpit cars was over.

Susie Wolff

 

Testing Times in Formula 1

Susie Wolff

 

Life after Racing

In 2015, Wolff announced her retirement from competitive racing, but it was not the end of her time in motorsport. She shifted her focus towards promoting and nurturing the next generation of talent, particularly young female drivers, founding the "Dare to be Different" initiative. Aimed at inspiring and empowering women to pursue careers in motorsport, both in driving and engineering, the nonprofit organization launched to address the gender disparity in the UK, where men represented 95% of all racing drivers.

Wolff hadn't stepped away from competitive racing championships for good, though, and the Venturi Formula E team announced her appointment as Team Principal in 2018. Under her leadership, the team saw significant performance improvements, achieving podium finishes and becoming a competitive force in the all-electric racing series. By the 2020-21 season, she led the team to its most successful season during a competitive year that saw Nyck de Vries crowned champion, just seven points ahead of Venturi's Edoardo Mortara.

Susie Wolff

 

The success in the Team Principal role at Venturi had Wolff become the CEO in November 2021. However, it would be a short-lived tenure at the top as a transitional time followed. Venturi rebranded to Maserati MSG Racing, and Wolff announced she would leave the Monegasque team before the 2022-23 season. Her time without an employer would not last long.

F1 Academy

Although Wolff was previously a critic of W Series, a female-only single-seater championship that began in 2019, for promoting segregated racing, she became the Managing Director of its spiritual successor, F1 Academy, in March 2023. While the W Series provided all the funding for its drivers and used a single team to run all its cars, F1 Academy's business model partially funded the drives for those entering and utilized five established teams from the junior racing world to compete. It was a slight but important change in philosophy.

After a quiet season with limited television coverage in 2023, Wolff's guidance led to the championship luring global brands such as American Express, Tommy Hilfiger, Charlotte Tilbury, and Puma to sponsor the cars and drivers in 2024. Furthermore, each of F1's ten teams must back an entry in the sport, leading to increased visibility of the racers and demonstrating to young girls that motorsport is for all genders.

A Lasting Legacy

Susie Wolff's journey from a young karting enthusiast to a respected leader in motorsport is a journey driven by determination, talent, and vision. Her contributions to the sport, both on and off the track, continue to pave the way for future generations of female drivers and industry professionals. While her racing career may have ended, her influence and legacy will continue to shape the future of motorsport for years to come.


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