“Can you imag­ine Michael An­dretti be­ing asked who’s look­ing af­ter his kids?” #21: Susie Wolff,

Top Gear (UK) - - COLUMNS - team prin­ci­pal, Venturi For­mula E

As the late Amer­i­can au­thor

Spencer John­son put it: “Life moves on and so should we.” This is par­tic­u­larly per­ti­nent in mo­tor­sport where we must keep mov­ing for­ward, in ev­ery sense.

In June this year, my new role as team prin­ci­pal and a share­holder of the Monaco-based Venturi For­mula E Team was an­nounced. What fol­lowed this quite stan­dard state­ment re­minded me how hard peo­ple find it to move on. In the hours and sub­se­quent in­ter­views that fol­lowed, the first ques­tions I was most fre­quently asked were: “Ex­actly what qual­i­fies you for the role?” “Did your hus­band help get you the job?” And, wait for it: “Who’s go­ing to look af­ter your child?” Silly ques­tions are noth­ing new for me – they’re par for the course – but the lat­ter was a new low.

The first ques­tion I can un­der­stand, if some­one hasn’t done their re­search. The sec­ond ques­tion, although in­sult­ing to all par­ties in­volved, I can un­der­stand if some­one doesn’t know my hus­band. But the third ques­tion, can you imag­ine Michael An­dretti be­ing asked who’s look­ing af­ter his kids while he’s run­ning his team?

For the unini­ti­ated, I’ll sum up my race driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in a cou­ple of sen­tences. I was 13 when I was named Bri­tish Woman Kart Rac­ing Driver of the Year; 18 years later I made his­tory at the 2014 Bri­tish Grand Prix by be­com­ing the first woman to take part in a For­mula One race week­end in 22 years. In 2015 I de­cided to end my driv­ing ving ca­reer – it wasn’t a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion and I had no hes­i­ta­tions tions in mov­ing on with my life.

So that was it, driv­ing done. But my pas­sion for mo­tor­sport was still very much alive, and do­ing some­thing with all that ex­pe­ri­ence be­came es­sen­tial for me. Af­ter more than 20 years in the sport, I thrive in this en­vi­ron­ment and I felt pretty qual­i­fied to recog­nise its strengths and weak­nesses and very well placed to do some­thing about them. I wanted to make a dif­fer­ence.

In 2016 I launched Dare To Be Dif­fer­ent, a call to ac­tion aimed squarely at driv­ing fe­male ta­lent in mo­tor­sport by in­spir­ing the next gen­er­a­tion and ul­ti­mately in­creas­ing fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in all lev­els and as­pects of the in­dus­try. It’s a grass­roots le­gacy project, and with in­cred­i­ble sup­port from the global mo­tor­sport com­mu­nity, we are en­sur­ing that girls and women of all ages are aware of the op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to them. In just two years we have al­ready con­nected and show­cased some fan­tas­tic fu­ture and cur­rent fe­male ta­lent across the mo­tor­sport world.

But why is it so im­por­tant to have women in mo­tor­sport? It’s not just a box-tick­ing ex­er­cise. It’s time for a much more mer­i­to­cratic ap­proach to be­come the norm. The old topic of women not be­ing phys­i­cally strong enough to com­pete at the pin­na­cle of mo­tor­sport, F1, still rears its ugly head. In my ex­pe­ri­ence it’s just not true, and I’ve done the race dis­tance at pace dur­ing test­ing, so I’m en­ti­tled to a view. It’s re­ally very sim­ple: peo­ple, re­gard­less of gen­der, should be judged on their ta­lent and con­tri­bu­tion alone. It is time to let go of these mis­con­cep­tions.

And so to mov­ing on. My new role as team prin­ci­pal of Venturi is the start of the ne next chap­ter in my life. The fact that I’m fe­male, mar­ried or a mother should no longer be top­ics; all that should mat­ter in mo­tor­sport is per­for­mance. Watch this space.

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