Q&A: Susie Wolff gives her thoughts on her first proper test for Williams
Scottish driver completes 89 laps at Silverstone
By William Esler and James Galloway at Silverstone
Last Updated: 20/07/13 2:07pm
How did you find your first day of proper testing in a Formula 1 car?
"We used all the new tyres quite early on as we had important pit-stop work to do in the afternoon, so with limited laps I just had to go for it and make the best of it that I could. Overall, I was happy, the team got through the programme that they wanted to so all round it was a successful day.
"The day was planned not with the ultimate lap time in mind, because then I would have used my new sets [of tyres] in the afternoon and would have had more time to get up to speed. The morning was spent doing short runs with different parts on the car to give the data back to the team, then the whole race team arrived at lunch-time to do all the live pit-stop practice. So the afternoon was compromised as the guys were doing pit-stop practice to ensure they were consistently quick. It was clear to me from the outset the day was not just about me and trying to get my quickest lap time, it was about doing good work for the team and I think it is the same for everyone in the paddock because testing and feedback is so limited.
Was Daniel Juncadella's time your target?
"Yeah, 34.6 [on Thursday] obviously I'd seen what he had done and the team were pretty impressed by that so that was my goal and I was only four tenths off in the end so it wasn't so bad. But it was tough as I did all my running in the afternoon and I'm pretty sure that if I had had a new set at the end... it would have been really nice to go out and go for it again. The cars just have such performance it is incredible."
You managed to find eight tenths on the medium tyre...
"The medium tyre is difficult to get the fronts and rears in at the same time. I struggled quite a bit on my first flying lap and then when the fronts were in, the rears were starting to go. I think I did my fastest time on my fourth lap and that is not how to get the best out of the tyres so there is more performance there definitely."
You like to be thought of as a racing driver rather than a woman. Surely that time is close enough for Mr Ecclestone to look it and say 'I want her in a car'?
"Yeah, some people have said I am very reluctant to play the female card, but ultimately a race team is only going to put the best driver they can in their race car because they want performance. For me, it was important today to show that I have the performance and that given the limited number of laps that I had, I was only four tenths off the F3 European Champion and who is rated as one of the up-and-coming young stars.
"So for me that was really important and if that has more meaning to some people because I am female, then of course I will use that to my advantage, but I am not going to play that card as a way of 'give me the drive because I'm a girl and I was fast enough'. At the end of the day there were a lot of great performances over the three days and we are all fighting hard to get into F1 and I have also got to keep fighting hard."
How does the work you have done today compare to the simulator work you have done in the past?
"Sims are great things and it was good for helping me get up to speed as I knew I only had a handful of laps before I was going to put my new tyres on, so I knew I had to get there very quickly. So the sim is a very good tool in helping you do that as you know exactly where the braking points are and you know the track well.
"But let's be honest - sitting in a sim is not like being out there trying to hold the thing flat through Maggots and Becketts. On my first flying lap I had my heart in my mouth a little bit and you don't get that on a sim. So I think the sim is a great tool, but it does have its limitations."
Did any of the other drivers give you any advice or acknowledge how you did?
"I haven't spoken to any of the other drivers. I asked Valtteri [Bottas] to come today as a bit of support because I wanted to have him there if I had any questions about the car or any issues out there and he very kindly came along and was giving me some pointers throughout the morning - so that was a help.
"But as drivers, I don't think they are ever going to praise another driver without being asked about it. For me it is not about getting praise today, it is not about caring what the other drivers think - for me it is about what the team think because if they are happy then I am going to get more chances and that is the most important thing."
Did you exceed your expectations today?
"I said my goal was the 34s and I just missed out on that. But, I always said I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe it was possible and I believe in myself. It is quite hard after such a tough end to my DTM career - many people presumed I was always at the back and just wasn't quick enough - but I think today can show that that is possibly an unfair assessment.
"In the DTM we all know it is difficult to get into the right position to be in a winning car - I was never in that position - so for me it was about going out there and showing what I can do. Whilst I was nervous about today, I also saw it as an opportunity - there is not many of us get the chance to do a Young Driver Test - and it was my chance to show everyone what I was capable of."
Is there a chance we could see you out again - a Friday driver perhaps?
"Let's see - I need to analyse today properly, speak with the team a bit more. Obviously they have two great drivers so there is no possibility of a Friday drive happening before the end of the season. But let's see - I am not someone that likes to sit still, I am someone that likes to keep moving forward and keep achieving so of course I always want to see what the next step is.
"But on the other side I had a fantastic opportunity from the team today - they took the chance to put me the car, many people said they were crazy and why would they waste their day on me, but they took that chance and I was happy I could do a good job and pay them back for that."
Are you going to get your superlicence of the back of this?
"Hopefully yes, but they are so bloody expensive! I think I did nearly 600km today, but I have to say thanks to the FIA and Michele Mouton because on the back of my DTM results, I wouldn't have had enough for an International A-licence to do this test.
"So I spoke to her and she spoke the MSA and the FIA they immediately granted me an A-licence just to do this test and they said come back to us after this test and we can talk about possibly a superlicence. So let's see now - I have got to analyse today and then see what my next steps are."
Eighty-nine laps is a lot for any driver to do in an F1 car - how did you find it?
"I had done a lot of preparation work on my neck and upper body and I think that paid off as I was ok out there. The biggest issue that I had was that I had Pastor's [Maldonado] steering wheel and he has pretty big hands as it turns out, because getting round to the KERS and the DRS in the middle of a corner was proving to be quite difficult - so I either need finger extensions, or I need a wheel that is a bit easier to get through.
"The other issue I had was not enough support in my seat - it is fine for aero testing and for a few laps, but I was slipping around in the fast stuff and I have cuts and bruises on my shoulders and my hips so I would change that if I was in the car.
"But that was the really the only thing bothering me out there. I am not going to turn around and say it was a breeze or it was easy - it is physical - but it was never a factor out there that something physical was stopping me pushing hard."
Is it safe to assume a season not racing next year is not something you want to do?
"I think it all depends on my options. In the winter, as you know Formula 1 is so fast paced that it changes very quickly. So it is about figuring out over the winter if a Formula 1 programme is possible and if that is enough and if that is going to take a lot of capacity because as much as I am not racing I am in the sim a lot and there is a lot of work in the background and in all honesty to do a full season of racing and all the sim work would be quiet tough.
"So it is a case of seeing what my options are in the winter and picking the best one. I love driving a Formula 1 car - there is nothing that comes close to that feeling of being out there, particularly at a fast track like Silverstone, so to give up that chance would be quite hard."