International Women’s Day 2021 – Interview with Simona de Silvestro (Part 2)

Read 1st part here: bit.ly/2OdD9nN

As part of a series of interviews leading up to and following on from International Women’s Day, we spoke to Simona de Silvestro about her 2020 season and her plans for the coming year. This is the second part of that two-part interview.

Of particular note in 2021 is de Silvestro’s return to the Indy500, this time as part of an all-female team run by Beth Paretta and backed by Roger Penske.

“For her to choose me, and especially with Roger Penske behind it, for me it’s a big honour,” she said. “Hopefully we can fill as many positions as we can with talented females.

“The 500 is really special to my heart. It really made me as a racing driver and really put me on the map, so I’m pretty happy to come back and I really can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of an IndyCar. I’m stoked about it.”

When asked if the team had any long-term ambitions, de Silvestro said, “From the team’s perspective I think that’s the plan. I think they are going to plan to be full-time on the grid next year. For me personally I’m pretty lucky to be in the position that I’m in – I’m works driver for Porsche and them letting me to the 500 is pretty cool.

“But I think that’s the goal for Beth, to grow this team. I think that she has the right tools to do it, and she’s the right person for it as well, so I think it’s quite exciting and I’m excited to be part of it from the beginning, [knowing] that the first time this team turns a wheel at the 500 I’ll be [driving]’.

Photo credit: The Porsche Newsroom

De Silvestro said the team’s decision to integrate women into all aspects of the team and not just the driver line-up was “important”, and that she thinks “with the team really pushing this, hopefully we will get a lot of young talented women coming in, and hopefully the other teams will maybe steal them from us.

“If you look at my career insights, I’ve been doing racing for a long time and it feels like now these opportunities are coming in with the right people around us. We have really great guidance with Team Penske behind us, so for whoever is coming in I think it’s the right place at the right time and that’s what’s really exciting.”

Looking back on her career, de Silvestro says she was always just focused on putting in the best performance that she could, but that she has noticed some changes when it comes to women in motorsport.

“If I look at my career, when I was in IndyCar, I felt at the time that I was pretty quick. We had podiums, we were running really strongly against the other drivers, but I didn’t get that chance to be in a top team, and I think that’s really what’s changing. I’m the first female who has ever been signed by Porsche as a factory driver and that’s a huge achievement, and for them to trust that I can get the job done.

“If a female driver can win races, I think I can open a lot more minds. I think we need this little bit of a push to show that it can be done and hopefully in 10, 15 years it won’t even be an issue anymore, and whoever is the fastest driver or the best mechanic or engineer gets those positions in those big teams.

“I think the platform that Beth [Paretta] is putting together can showcase that, and I think that’s really special.”

As well as the Indy500 de Silvestro is continuing her involvement with Porsche in 2021, although she hasn’t yet revealed which category she will be involved in with them.

“The thing that I can say is that I’m a reserve and development driver for the Formula E programme which is pretty exciting,” she says, “and the rest will be communicated pretty soon hopefully!”

When asked what advice she would give to young women looking to get involved in motorsport, de Silvestro says, “Believe in yourself, and I think a big thing as well is communicating what you aspire to do, because at the end of the day… you always need people around you to help guide you.

“Sometimes you will get no’s, but most of the time you will find some people who believe in the same dream and they will support you to get there, and that’s really important.”

International Women’s Day 2021 – Interview with Simona de Silvestro (Part 1)

From Formula E and IndyCar to V8 Supercars and GT racing, Simona de Silvestro has had a wide and varied career. She is one of the most high-profile female racing drivers and, in 2020, competed in ADAC GT Masters for Porsche. She was kind enough to speak to us as part of our series of interviews leading up to and following International Women’s Day.

As mentioned, 2020 saw de Silvestro take part in ADAC GT Masters as a factory driver for Porsche. COVID-19 saw her build-up to the season look fairly different to normal.

“I had just come back from Australia actually because I finished my supercar racing over there,” de Silvestro says, “and then started my new venture with Porsche. It was really strange because we came away from Christmas and we had all this testing planned and then all of a sudden there was really nothing going on for quite a long time.

“From that point of view it was definitely quite strange because since I was16, everything goes on from March and it gets pretty busy. Having the time and the big break was really strange.”

When asked how COVID affected her training, she says, “It definitely [affected] the driving side. I didn’t get into a car for a long time and I had a pretty big break, but physically it was quite good.

“Luckily, where I am in Switzerland was pretty chilled in the sense that you were still able to go outside and hike and things like that. So I actually felt really prepared on the physical side because I could really just focus on that.”

Photo credit: The Porsche Newsroom

Despite the lack of track-time compared to previous years, de Silvestro still looks back on her 2020 season positively.

“It was good to learn a new car and I think a few races went quite well,” she says. “It was a bit of a mixed-up season but I’m pretty happy that this year it seems like things are starting to get a bit more normal.

“I think all of us got a bit used to it and are a bit more flexible. It’s good to see that everyone is adapting and that things are moving on and pushing on.”

One of the defining characteristics of the extended off-season at the start of 2020 was sim-racing. Drivers from any and all categories took part in virtual races to keep fans – and themselves – occupied. De Silvestro was one of those who got involved and she admits that although there were some positives to it, it isn’t something she would be quick to return to.

“I’m actually glad [sim-racing] is not happening anymore because it took a lot of commitment and it’s definitely not the same as driving a race car,” she says, “but it was still quite fun. We did the 24 Hours of Le Mans virtually with Porsche and that was a whole new experience. I never thought that I would go to my first Le Mans virtually!

“I think you just need a lot of patience for it and I don’t really have it, so the gaming part is not so much my thing. But everyone had a go at it and at the end I definitely became much better with computers and all that, so that’s a plus.”

In part two of our interview with de Silvestro she talks to us about her plans for 2021, including a return to the Indy500 as part of an all-female team.

Read 2nd part here: bit.ly/3bs5qQf

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Jennie Gow (part 1)

In her own words, Jennie Gow has covered “almost every motorsport that you can imagine”, from MotoGP to Formula E and Formula 1. Since our interview, it was announced that Jennie will be taking on a new challenge this year as a commentator for the new Extreme E series which begins in Saudi Arabia from 3rd-4th April.

Jennie talks us through her career journey, her preparation for a race weekend, and discusses her Fast Talkers podcast and career webinars which have kept her busy during lockdown.

Alison Finlay: You’ve been very busy during the pandemic with various projects on your YouTube channel, the Fast Talkers podcast and career webinars. Why did you decide to start both projects, and what is the plan for them once things start to return to ‘normal’?
JG: Motorsport has been amazing for me. It’s given me so much in my life, and I wanted to give a little back. I felt that at this point in time there are so many people out there  feeling a bit lost and a bit scared, and intimidated and lacking motivation, and I just thought ‘this is a chance for me to reach out’ – even if it’s just one person who’s at home and feeling a bit blue – or who desperately wants to find a path in to motorsport – and if I can help them, then that’s amazing. I think if you sit around for too long not doing anything, your headspace can get a bit muddled. So, for me, it’s been really positive.

Fast Talkers is a little bit different; that’s more journalistic, and that was led by wanting to stay in touch with the people who have made up my family outside of my house for the last ten years, and the people I couldn’t see because I wasn’t going to the paddock. So, two slightly different things, but it feels like they both have a positive effect in the world, and that’s all I really wanted to do.

I’ve been really lucky to have a sponsor come on board to do the webinars because I was really struggling to be able to justify in a time where I’m earning nothing spending money on putting them together. So that’s been amazing, and the guys at New Channel Media have really stepped up to enable me to continue doing those. And those are the ones that inspire, educate [and] inform people and give a lot back. So that was really important to me and I hope that we’ll be able to carry those on. They might become a little more sporadic as people and lives get back to normal. But I still think, now everybody has Zoom, that hopefully we’ll still do some if I don’t feel that the market’s become too saturated. Because when I started there really wasn’t many people doing them, and now everyone’s doing them, which is great! But maybe it means that possibly I can step back a little bit, we’ll see!

And Fast Talkers: conversations are happening continually about where it goes and what happens with it; if somebody bigger wants to get involved, then that would be really exciting to see it expand out, but for the moment it’s a lot of work. I’m booking all the guests, I’m researching, I’m producing, I’m editing, so I feel there might be a time when I can’t do quite as many, but who knows!

AF: How did your own career in motorsport get started?
JG: I knew I wanted to be a journalist and I actually thought ‘I know what I want to do, I want to be a war correspondent’. I was doing work experience; gaining as much experience as I could, and I’d just done a session court reporting and [as] I was coming home there was a big crash, and I found that very hard to handle. I was one of the first responders: I was first aid trained at the time, so I helped out as much as I could, and after that I [thought] there’s no way I’m going to be able to deal with war reporting and being a correspondent at a war scene because I could hardly deal with that.

So, I changed tack quite quickly and thought I probably want to bring happiness to people rather than be too dour, and for me I’d always found happiness and comfort in sport. I qualified as a journalist and did loads of work experience. At the end I was incredibly fortunate to get quite a few different job offers and I chose to be a production secretary on Sports Personality of the Century. It seemed a good fit for me to learn my trade, and that’s what I wanted to – I wanted to be at the bottom, do everything; learn everything so I could make good choices going forward.

I ended up staying around the BBC and going to local radio. Local radio is a fantastic tool. If you want to be a journalist, a presenter, a broadcaster, I highly recommend going through BBC local radio because you get to do everything. You’re talking about very small teams on small budgets, so you learn huge amounts. And from there, I got into sports journalism and motorsport happened by chance. I was covering a Speedway race down in Bridgewater for the local radio station I worked for at the time and I guy came up and said ‘do you fancy doing some more?’ and that was the start of it really, and I’ve done almost every motorsport that you can imagine since that point. I’ve been really fortunate.

AF: I remember when Formula E first started with you leading the coverage and there were also several female drivers in the first couple of seasons, how different that felt compared to watching Formula 1. How important do you think it is that young women see themselves represented in motorsport?
JG: It’s so important. I was talking to somebody else about this the other day actually and they said you’ve got to imagine a seven-year-old girl sitting on her sofa. And that’s the problem with motorsport, is so many times, that young girl who could be inspired to get into motorsport just doesn’t have the role models out there. They’re not there yet, even now, there’s still so few. So how are we going to change it, how are we going to inspire the next generation to pick a spanner or to want to get into a go kart?

I think in 40 years’ time it will be a very different conversation, but right now we’re still at the forefront of changing diversity and inclusion, and sometimes to me it feels like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. But actually, you have to look at the positive results, and the way things are changing. And yes, it’s a very large ship that we’re trying to pull round in a U-turn. It’s going to take time, but equally we have to feel like every day we’re achieving something. And it’s our responsibility to make sure we are achieving something every day.

Read 2nd part here: bit.ly/3bsXTRj

 

 

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International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Jennie Gow (part 2)

Read 1st part here: bit.ly/3uZQOzv

AF:What would you say was one of the proudest moments of your career
JG: I did a programme about grid girls for the BBC and I was the impartial voice f the narrative, but we had a really good discussion on the subject of grid girls in Formula 1 and motorsport in general, and as a result of that programme, F1 made a decision to stop using grid girls, and I think that’s possibly one of the proudest [moments] because whilst I think there is an argument that if you want to be a grid girl, you should be allowed to be a grid girl, that’s your choice as a woman – or a guy, however to be a spokesperson for a sport is very different to being a grid girl who’s not allowed to interact or talk to anybody until she’s spoken to. So, for me, the day I heard that that programme had been played out within the head offices of F1 and that they’d made a kind of call to action because of it was hugely significant to me. I was very proud.

AF: In live broadcasting, I imagine things can sometimes go wrong. How do you deal with it when that does happen?
JG: You can make it as good a plan as you want – it’s a bit like childbirth, you make your plan and then at the day you find out that actually, it’s all rubbish and you’ve just got to go with it. Some of the things that you can’t ever get your head around are deaths. Obviously in motorsport, they happen. The first time you have to cover it, it’s horrific. These are people that you may well be relatively close with, and all of a sudden they’re gone, and you have to put your personal anguish and grief and emotions to one side, because you’re the presenter. You’re the one that’s there trying to tell, impartially, that news to people. And the first time I had to do that I found it incredibly difficult. It was on network television, and I was telling the nation at home that a young boy had lost his life. And those times, no-one really tells you how to do that. That taught me very quickly that you can have all the ideas in your mind of what you want to achieve in a day, but sometimes it just doesn’t go that way. That’s the extreme, I suppose, the very worst it can be when things go wrong.

But on a daily basis, things will go wrong. You’re dealing with a lot of people. In Formula 1 especially, you have PRs, you have drivers, every step of the way you’ve got producers in your ear telling you what they want, and everybody has their own expectations. So let’s say that you’re waiting for a Lewis Hamilton interview, he’s just won the world title, you’ve managed to negotiate with the PR that yes, you can speak to Lewis Hamilton, that’s fine. You’ve spoken to network, to say we should have Lewis Hamilton in the next ten minutes, let’s say. And then all of a sudden Lewis Hamilton walks past you, and goes to a phone call with his dad. Nothing you can do! So you have to be realistic about the situation and understand what you can and can’t control. But mistakes happen, that’s live broadcasting, and it’s why you love it, because it’s a constant adrenaline ride. But you have to surround yourself with people you trust, and you have to trust yourself that you’re good enough, and you’ve got enough experience in everything you’ve done to that point.

AF: With initiatives like Girls on Track and support of women in the industry like yourself, it does seem that motorsport is moving in the right direction to get more women involved in different roles. Do you think there is still more to be done, and do you think that we will see women racing in Formula 1 in the years to come?
JG: There’s always more that can be done, and diversity and inclusion is such a hot topic, and I’m so glad that Lewis Hamilton has been able to use his influence to really bring it to the forefront. He realises that to have a healthy paddock, you need it to be mixed: a mix of all sorts of different people. And you still walk into a paddock and it’s predominantly a very white space, and it’s predominantly middle-aged men. And you look at drivers and it’s similar: they’re affluent males between 18 and 35. So that has to change.

I still don’t think enough is being done at grassroots level, and that’s where the change will happen. We do need role models; we do need things like W Series to inspire the next generation to want to even try to be a driver, to go and be an engineer, to study STEM, to want to be a mechanic or a journalist. But at the end of the day it’s a really uphill fight and a struggle but we are getting there. There’s a good network now of people trying to help, trying to make a difference, trying to change things. So I do feel positive, but it’s going to take a long time. I don’t foresee us having a female F1 driver who can really compete, let alone just be in a car with a budget, for many years.

AF: You’ve worn a lot of different hats over the years; are there any roles that you’ve not had yet, that you’d like to try?
JG: I’d love to cover an Olympics, which is a bit random because there’s no motorsport in Olympics, but it’s always been the dream. I’m a people person, so wherever there’s a story to tell about a person, I’m there. I want to be the interface between the paddock and the people at home who aren’t allowed to go, or can’t afford to go, or don’t know enough about the sport to feel like they can go. But I’m at a point in my life where I’m really enjoying it and I still want to achieve more but I’m really lucky that lockdown has been kind to me and us as a family. And hopefully all of the things that I’m doing piece together to make sure that in the future I can carry on working!

AF: Finally, what would your advice be to anyone – particularly young women – pursuing a future in motorsport or in broadcasting and journalism more generally?
JG: I think it comes down to your perseverance; how much you really want something, and whatever you want in life, whether it’s a career in broadcasting or whatever it is you choose, just go for it! There are so many stories I’ve heard of people saying ‘my careers advisor told me I’d never achieve anything’ – it’s rubbish – of course you can do whatever you want. There is no limitation. So just go out there, set yourself a little plan, network like crazy, and make it happen! Don’t let anyone say no. Just go for it, you can do it, you’ve got this!

 

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Post udostępniony przez Jennie Gow (@jennie.gow)

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Juju Noda

We are not afraid to say that in last few years, Juju Noda has become a huge name in motorsport – We passionately believe it is not the last time we are going to hear this name. The young Japanese driver is proving that her place is in the highest echelons of racing.

For International Women’s Day 2020, we spoke with Juju. You can find the interview from 2020 here: http://bit.ly/3bWkZPe

Juju got into racing because she had grown up around race paddocks, a result of her father, Hideki Noda, a former Formula 1 driver. However, would she still be a part of the motorsport community if she had not grown up in racing family? Absolutely yes.

“I was influenced by my father, for sure but I really believe that even without my father, I would still have developed an interest in motor racing. I naturally love driving. That is why I would feel very natural for my life to go in this direction.”

For the 2021 season, Juju is joining Jay Howard Driver Development for the upcoming US F4 championship for what is a big step-up for the 15-years-old Japanese driver.

“Everything will be new again for me. The car, the team, the circuits, the place to live… I have to learn and go through so many things. My father and team told me to just take it easy at the beginning of the season. And then, gradually move up to a higher level.”

Although, the upcoming US F4 championship is her only race programme in 2021 and the 15-year-old driver is hungry for more challenges.

“I would like to learn as much as possible during the year both inside and outside the track, as well as bringing my own abilities to a higher level. Any experience I get will make me stronger.”

 

Because of Noda’s age, she was unable to develop her driving skills in Japan, causing her to leave her motherland. The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) regulations are strict and drivers under 16 years of age cannot take part in Japanese championships.

The 2020 season was Juju’s first season in Danish F4 championship (there is no minimum age for participants) – her first in Europe. The best memory from this experience is on her debut race.

“I took the pole position and led the whole race, pole to win. You only get one chance at achieving that and I couldn’t believe how I managed it. I also qualified 100% on pole position in every qualifying session. That was never going to be easy to do, so I was very happy to do it.”

The opening race of the Danish F4 championship was not the only success she was to have. Noda went on to score every pole position and achieve 3 podium finishes (1st race – 1st place, 4th race – 2nd place and 5th race – 3rd place). She finished the season 6th place in championship.

It will not surprise anybody that 2020 changed the entire world. But how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the rising star?

“The effect was very big, and it was obviously disappointing because I was supposed to have 24 races in total and it ended up being only 9 races. I was really confident to win more races and to challenge for the title.”

The 2021 US F4 championship will start on 26th of March at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. It will be the first race week for Juju this year.

International Women’s Day 2021 – The interview with Louise Goodman (part 2)

Read 1st part here: http://bit.ly/3rsX54x

AF: You must have some brilliant memories from the F1 paddock. Can you share some of your fondest memories with us?
LG: So many of my fondest memories revolve around the people that I’ve worked with. I think being part of a team is always something special, be that working for a race team, being Press Officer at Jordan, or working with the ITV team, learning all about broadcasting and how to do that side of things. And so many memories that relate to particular interviews. Getting the first interview with Rubens Barrichello when he won his first Grand Prix – I worked with him as one of my drivers at Jordan. Getting the first interview with Eddie Irvine, for similar reasons.  Getting the first interview with Lewis Hamilton when he won his first world title. There are lots of special moments.

I guess another one is being involved – not only in the first two-seater race for Formula 1 cars – but the first ever crash for two-seater Formula 1 cars! I was in the back of Fernando Alonso’s car. It was basically a Minardi PR event; they had built some two-seater Formula 1 cars that they could do passenger rides with, and they had arranged a race and Nigel Mansell was on board as one of the drivers,. Mansell’s deal was that he would win the race: it would work for everybody.

There was a bit of a miscommunication. I was in the back of Fernando Alonso’s car. He was just at beginning of his Formula 1 career. We ended up having Nigel Mansell driving into the back of and over the top of us. In fact, I’ve got the rear wing endplate from that car signed by Nigel and Fernando up on the wall of my office!

 

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Post udostępniony przez Louise Goodman (@lougoodmanmedia)

 

AF: More recently you’ve been presenting British Touring Cars. Jade Edwards has recently announced she’s doing a full season for 2021, making her the first woman to do so since 2007. What do you think that means for representation of women in motorsports?
LG:
I think it’s absolutely brilliant. Jade is there on merit. She made her debut in a one-off event last year, as did Jess Hawkins. Jade [has] managed to pull it together, and it’s a difficult job for any driver, male or female, to get together the budget, particularly in the times that we’re living through, to put together a full season of car racing, let alone racing at the premier category in the UK.

So I think all credit to Jade, and she is there on merit. She’s a good driver. I think it’s brilliant on a personal level for Jade because she’s a top girl, she’s worked really hard, she’s great fun, she’s a great personality, and she’ll be a great person to have in the BTCC paddock.

But I think more importantly, the visibility that it gives – it’s that old phrase – you need to see it to be it. Having a girl racing competitively on the touring car grid, you’ll have little girls watching at home thinking ‘okay, girls can be racing drivers as well’, and I think very often that makes a big difference.

Jade got into racing because she’d grown up around paddocks because her father and her grandfather raced. There are quite a few girls who have got involved in racing because there was a family connection. I now run my own media training company, and I work with quite a lot of young drivers, and very often I’ll say to them ‘how did you get involved in the sport?’, and if they didn’t have a family connection they’ll say ‘I went to a friend’s birthday party when I was eight years old and we went karting’. How many people take their eight-year-old girls karting? It just doesn’t happen the same [way], so I think maybe as a result of Jade being in the BTCC, maybe more people will say ‘do you want to go karting?’ to their eight-year-old girls. Maybe eight-year-old girls would say ‘I quite fancy having a go at that, can I go karting?’

AF: You’re also a supporter of the Girls on Track initiative, and you’ve run several webinars and workshops during the pandemic, sharing your knowledge and experience. Why is that important to you and what do you think that’s achieved to get girls more involved?
LG:
The FIA Girls on Track started out as Suzie Wolff’s Dare to be Different initiative, and the primary function was working with youngsters and schools to give some insight to the parents, the teachers, and the young girls themselves, of all these different areas that you could work in in motorsport: be it medical, be it media, be it working on the cars, be it the physical education side of things. That was the basis of [how] it began, and then a community that ran alongside it to broaden it out to a wider audience. I think it’s really important to get the word out there – to girls, families, parents, teachers – of the availability and the range of work opportunities in motorsport.

It’s about sharing people’s experiences. I get people contacting me about how they would become a journalist in Formula 1, so I can share my experiences and give them some advice. It’s a mixture of those two things. It’s about awareness of opportunities and girls sharing experiences and giving back to other youngsters who are hoping to do it.

I am aware that I was very lucky to have been given opportunities. I wasn’t aware until relatively recently that [when I] turned up as part of ITV’s coverage – people noticed that, and quite a few girls have subsequently said to me ‘it was when I saw you doing that, I thought, oh wow, maybe I could work in Formula 1; maybe I could work in motorsport’. So that to me has been a very personal experience of the benefits of sharing your experiences with other people; with other girls – I’m very happy to share my experiences with boys as well, don’t get me wrong! – but with something like Girls on Track, what we’re trying to do is balance things out a bit, to get more girls involved in the sport.

I think it’s hugely beneficial. Everybody, no matter what business you’re in, you’re always going to benefit from having a mentor; you’re always going to benefit from having people who have gone before you sharing their experiences, and I think that’s a really crucial, important thing to be doing.

AF: You’ve also had some experience yourself as a driver, so you’ve had a taste of both sides of the motorsport world. What advice would you give to any girls wanting to break into the world of motorsport, whether as a driver, or in media or engineering?
LG: On the driving side, just do it, because it’s bloody brilliant fun! The younger you start the better it’s going to be. Who knows, I could have been a Formula 1 driver if I’d started when I was eight, but I didn’t get into a car behind the wheel until I was well into my twenties, and that came about [from] having a bit more profile from being on TV. I absolutely loved it, it’s brilliant fun.

Formula 1 and motorsport has given me an amazing – not just career – but life experiences as well: I’ve travelled, I’ve seen the great wall of China, I’ve been all around the world. I’ve been so lucky to get those experiences, and that’s come about off the back of my working life. And that’s a working life that’s been hugely gratifying as well.

I think you’ve got to like the sport to start off with, because it’s not a job when you work in motorsport, it’s a way of life. Races are at the weekends; you’re giving up a lot of your own time, so you’ve got to be passionate about it. Having said that, you can’t just be a fan, you’re there to work. It’s a working environment, so you’ve got to do your bit and work hard, and it’s a competitive environment so you’ve actually got to work bloody hard if you want to succeed in it. But I guess that’s the same with [any] profession: the harder you work, the more you apply yourself, the more chance you’re going to have of having success.

ThePitCrewOnline Exclusive: Susie Wolff for International Women’s Day 2019

Ask any motorsport fan to name a successful woman within the sport, and usually, Susie Wolff will be amongst the names they provide. The first woman to take part in an F1 weekend in 22 years, Susie is now the team principal of the Venturi Formula E who scored their first podium of the seasion in the Mexican ePrix a few weeks ago, as well as the co-founder of the Dare to Be Different initiative, a non-profit organisation committed to change viewpoints and inspiring young girls and women to participate within the motorsport industry.

Sarah Jarvis: You’ve had time to become much more comfortable within your new role as team principal. Was the transition period as challenging as you thought it would be?
Susie Wolff: Yes, it’s definitely been challenging with plenty of changes and improvements to make, but to be honest I’ve relished the opportunity to get stuck in. We’ve made really great progress after a difficult start to the season. In motorsport, ultimately all that matters is performance and, with our first podium of the season in Mexico, I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re on the right track.

SJ: The FE in-season test featured nine female drivers competing in cars as part of the FIA Women into Motorsports Initiative. Did that feel like a significant step forward in promoting the movement of women into motorsport?
SW: Yes, I do feel like it was a significant step forward. I also think it clearly demonstrated Formula E’s commitments both to the promotion of women in the sport and also their desire for diversity within the series. The all female in-season test also served as a fantastic reminder of the female talent out there – that’s an incredibly positive thing in my book.

Image credit: Sam Bloxham

SJ: With your increased involvement in Formula E, there is an intensity of D2BD initiatives at these events. How important are these events to display at such a vastly popular sport? Are they changing the opinions and viewpoints of young girls?
SW: The D2BD events are really important and now that we have the official collaboration with the FIA’s Girls On Track initiative, we’re widening our reach even further to a bigger, global audience. Having our launch event in Mexico at the ePrix was a major milestone for the initiative, it also clearly demonstrated Formula E’s commitment to the promotion of grassroots activity for young women. The launch was met with great enthusiasm, not just from the motorsport community but also the local fans who came and participated in the activity, there’s simply no substitute for hands on experience. One of the major additional benefits of teaming up with Formula E in this way is that we have the benefit of some incredible city centre race locations, this goes a long way towards helping raise awareness and generate interest in the activity.

SJ: Is it imperative to gradually add more racing events to the D2BD calendar for exposure? Are there certain avenues such as F1 and MotoGP that you want to pursue further?
SW: Now that we are a joint venture with the FIA, we’re not focused on volume of events or trying to be the biggest. What we want to do is foster strong and lasting relationships with the ASNs (the local motorsport authorities) to ensure that the activation is strategic, meaningful and leaves a lasting impression on the young ladies who participate. The impact we have from an inspiration and education perspective is the most important thing to me.

SJ: With the introduction of the W Series aimed strictly at a female demographic, do you feel it is a positive step towards better representation of women in motorsport?

SW: Any championship that gives the opportunity to young women to compete is a positive thing. In my view though to become a truly world class professional driver and earn a living in motorsport, you need to compete with the best in the world regardless of gender. Ultimately, motorsport isn’t segregated so I think in the long term, we need to really focus our efforts on bringing more female talent in to the sport across the board so that the best can rise to the top.

SJ: What advice would you give any young girls or women wanting to break into motorsport, whether it be driving or engineering?
SW: My advice would be the same whichever field they were looking at: believe in yourself. Find out what it is that you feel passionate about and go for it. Don’t be scared to stand up for yourself and be seen and heard. Work hard, push yourself and never, ever lose the belief in your abilities. Use initiatives like Dare to be Different to connect and widen your network. We have an incredible line-up of ambassadors who provide mentoring and education to the next generation. But above all else, don’t wait for doors to open for you, knock them down.

For more information on the Dare to be Different initiative: https://www.daretobedifferent.org/

ThePitCrewOnline Exclusive: Alexa Quintin for International Women’s Day 2019

As Head of Media and Communications for both F2 and F3, Alexa Quintin surely has one of the most whirlwind jobs in the motorsport world, being at the track for between ten and twelve hours each day during a race weekend. She was kind enough to speak with us for International Women’s Day 2019.

Jenny Rowan: How did you first become interested in motorsport?
Alexa Quintin: I was raised to love it: my father was a racing driver in Gordini Cup and prototypes. He started his career in Morocco back in the 60s. He met my mother when she was appointed as his mechanic. She was a professional swimmer but she wanted to try something new. They met at what is today’s Renault F1 engine factory at Viry-Chatillon. Although my dad had to stop his career when they got married, his passion for motorsport and most particularly Formula One never ended. Every Sunday our eyes were glued to the TV to watch the Grand Prix.

JR: Had it always been an ambition of yours to work in motorsport?
AQ: I was not necessarily aiming at working in the sport. I was more interested in the movie industry or in writing. I started my career in television, but after a couple of years, I had the opportunity to join Prost Grand Prix. Once I became part of this industry, it felt like the right place for me: it’s fast-moving and very demanding. It’s exciting!

JR: What does an “average” race weekend look like for you, if indeed there is such a thing?
AQ: It’s always such a hard question to answer… There are so many tasks to cover from catering for the media to liaising with FOM and the FIA to dealing with social media platforms, press conferences, meetings, drivers’ appearances, and also to handling a thousand little things that are
thrown your way at the last minute. You get to the track very early and leave pretty late. The average time spent at the circuit is between 10 and 12 hours. During that time, you walk a lot, run a fair amount, direct traffic, send many emails, WhatsApp and Skype messages, talk to about a hundred different people, etc. Some days, you may feel overworked, but when the dust settles, it always feels gratifying.

JR: How important is social media to your role and has it changed the nature of your job over the years at all?
AQ: It’s become essential and it has changed my views on how the job should be done. Nowadays Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat are part and parcel to people’s lives. For most people, these media platforms are the primary source of information right in the palm of their hands. It’s the fastest way to communicate, but it can also be a means to start rumours and spread false information. It’s a powerful tool, but one that needs to be used wisely.

JR: Out of all the drivers you’ve worked with, is there anyone who stands out as having impressed you the most?
AQ: I have been working in motorsport for almost twenty years now and over this period of time I have been very lucky to cross paths with incredible talents. If I have to name a few, I would say the ones that stood out in GP2/F2 were Nico Hülkenberg, Stoffel Vandoorne, Charles Leclerc, and George Russell.

JR: What has your experience of being a woman working in motorsport been like?
AQ: Working in motorsport has been very rewarding professionally speaking. I never felt like I was an oddity in what appears to be a man’s world. In fact, there are a lot of women in charge of PR in motorsport.

JR: What advice would you give other young women aiming to work in motorsport one day?
AQ: Not to sound too much like Lady Gaga at this year’s Oscars but if you can dream it, if you work hard enough to achieve it, if you have the right attitude, there is no reason you can’t succeed.

What’s up with the “Girls on Track – Karting Challenge

For all you young fans of racing – here is a “What’s up” with the “Girls on Track-Karting Challenge on and off the race track. After two rounds of in-country elimination the jury chose 14 candidates to further train and compete for three slots on the final race challenge at Le Mans in 2019.

The circuits chosen for the elimination races were set to the specifications set by the FIA. The races had a very technical character as the driving skills of the contestants had to be clearly demonstrated and measured by this same standard. Challenges included sharp turns, high speed sections, slaloms and rapid switch-backs. Negotiation of traffic cones set very close to one another and there were penalties for coming in contact with them.

Gosia Rdest, the Ambassador of the program, was there for the Girls during both elimination in Tychy on May 26-27, 2018 and in Rzeszów on August 12-13, 2019. Gosia, who started her own racing career at the Karting track being just 12 years old, fully understands the adrenaline rush, the unmatched feeling of being #1 on the podium both in Karting and now in speed racing. She has and is racing on race tracks all over the world from Daytona to Dubai. She also knows the feeling of despair of a race gone wrong, regardless of whose or what’s fault. She knows what it feels like when your hard work, training, sacrificing time with family and friends, all of it goes down the drain because of a mistake, bad weather, car failure etc. But she, also knows the most important thing. She knows how to get pass all of this, pick herself up, “get it together” and stand up and race and do her level best to race better than she has ever done before. She now that past mistakes are not to dwell on it, but to learn from them and she knows that the only competitor that we truly race against today is ourselves from the day before. So she was there to cheer and support and show that it is possible if you truly want it and are willing to work hard to get it.

But, Gosia also knows, from her own experience, that the iron will, talent and passion are not enough if the knowledge element is missing from the equation. And this is where the training program come in. All fourteen finalists will participate in a three month follow-up training program prepared by Gosia in cooperation with the Polish Motorsport Association (PZM) and a group of dedicated enthusiasts and pros of the motor sport. Participating in four program blocks, offered during a two-day weekend courses spanning over 3 month period, the Girls will learn “what it means and what it takes to be a successful race driver”. But they will learn more than that. as the curriculum includes: “the technical vocabulary of racing”; “Successful teamwork”; “interpersonal communication skills”; “self-perception; self-assessment, self-imaging and planning for success. There also will be a bloc on the Motorsport related professional opportunities, such as Motorsport journalism, personal managers and trainers of race drivers; dietitians and health advisers, technical support staff and more.

The training starts in September with a visit to the Polish Motor Championship Race in Poznań. Under Gosia’s supervision the Girls will visit the garages and the “PITS” and observe the work of the technical support staff and the training of the race drivers. The cherry on the cake will be a ride on the track with Gosia being seated on the next to the driver seat. So buckle up Girls and get your adrenaline flowing.
“We want to show to the Girls the “entire scene of the Motorsport” demonstrate to them that it comes as a complete set of tasks, skills, talents and activities. Even the best, most talented, race driver would not be able to race and win without the support of the best talents that work tirelessly behind the scene. Racing is a team-effort and there are plenty of opportunities to find a challenging career within the Motorsport not only as a race driver. For an example great communication and personal skills are needed for fundraising. And everyone knows that racing will not be capable to operate without the financial backing of patrons. We are very proud to have Ravenol as one of the sponsors of this training program. The Company has been involved in supporting women in Motorsport for some time now. Ravenol has sponsored me personally for the two last seasons. I am very thankful that Ravenol has agreed to extend our cooperation to include the Girls on Track-Karting Challenge project. I am keeping my fingers crossed for all the Girls. Yes, only three of the finalists will compete at Le Mans, but all of them will acquire portable skills to carry with them wherever their life may lead them and hopefully make long-lasting friendships built upon true and honest competition and teamwork.”

So yeah, that’s it for now. Keep your fingers crossed for the Girls and stay tuned for more info!