Since getting bitten by the motorsport bug as a young child, Susie Wolff has risen to high status in the racing world, becoming a figurehead for women in motorsport.
After watching her dad race when growing up on the west coast of Scotland – hounding him for £5 to drive the go-karts at Knockhill Circuit – it was no surprise that she decided to follow in his footsteps, bringing diversity to the grid by doing so.
Fast forward 24 years and, after advancing through the junior categories, Susie found herself making history in the summer of 2014, becoming the first woman since 1992 to take part in a Formula 1 race weekend, driving for Williams in FP1 at the British Grand Prix
“That moment was a very significant one for me as a racing driver, making it into Formula 1” recounts Susie. “It was really my one opportunity to put myself up against the best racing drivers in the world and to see what I was capable of.
“The pressure was huge because I had to be quick to show what I could do but I also absolutely couldn’t damage the car. There was a lot riding on it and it was such a fantastic opportunity.”
Retiring from driving at the close of 2015, Susie soon embarked on a fresh challenge as she commenced her management career as Team Principal of ROKiT Venturi Racing.
“It wasn’t really my plan to stay in motorsport – but then I got a call from Gildo Pastor and he asked me what I thought of Formula E. Even though I was skeptical, he convinced me to go to the inaugural Rome E-Prix and I could immediately see the potential within Venturi.
“My gut feeling was that it would be a fantastic opportunity – and the series was gaining even more significance as other manufacturers joined. I’ve watched Toto carefully over the years and, even though our management styles are very different, I knew what was expected of me and the scale of the task ahead. I had a clear vision for what I wanted to do at Venturi.
“As much as we’re a small team, we’re also a very strong and efficient team. Every member of Venturi is the best person for the position and, collectively, we’re an incredibly strong group. We have a fighting spirit – we love to go racing, we love to compete and that’s really at our heart.”
As the captain of a tightly-run ship here in Monaco, Susie’s role as Team Principal is wide-ranging. Discussing her duties, our commander-in-chief outlined a job comprised of management and decision making:
“As Team Principal, I’m responsible for the overall day-to-day management of the team, making sure that each department has the right people at the helm,” she explains.
“It’s about making the key decisions – strategically thinking to the future and making sure that we have the right people on board, in the right places and with the right resources available to them.
“I’m also responsible for the performance of the team, so when we have a great weekend and collect a trophy, those are my highlights. If we aren’t performing on track, I’m ultimately responsible for that lack of performance and it’s on me to figure out what we need to do to return to form.”
Even away from the track, Susie continues to motivate and inspire the next generation as the Founder of Dare To Be Different – driving female talent in motorsport to bring diversity to the industry, just as she did as a child:
“Dare To Be Different is something that I’m incredibly proud of. It was my way of giving something back by helping to open the door for the next generation, making sure the next group of up-and-coming female racing drivers are aware of all the opportunities available to them.
“The campaign is now part of the globally-run FIA Girls on Track programme and we have achieved a lot more than I ever envisaged – but it’s still a work in progress. We need to do even more to make sure that sport is more diverse in the future, in every aspect and every profession.
“If I could offer a woman who wants to work in motorsport one piece of advice, it would be to go for it,” adds Susie. “You’ve got to follow your passion, believe in yourself, and go all in.
“In the end, I just went to visit one Formula E race – but from there I followed my instincts, took a leap of faith and took on the role of running Venturi as Team Principal. You need to take that bold step if you want to make it happen.”