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.